Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 61, The Parker 100s, How Much Will It Cost to Buy a Robert M. Parker 100 Point Perfect Wine? September 3, 2018.

(Readers please note that this blog post was originally published on September 3, 2018, and was republished on September 13, 2018 after our site was hacked).

Robert M. Parker is well known worldwide as the premier wine taster and critic over the last 40 years (1978- 2018). His opinions moved wine markets and certainly influenced prices for individual wines. Winemakers would covet a high score from Robert Parker, and curse a low score. Over the 40 years that Robert has been active as a wine critic, he tasted and rated tens of thousands of wines and built a cult following (those who subscribed to The Wine Advocate) who based most of their buying decisions on his ratings. So much so that the “Holy Grail” in wine collecting often became the number of Robert Parker 100’s (100 point or perfect wines) that you had in your cellar. Some would call them their “Trophy Wines”.

Everyone should know that wine scores are very subjective, and often just a reflection of what that particular critic happens to like best in wine flavors. Robert Parker clearly favored over his career the California and Bordeaux regions, and many a disgruntled Bordeaux winemaker would voice an opinion that Parker was trying to influence, through his wine appraisals, Bordeaux winemakers to make their wine in an American fashion, with full throttle fruit and a ripe, ready to drink now, format. The criticism was probably well deserved as many Bordeaux producers were making bone dry closed in wines requiring 20 years or more to open up and reveal their true potential.

I remember once getting into a heated discussion with one wine collecting friend of mine who would only collect Parker 100 point perfect wines. I asked him if he would ever consider buying a Parker 99, or even, god forbid, a Parker 98. He was mortified, and gave me an emphatic ”no” response. His rational was that every wine in his cellar was a perfect “100” according to the world’s foremost wine critic, so to store anything else with such distinguished company would be sacrilege and disrespectful. No logic could dissuade him, it mattered not that a “99” was almost as good, or that Parker could change his score and appraisal in subsequent tastings. I asked him what he would do if he had a Parker “100” in his cellar that Parker downgraded to “98” a couple of years later because the wine was not aging as expected and was showing signs of weakness. He said he would have no choice but to have it removed from his cellar. What a nut this guy was, but I tell this story merely to illustrate how extreme some people became in their cult like following of Robert’s appraisal system.

So I was wondering recently just how many wines Parker rated over the years at 100 points, and what it might cost to buy one or more of those wines now. Then I stumbled across a list of those wines on www.winesearcher.com and had some fun reviewing that list, looking at current prices and availability. Much to my astonishment “Parker’s 100s” comprised a list of more than 540 wines (for the detailed list see:   https://www.wine-searcher.com/robertparker.lml ). This list is not current as it would appear to be up to date until about 2014, and another 20 or so wines have been added since that time.

Looking at the Wine Searcher list, you will note that 35% of those 540 wines are California wines, followed by 26% Cotes Du Rhone, and 19% Bordeaux. When you combine all the French wine regions (Rhone, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Sauterne, Champagne, Alsace, and others) Parker’s list is now 50% French, and 35% California. So it comes as a big surprise that Cote du Rhone generates more perfect wines according to Parker (135 in total) than Bordeaux (100).

Looking for the top producers of Parker’s perfect wines the clear winners are, in order:

 

From the Rhone:

Chapoutier                                33

Guigal                                          33

Clos St. Jean                               9

Jean Louis Chave                     8

From California:

Schrader Cellars                   15

Sine Qua Non                        14

Hundred Acre                       12

Colgin                                        12

Marcassin                                 9

Abreu                                         8

From Bordeaux:

Petrus                                        9

La Mission Haut Brion       8

From Australia:

Greenock Creek                   8

There are several surprises from this list of producers above. To me the first surprise is the total dominance of producers Chapoutier and Guigal in the Cotes du Rhone region, producing perfect wines at an astonishing rate relative to their competition in all regions. Either Robert Parker has a special thing for these two, or they are just firing on all cylinders and producing great wine. In California I am surprised that there are not more well known producers like Dominus, Opus 1, and Phelps at the top of the list, and I am also surprised to see that Schrader, the top California producer, has no more than 8% of the California total (15 of 135), meaning that California is not dominated by only one or two producers as Cotes du Rhone is. In Bordeaux it is no surprise that Petrus leads the pack, but La Mission Haut Brion in second position ahead of all the first growths is a big surprise and one worth noting. In Australia Greenock Creek with 8 perfect wines is a surprise, and so is the fact that Penfold’s Grange Hermitage does not lead the pack.

