Seal of Approval
The non-bordeaux wines sold by the region’s leading merchants provide an insight into the global market for top wines, writes James Suckling
he most recent vintage of one of Chile’s most famous wines, Almaviva 2013, was released in early September and sales were brisk, to say the least. The 2013 is yet another super red from the wine estate jointly owned by Chile’s Concha y Toro and France’s Château Mouton Rothschild. I rated it 97 points. But what few wine lovers around the world realise is that a large percentage of the Almaviva 2013 sold came from a select number of wine merchants in Bordeaux.
It may sound strange to some, but Bordeaux wine merchants, or negociants, as they’re called in France, sell a handful of iconic nonbordeaux wines each year, just like they sell their region’s unbottled wines as futures (en primeur) or a recent release in bottle. As well as Almaviva, these wines include Clos Apalta (Chile), Hommage à Jacques Perrin (Rhone Valley), Opus One (Napa Valley) and Masseto and Solaia (both from Italy). These wines are offered globally, mostly in September. Here are my ratings over the past three months for most of them: 2012 Almaviva (97 points), 2012 Clos Apalta (96), 2012 Opus One (97), 2012 Massetto (99) and 2012 Solaia (97).
“These offers are very successful with our clients, as they seem to fulfil a need for a simplified access to these wines,” said Mathieu Chadronnier, managing director of CVBG, one of the biggest fine-wine negociants and one of the dozen or so companies selling Almaviva and other labels in Bordeaux. His company sells to thousands of customers around the world through what may be the most complete global distribution network for fine wine.
“The fine-wine market is increasingly global, both in terms of where the wines are sold and where they originate,” added Chadronnier. “Hence, a broader fine-wine offer is perceived as highly relevant by our clients.”
Chadronnier’s broader offer, as he describes it, illustrates a new class of global super wine brand. These wines offer incredible quality as well as quantity. They are some of the best wines from their respective regions and they are made in substantial quantities to supply a global demand—some as much as 25,000 cases. They are emulating in the world market such coveted Bordeaux wines as Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Latour, Mouton Rothschild, Haut-brion, Palmer, Montrose, Ducru-beaucaillou, Pétrus and Cheval Blanc.
And people are drinking them around the world just like the prestigious labels of Bordeaux. Such names as Almaviva and Masseto are prestige marques that symbolise quality and chic when bought, displayed or consumed. And inevitably they are expensive, with a few exceptions. This is “face value” in just about any wine market.
What’s interesting to note is that there are no super brands traded in Bordeaux from Australia or Spain, even though such wines as Penfolds Grange (Australia) and Pingus (Spain) would easily qualify. And there’s no Burgundy, although I would argue Domaine de la Romanée-conti is the greatest of them all. Champagne is also not sold in Bordeaux, but the grand marques of the region already have a highly efficient distribution system.
In the end, all this simply makes me more curious to see what foreign wines will be sold by Bordeaux merchants in coming years.