There is a saying you often hear in France: "Ca se fait pas" - literally "that does not do itself or, in English, "that isn't the done thing".
One of the things that isn't done in France is purchasing Bordeaux directly from a top chateau. Would-be buyers have to place their orders through a négociant - merchant - who, in turn, will have made their purchase through a courtier - broker.
There are, it seems, a few exceptions to this rule. Chinese buyers who resent having to include middle-men in their transactions have reportedly managed to sidestep it (sometimes with the help of "tame" negociants who have been persuaded to take less than their usual margin).
More recently, however, at least one 2nd growth has, it seems, decided to break the convention completely.
Chateau Lascombes, a second growth Margaux, has sent out the following letter to a number of French people inviting them to place orders for some of its 2012 wine.
The letter contains a description of the background to the vintage, references to quotes by French critics - and the suggestion that "this great wine asks nothing more than to mature in your cellar". The price the great wine is asking is almost identical the the one quoted for Millésima on Wine-Searcher, and there's no suggestion that stocks are limited, but perhaps some people will be tempted by the appeal of buying directly from the chateau.
For my part, I have a few questions:
- Is this a one-off operation by Chateau Lascombes?
- Or could I look forward to ordering my 2013 from them during the April en primeur tastings?
- Are any other estates making similar offers?
- Is this crack in the wall of the way things are done in Bordeaux going to have wider implications?