There is no shortage of trophy wines on this list of 540 or more wines. By this I mean wines that will cost you the price of a car, or an all inclusive vacation for two in the Caribbean. And you can rest assured that carrying a perfect 100 point rating from Robert Parker has no doubt added 30% or more to the price of that wine. So if a trophy wine is a must, and price is no object, then by all means go shopping through this list (follow this link for current pricing: https://www.wine-searcher.com/critics-27-robert+parker+the+wine+advocate/476 ). Note this is not the complete list and not fully up to date, but close enough to get you going.

You can forget about the older wines, you just will not find them, but feel free to pick up the 2015 Chateau Petrus at $5,685 (CDN),

the 2015 Chateau Margaux at $2,060 (CDN),

or the 2015 Chateau Haut Brion at the bargain price of $875 (CDN)

when they hit retail shelves later this year. If not “trophy” enough for you, then migrate up the snob scale to a 1986 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet Grand Cru at $10,625 (CDN)

or a 2005 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti Grand Cru at $33,375 (CDN).

If you prefer an expensive California trophy wine, then look no further than Screaming Eagle where you can get the 2012 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon for $4,625 (CDN), the 2010 for $5,630 (CDN), the 2007 for $5,600 (CDN), or the 1997 for $7,900 (CDN).

Serious collectors should really consider putting away a couple of trophy wines from Cotes du Rhone producers M. Chapoutier and E. Guigal. Between them they have 33 Parker 100 perfect wines each, and no serious collection will be complete without representation from these two fine producers. From Chapoutier you should consider getting your hands on one or more bottles of the Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon, Hermitage. Parker lists several vintages at 100 points, including the 2012 vintage, the 2011, the 2010, the 2009, the 2005, and the 2003. These will cost you anywhere from $350 – $550 CDN ($270 – $425 US), and they are readily available.

With E. Guigal you need to pick up his single vineyard Cote Rotie wines, he has three different wines: the La Landonne,

the La Mouline,

and the La Turque,

and between these three Cote Rotie wines they account for 28 of Parker’s 33 perfect 100 scores attributed to Guigal wines. These bottles average at about $650 CDN ($500 US) per bottle in recent vintages (2012, 2010, 2009, 2005) and they are readily available. A true collector will buy one of each of these three wines from the same vintage, which will cost you about $2,000 CDN or about $1,550 US. You can expect over the ensuing 25 years that these will at least triple in value (the 1985 threesome now is worth roughly $6,000). But don’t just buy them as trophy wines, make sure to drink a few to relish the experience of tasting perfection in a bottle.

Many of the Parker 100 fall into the price range of $300 – $1,000 (CDN), or $230 – $775 (US), so if you are comfortable with that price range your choice is extensive. You will not get first growth Bordeaux for under $1,000, but you can get many Bordeaux perfect wines for half that price, such as the following:

  • Chateau Angelus                                           2005             $700
  • Chateau Canon                                              2015             $340
  • Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou                   2009             $490
  • Chateau Haut-Bailly                                   2009              $320
  • Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases                     1986             $600
  • Chateau Pape Clement                               2010             $330
  • Chateau Pontet-Canet                                2009             $360
  • Chateau Pontet-Canet                                2010             $340
  • Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte                     2009              $370
  • Chateau Troplong Mondot                       2005              $360

There is a lot to like in these wines above, from rising stars like Chateau Angelus, Chateau Pontet-Canet, and Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, to classic second growth superstars like Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou and Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases. I especially like the 1986 Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases because it now has 32 years of age and is fully open and at its peak, and 1986 is the only year which Parker rated the Chateau at 100 points, definitely one to secure for immediate special occasions.

