French wine is notoriously steeped in complex hierarchies. For example, top Bordeaux producers release their wines through the ‘en primeur’ futures system—well, top producers except Chateau Latour. Since 2012, Latour has played by their own rules which involve spring releases of bottled vintages. Today (3.20), that new system continued with the announcement of two more releases from the First Growth Pauillac.
Collectors can now pick up a six-pack of the re-released 2008 Grand Vin for $3370 or a sixer Les Forts de Latour 2013 for $1100.
“Elegance and fruit are the hallmarks at Latour in 2008,” observed Roger Voss at Wine Enthusiast. “The tannins are present, but subdued. The balance is what is impressive, with tight ripe fruits, nothing over-stated.”
However, wine industry insiders are not just focused on the taste. The business end of the Latour release is also attracting a lot of attention.
Prominent Bordeaux releases are normally run through the en primeur system. The process entails a barrel tasting of the juice less than a year after harvest. After merchants, media, trade orgs, and other heavyweights sample the young wine and tasting notes are released, sales begin on a futures system.
The purchaser does not receive their wine until years later when it is bottled and shipped. There is an element of gambling involved as wines are often appraised at much more—or less—than their futures price after bottling.
However, in 2012, Latour shocked the wine world by declaring that their 2011 vintages would be the last released en primeur. Instead, Latour promised to release and sell their vintages only after they were bottled and ready to ship.
The experiment yielded mixed results for Latour. According to the authoritative wine exchange Liv-Ex, demand for Latour comparative to other First Growth Bordeauxs dropped over the past seven years. In “lesser” years for Bordeaux, Latour’s wines have struggled with sales.
On the other hand, 2008 was no lesser year. Rather, the release features one of Bordeaux better vintages. That said, a Liv-Ex commented that the price on the new release is “slightly above its implied fair value”.
Photo by BillBl [CC BY 2.0 ]