Wine experts unanimously agree that 2005 is one of the greatest ever Bordeaux vintages. A buzz of excitement swarmed about their en primeur release, the market snapped them up with salivating greed and prices broke all records.
Two events have resulted in further significant price increases for First Growth 2005 Bordeaux. And one very recent tasting has changed the fortunes of the Juglas family, the owners of Chateaux Pedesclaux, a previously unknown fifth growth.
Reassessment of the 2005s and abolishing Hong Kong duty
In March 2007, the 2005 Bordeaux vintage was reassessed by a few critics, the predicted quality was confirmed and scores for many of the best wines were upgraded. Between March 2007 and May 2007 prices for First Growths increased. Lafite jumped from £3,800-£5,000, Haut Brion from 3,750-£5,000 and Latour from 5,350-6,500. In October 2007, Lafite was selling for £6,400. By the end of December 2007 the asking price for Lafite was £7,500.
Roll forward to 27 February 2008, the day that the Hong Kong government abolished its 40% add valorem duty on wine. Very recently the duty was a huge 80%. There is quite a bit of money kicking about in Hong Kong and a real taste for claret among the elite, particularly for Lafite. Merchants' phones started ringing immediately and prices for First Growth 2005 Bordeaux soared. On the morning of 27 February 2008, 2005 Lafite was selling for £8,200 and £8,500 by the end of that day. Yesterday Lafite was selling for £9,000.
Robert Parker, the planet's most influential wine critic, is planning to retaste 2005 Bordeaux in April 2008. Based on the success of the recent Decanter tasting (see below) it's difficult to see Parker not lavishing further praise on the vintage and prices not heading further north.
An unlikely prince: 2005 Chateaux Pedesclaux
Last Friday, Decanter held a comprehensive 2005 Bordeaux Classed Growth blind tasting. All the major Chateaux were included in the tasting with samples purchased on the market of those wines whose owners did not wish to participate. The tasting panel was comprised of Steven Spurrier, Sebastian Payne MW, Richard Bampfield MW, Hugo Rose MW and Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners.
The judges were impressed with the vintage. So impressed that 25 wines will be given a coveted "Decanter Award". Decanter's previous record for any of their blind tastings is 13 awards.
Yesterday Farr Vintners revealed that only three wines scored 18/20 or more from all 5 Decanter judges. These wines were all from Pauillac - Mouton Rothschild, Pichon Baron and Pedesclaux. Oui, oui, Pedesclaux, you and the shocked Bordeaux establishment gasp.
In 2003, Robert Parker's view of this humble Chateau less than glowing. "In short, life is too short to drink Pedesclaux", he bellowed.
Stephen Brook is far more complimentary in the Complete Bordeaux, published in 2007, noting: "Denis Jugla is still bedevilled by the wine's dreary reputation. It has improved beyond recognition, but it is difficult for him to obtain the higher prices he needs to justify and recoup the investments he has been making. The Bordeaux crisis could not have come at a worse time for Jugla, and many others like him, who have revolutionised their wines".
At 3.00pm yesterday Farr offered Pedesclaux to its customers at £180 a case or £170 for more than one case, proclaiming it the bargain of the century. By 6.00pm yesterday Farr had sold out of Pedesclaux - all 400 cases. I couldn't resist snaffling a few bottles for the cellar.
It looks like the Jugla's investments have finally paid off. No doubt Denis Jugla will be wiggling his hips and mouthing the lyrics of Tina Turner's Simply the Best next time he drives past his neighbours at Lafite and Latour. Unless Baroness Philippine de Rothschild is one of the lucky Farr Vintners' customers, perhaps Denis will be invited to share a bottle or two of Pedesclaux with the Baroness up the road at Mouton. It will be very interesting to see what Parker thinks of this wine come April.