 

However, what interested me the most when I was reviewing this list was finding the bargains. There are a total of 67 wines under $400 CDN or $300 US. There are also 9 wines priced at $200 CDN ($150 US) or less. So let’s take a look at these 9 bargains and let’s see if they are readily available or not:

  • 2009 Bodegas Emilio Moro “Malleolus de Sanchomartin” Ribero del Duero, Spain                      $190  CDN
  • 2009 Bodegas Emilio Moro “Malleolus de Valderramino” Ribero del Duero, Spain                       $160 CDN
  • 2011 Alvear Pedro Ximonez de Anada, Montilla-Mariles, Spain                                                              $185 CDN
  • 2007 Donelan Richards Family Vineyard Syrah, Sonoma Valley                                                             $187 CDN
  • 2002 Thackrey + Co. Orion Rossi Vineyard “Cal. Native Red Wine” Syrah, St. Helena                $180 CDN
  • 2009 Morlet Family Vieyards Coup de Coeur Chardonnay, Sonoma County                                   $130 CDN
  • 2012 Turley Wine Cellars Hayne Vineyards Petite Syrah, Napa Valley                                               $112 CDN
  • 2003 Kalleski Greenock Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia                                                                         $112 CDN
  • 2003 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia                                                                                     $ 82 CDN

In terms of availability, none of these is considered a recent vintage so they are not readily available. Having said that they can be found if you are determined. The Sanchomartin can be found at two UK locations, one in Europe, and three US locations (1 NY, 1 CA, 1TX). The Valderramino can be found at two UK locations, one in Europe, and three US locations (all NY). The Alvear is only a ½ bottle, and is a sherry type dessert wine and not for everyone, but can be found in one UK location, one Europe location, and one US location (OR).

As for the American wines, the Donelan can only be found in two US locations (both CA), the Thackrey can be found at four US locations only (1 NJ, 1 DC, 2 CA), the Morlet only at one US location (NJ), and the Turley wine at one UK location and only one US location (CA).

 

 

 

The Australian wines are not much better, the Kalleski can only be found at one location, in the US (MA), and the Mitolo at two UK locations and one US location (MA).

For details on where these wines can be purchased, go to the www.winesearcher.com website and search these wines for the specific locations and prices.

If this sounds like too much effort, you are probably right, and I would then suggest you focus your efforts on a more recent vintage from a large up and coming Bordeaux producer like the 2009 Chateau Pontet-Canet. The Wine Searcher site lists no less than 41 locations where this wine can be currently purchased, including 15 in Asia (mostly Hong Kong), 11 in Europe, 6 in the UK, and 9 in the US.

Robert M. Parker was and still is an icon and the best wine critic of our generation, and has personally rated about 550 wines as perfect. Any wine that he rated at a perfect 100 points was virtually guaranteed to increase in value by 30% or more, and often immediately. The statistics indicate that even though he may have had a personal passion for rich, fruit bomb type California reds, only 35% of his 100 point wines come from California, while 50% come from France. Any serious wine collector should have at least a few of these Parker 100s in their cellar.

How many of these wines do you own? Like most of us, the answer is most likely “not enough”, so do some window shopping through the www.winesearcher.com website and keep your eyes open for opportunities to add a few of these to your collection.

Cheers,

Reg.

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – post # 23, more on the Bordeaux 2015 vintage as the top estates announce release prices.

Last week most of the remaining top estates announced release prices for their 2015 wines. The trend continues with huge increases ranging from 40% to 70%, not a happy trend for the consumer and wine collector. Liv-ex released an extensive blog post Monday June 27th (which you can read in detail using the following link: http://www.blog.liv-ex.com/category/releases/bordeaux-2015-en-primeur?mc_cid=66d7916d9a&mc_eid=d9373685f8 ). In their post you can read how Chateau Lafite Rothschild has released their 2015 vintage at a 50% increase, Chateau Ausone at a 63.3% increase, and Chateau Cheval Blanc at a 53% increase.

