Friday, March 22, 2013

It's a mad, mad, mad world (in Bordeaux)

"What Latour did last year was madness"

I'm not sure what qualifications Patrick Bernard, founder of Bordeaux negociants Millésima may have to diagnose mental illness, but I'm not rushing to recommend him as a psychiatrist. 

Let's analyse precisely what Latour did in fact do last year.

It - it the form of director Frederic Engerer - decided to stop selling his wine when it is unready to be properly assessed or drunk, in favour of selling it when it is - in his opinion - properly marketable.

He also chose to withdraw his wine from the hysteria of a few weeks when the entire wine world turns its attention to the opinions of a handful of experts who frequently disagree on the merits of the - frequently unrepresentative samples - they are tasting.

Stated bluntly, if anyone is looking for an illustration of madness, it is to be found in the pricing - embraced by Millésima and others - of 2010 Bordeaux en primeur, and the very existence of a 2011 en primeur campaign.

Latour has just released its 1995 grand vin and 2005 Forts de Latour. Simon Staples of Berry Bros has revealed that Asian buyers have snapped up his entire allocation of these wines.

So, Latour has sold its wine; Berry's has satisfied its clients; those clients have made far more sensible purchases than they would if they had bought 2010 en primeur. 

Millésima, however, have refused to offer the mature wine.

That's their prerogative: to express Gallic grumpiness. Some might even call it commercial madness, but I wouldn't go that far. After all, I don't have the requisite qualifications.


The Millesima response

Millesima doesn’t boycott the Chateau Latour

Right to reply – “Millesima doesn’t boycott the Chateau Latour”

Context : Millesima could read in the press and on social networks since Wednesday – after the announcement on the 20th of March in Bordeaux by our CEO – founder Patrick Bernard – that the article titled “Millesima boycott Chateau Latour” was the origin of quite some reactions (perhaps even  misunderstandings) from the readers, either if they are professionals in wine, spirits or just wine lovers.
 This is the reason why Patrick Bernard  wishes to put things in their context, in order to avoid more misunderstandings.
FRANCE/Patrick Bernard : “Millesima boycotts Latour!” does not seem to express faithfully at all what I have announced yesterday by the end of the Primeurs 2011 Panorama Tasting in our own cellars.
My announcement was as follows:
- For over two centuries, the Bordeaux Grands Crus Classés sell their harvest en primeur, in springtime, to the Bordeaux Negociants.
- Château Latour has decided, from the 2012 vintage, not to sell its wines en primeurs to the negociants anymore (but once they are bottled, much later on, and this week the offer concerned the Latour 1995)
Millesima, willing to see the Bordeaux traditions enduring refused the offered allocations, not only regarding the Latour but the Forts de Latour as well.
Given the allocation system currently in use in Bordeaux, Millesima knew it was to be condemned not to be offered any Château Latour for the coming vintages.
On the other hand, as soon as the Château Latour sells its wines en primeur back again, Millesima will be delighted to start buying and marketing their wines again.
In no way our position can be considered as a boycott, but as a refusal to see bicentenary traditions being scorned.  (My highlighting. RJ)

My response to the Millesima response

I'm sorry, M Bernard, but maybe we have a linguistic issue.

I'll leave it to readers to decide whether stopping buying and marketing Latour until it starts selling wine en primeur again fits within the Oxford dictionary definition of "boycott" below.

  • withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest:we will boycott all banks which take part in the loans scheme
  • refuse to buy or handle (goods) as a punishment or protest:an advert urges consumers to boycott the firm’s coffee
  • refuse to cooperate with or participate in (a policy or event):most parties indicated that they would boycott the election


  1. Ryan Mostert @RyanTheWineGeek) wrote@AngelaLloyd1 @robertjoseph that does sum up the whole saga quite neatly!

  2. Angela Lloyd (@AngelaLloyd1) wrote
    As usual @robertjoseph gets to the point with no bull.

  3. Giles Cooke MW (@gilescooke) wrote
    I thought the main issue was that the wines were released at a substantial premium over what can be sourced the market already?

    1. @gilescooke … Releasing mature wines from chateaux would be a blow against forgers.

    2. Giles Cooke MW (@gilescooke)
      @robertjoseph true- much of criticism appears to be jealousy that latour's reputation is strong enough to sustain without intermediaries

    3. @gilescooke Insightful comment - especially re Bordeaux where negociants viscerally remember the days when ALL chateaux were their slaves