Ironically in the case of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, both the 2014 and 2015 vintage have been rated at 95 points by The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, and the 2014 vintage (which will not hit retail shelves for another full year) will be about 25% cheaper than the 2015 vintage when it hits the store shelves two years from now. So high price increases for the 2015 vintage are creating some interesting opportunities for buyers if you look at older vintages such as 2012, 2013, and 2014. Watch out for the 2013 vintage, there are some poor wines in that vintage, but 2012 and 2014 in particular will have some much better bargains.

This same Liv-ex blog also relates how a poll they conducted of their top 440 wine merchant members (some of the largest wine merchants in the world) showed that 98.4% of those merchants underestimated how much the 2015 vintage prices would be increased. The group collectively anticipated increases from growers of roughly 18%, and what we got were increases averaging 46% higher, which is more than double what the trade had expected. Are growers getting greedy? Maybe. Is demand from China and other developing countries putting upward pressure on prices? Maybe. Are speculators who want to grab up all the top rated wines to flip back into the market for a quick buck, taking advantage of high scores from wine critics? Probably.

Human nature being what it is, growers will charge what the market will bear, arguing that weather, economic cycles, and other factors all conspire against them and can create very difficult and widely fluctuating costs and revenues, ergo the need to make as much money as they can when times are ripe (no pun intended).

Liv-ex also released another blog post on Bordeaux 2015 release prices on June 16th with more sticker shock (which you can read through the following link: http://www.blog.liv-ex.com/category/releases/bordeaux-2015-en-primeur/page/2?mc_cid=30dad2140a&mc_eid=d9373685f8 . Here you will note that Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou is up 70%, Chateau Mouton Rothschild is up 60%, Chateau Haut Brion is up 60%, and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion is up a staggering 107%.

And among all this stunning price activity, Chateau Pontet Canet sold out its first tranche release at 75 euros and announced a second tranche release at 88 euros. Readers of my last blog post # 22 will note that I flagged Chateau Pontet Canet as a great alternative with a great wine score (95) at an attractive price. The price for their 2014 vintage was 66 euros ex-negotiant, and as you can see the first tranche release at 75 euros represented a modest 13.6% increase, and their second tranche release at 88 euros is still only 33% higher than their 2014 price. Relative to what many of the other growers are doing, Chateau Pontet Canet remains my top choice for those looking to buy 2015 Bordeaux futures.

In Canada, this week the LCBO starts selling their 2015 Bordeaux futures offering to the public. Clicking on the link below will take you to their offering:  http://www.vintages.com/futures/bordeaux-futures-2015/2015bordeaux_list.shtml?utm_source=June24&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Bordeaux2015 .

I have gone through the offering in detail, and here are my thoughts:

  • Among the big names, Chateau Ausone (96) at $1,250 and Chateau Cheval Blanc (98) at $1,200, both from St. Emilion, appear to be overpriced compared to their counterparts elsewhere. Chateau Margaux (99), Chateau Haut Brion (99) and Chateau Mouton Rothschild (98) are all priced at $950, and this will look like a good price in 2018 when these same bottles hit the retail shelves at 30% higher in price. Since these are near perfect wines, they are interesting, and one advantage of buying through the LCBO in Ontario is that they can be bought by the bottle.
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  • Chateau Lafite Rothschild (95) at $999 appears to be a lesser quality choice for more money, but then again you are paying for the name. If you prefer a top wine for less money, take a look at Chateau La Mission Haut Brion (98) at $699, rated just as high as Chateau Mouton Rothschild but $256 per bottle cheaper.
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  • In Pauillac, besides the big names, you can find good value with Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron (97) at $249, Chateau Pontet-Canet (95) at $185, and Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (95) at $115.
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  • In the Margaux region, take a look at Chateau Rausan-Segla (97) at $139, and in St. Julien I think Chateau Leoville Barton (95) at $129 also looks worthwhile.Reg's Wine Blog - photo 23-3
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  • In the Graves region, you should also be looking at Chateau Pape Clement (96) at $139, Domaine de Chevalier (96) at $109, and Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere (95) at $79.
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  • In the St. Emilion region I really like Chateau Canon (99) at $175, and also worth noting are Chateau Figeac (98) at $249, and Clos Fourtet (96) at $175.
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  • In Pomerol take a closer look at Chateau Le Gay (95) at $179, Chateau Clinet (96) at $149, and Chateau Clos L’Eglise (95) at $139.
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  • Second wines from the big estates seem to me to be overpriced, with Le Petit Mouton (second wine of Chateau Mouton Rothschild at 92 points) and Pavillon Rouge (second wine of Chateau Margaux at 93 points) both going for $249 per bottle.

So if you shop carefully and quickly, there are some good values to be had. The sale starts Wednesday June 29th, the best deals will be gone within 3 hours, that is why I have highlighted at least a dozen selections above worth considering. My favorites from the above list are Pontet-Canet, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Malartic-Lagraviere.

So there you have it, the 2015 Bordeaux vintage will be very good, and very expensive when it hits retail shelves in 2018. If you feel you should buy futures to lock in a 30% discount to retail prices, there are some good deals available through the LCBO in Ontario, but you will have to move fast, as in right now.

Good hunting and good luck.

Reg

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 22, Bordeaux Wine Prices and the 2015 vintage – up, up and away!

You may or may not have heard, the 2015 Bordeaux vintage for classified growths is being priced now, and various properties are releasing their opening prices. The good news: a very good year for Bordeaux classified growths if you go by what Neal Martin of Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate has to say. The bad news: wine prices are headed up, in some cases way up.

The Liv-Ex wine blog out of the UK does an excellent job of tracking wine prices, and they also track how responsive wine prices are to wine critic scores, and Robert Parker’s scores in particular. The most recent Liv-Ex blog on opening wine prices ex-negociant can be read by using the following link, http://www.blog.liv-ex.com/category/releases/bordeaux-2015-en-primeur. The dramatic price increases being described are averaging 30% higher, and in some cases (like Chateau Margaux), they are much higher (by 83.6%). Will the 2015 Chateau Margaux be too expensive for most people?

Let’s look at Chateau Margaux for a moment, with an opening price to the trade up a staggering 83.6% from last year. The Chateau is selling to the negociant at 384 euro per bottle, the negociant is applying his 17% markup and selling futures at 4,260 pounds sterling per case of 12. That futures price equates to $6,050.00 US or $7,750.00 CDN per case, but that is not the price you will pay, that is the price that your wine importer will pay, companies like Chateau and Estate Wines in the US or the LCBO or SAQ in Ontario and Quebec. These companies will apply their own markup, and those markups vary widely. Let’s assume you get lucky and the local markup is only 25% on the futures offering, so you will be paying $7,562.50 US or $9,687.50 CDN per case. On a per bottle basis that works out to $630 US or $807 CDN per bottle. Those are for Bordeaux futures, which means pay now and wait 18 months for your wines to be delivered, ouch!

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But there is more, if you choose to wait for the wine to be released on the store shelves before buying, the price you will pay will be higher, usually another 25% higher because the retailer will be paying more to buy the wine than the futures price, and applying his own markup accordingly. That means you can expect to find 2015 Chateau Margaux hitting retail store shelves in September 2018 at about $800 US or over $1,000 CDN. Wow, over $1,000 per bottle for wine that you will have to store no less than 10 years before you dare try to enjoy it. Are you in price shock yet? I know I certainly am.

So how good is the wine? For this price it had better be really good. Neal Martin has recently replaced Robert Parker as The Wine Advocate’s Bordeaux critic, and according to Neal the wine is rated 98-100 points from barrel samples. It is normal for the wine to be initially given a range (in this case from 98-100 points) until the wine itself is bottled a year from now. According to Neal you should “Beg for a bottle and worry about the cost later.” Clearly Neal expects the wine to fly off the order shelves and be impossible to get. It also appears that Chateau Margaux may be the top Bordeaux wine of the vintage. And if all this were not convincing enough, Margaux’s winemaker and head of operations Paul Pontallier passed away on March 27th 2016 at 60 years of age after running Chateau Margaux for 33 years. Paul will be sorely missed and 2015 will therefore be his last vintage as winemaker and head of operations, again adding to the importance and sentimental value of the 2015 Chateau Margaux.

Okay, this wine sounds pretty good, however we now have another problem. The more Neal talks about how good this wine is, the higher the price will go and the more difficult it will become to find any, especially if Chateau Margaux turns out to be the best Bordeaux wine of 2015. Neal will also be tasting and rating this wine again once it is bottled and before it is released on store shelves, so do not be surprised if the retail prices I have mentioned above turn out to be lower than the actual retail prices once the hype has moved into top gear. I would not be surprised to see 2015 Chateau Margaux at $1,000 US and $1,250 CDN on the store shelves just in time for Christmas 2018. Indeed when Neal says “beg for a bottle”, a bottle may be all you can ever hope to get, and it may also be all you can afford.

So have Bordeaux prices gone too high? How high is too high? I remember 30 years ago often being in New York City, Washington, and Buffalo on business and buying the 1982 vintage of Chateau Margaux, Lafite Rothchild, Mouton Rothchild, Latour, Haut Brion and Cheval Blanc at $40 US per bottle. That’s right, $40 US per bottle, and at the time Robert Parker was calling the 1982 vintage “the vintage of the century” and had rated all the top wines at 95 points or more.

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If the 2015 Chateau Margaux hits store shelves in the US at $1,000 US per bottle, the price will be 25 times higher than the 1982 vintage was selling for in 1986. That is crazy, and that is also too high for most people.

So is it time to say goodbye to your favorite classified Bordeaux estates? Maybe, and for those devotees reluctant to jump ship, you can resort to buying the Chateau’s second wine. In the case of Chateau Margaux that would be Pavillon Rouge, which is much cheaper, but will still end up hitting the retail shelves in 2018 at a minimum of $200 US or $260 CDN per bottle. That will be a 45% increase (certainly much more reasonable than the 83.6% increase for Chateau Margaux), and the wine itself is rated by Neal at 93 points, certainly a respectable score but not a potential 100 point wine. Still, you get five bottles for the price of one, something worth considering.

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In terms of volume of production and therefore availability, there are 200,000 bottles of Pavillon Rouge produced annually (16,667 cases) verses only 150,000 bottles (or 12,500 cases) of Chateau Margaux produced. So you will have an easier time getting Pavillon Rouge with 33% higher production, and less demand because all the action is going to focus on the “grand vin”.

What other options are available for the price conscious consumer without straying too far from Bordeaux classified growths?My first suggestion is to look for a chateau with higher annual production, this generally means staying away from most Pomerols. Look for less than perfection, so avoid 100 Parker point wines, and look for underrated value, such as a 5th growth wine producing at 2nd growth or better quality level. A good example of this is Chateau Pontet-Canet, a 5th growth from Pauillac, with annual production of 240,000 bottles or 20,000 cases.

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It is also worth keeping an eye on the estate’s 2nd wine, Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet, which also produces 240,000 bottles or 20,000 cases annually.

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Neal Martin rates the 2015 Chateau Pontet-Canet at 94-96 points, pretty high quality, in fact a perfect place to be, any higher a rating would be having a much more pronounced impact on price. The estate also has an excellent quality track record, having delivered 100 point wines in both 2009 and 2010, so they are right now at the top of their game. Initial futures pricing is at 795 pounds sterling per case, which according to my calculations above for Chateau Margaux, would lead to retail prices at about $150 US and $200 CDN per bottle. So for the value oriented consumer, the 2015 Chateau Pontet-Canet is going to hit retail shelves at least 20% cheaper than Pavillon Rouge, and it is higher rated by Neal Martin (94-96 verses 93). In terms of comparison with Chateau Margaux itself, you will be able to buy at least 6 bottles of Chateau Pontet-Canet for the same price as one bottle of Chateau Margaux, at what amounts to a slightly lower score (94-96 verses 98-100).

Are Bordeaux prices out of control? Yes, for now they are, but they operate in cycles and 3 or 4 poor growing years from now prices could be a lot lower again, so don’t despair. There are lots of bargains to be found if you have a mind, and the will, to shop carefully. With lots of second wines available today for most of the major estates, there are many more ways today to find value with classified growth Bordeaux than there were 20 or 30 years ago.

So good hunting,

Reg.