It's speculation waltz time in Bordeaux again. Round and round go the chateaux--producers and the trade. Up and up go the prices. Not that the pace is as frenzied as it was 10 years ago, nor the partners as mercurial. Nobody in Bordeaux this summer is suggesting there'll be a repeat of the 1973 crisis, for this time there's a legitimate reason for excitement: a genuinely good vintage.
Despite the early and fulsome praise, opinion is divided as to whether 1982 is indeed the vintage of a lifetime, or not all it's cracked up to be. After 10 days in Bordeaux, I'm reassured that many of the classed growths and more than a few of the bourgoisie will bottle excellent wines, to be treasured for a long, long time. Deeply colored, rich in fruit and tannin, they deserve their opening prices.
However . . . Like most years, 1982 was not a universal success. Overhot conditions during fermentation could result in flabby wines for those who did not keep cellar temperatures down. And there was intermittent rain during the middle of the picking, enough to mean that the best wines will be from chateaux which picked early or were strong-willed enough to blend only the better vats for maturation. High quality is not guaranteed, nor high price justified, by any and every '82.
Buy Now or Later?: It was a huge crop, the largest ever, and there's going to be plenty of wine in our market from next year on. Should we invest now? Yes. There's a lot to be said for buying futures, and it can all be summed up in two words: currency exchange. The price rises in the opening round this spring were largely offset for us by the strong dollar and even if, as forecast, France devalues again, we should buy now rather than later. The waltzing twirls on.
What to buy? I didn't taste the first growths, but of the higher-ranked wines that I did taste, the Pomerols and St. ,Emilions were particularly impressive: Pavie, Figeac, Canon, Le Bon Pasteur, L'Angelus, and Pavie Decesse. From the M,edoc: Lafon-Rochet, Giscours, Lynch Bages, Calon S,egur (more interesting than Montrose, for a change), Cos d'Estournel, Batailley and Lab,egorce. And of the minor properties likely to be available in our market: Ph,elan S,egur at St. EstMephe, M,eaume at Coutras, Poujeaux at Moulis, and Villars at Fronsac. They, the bourgeois growths, will not be expensive. We can expect retail prices of around $6.
Flowering: As for the 1983 crop, whose size and quality will play its part in future prices of the '82s, so far, so good. The flowering took place in fine, warm weather and, unless there is poor fruit set, Bordeaux is in for another large harvest. Poor fruit set, or berry formation, is caused by unsuccessful pollination. The two most common problems are known in French as "coulure" and "millerandage." Bordeaux wits are talking of another problem this summer: Mitterandage.
Taxes on all assets, including wine in barrel and bottle, is causing many owners to think twice about their investment. Domaine de Chevalier has just been sold to Bernard, a Bordeaux distillery. This would be sad news but for the fact that Jean Ricard, the family member responsible for the wines remains at the ch.ateau. Only his brothers and sisters sold their shares. The Cordier family has sold its interests to a banking group, and as for La Mission Haut-Brion, it's still on the market. Haut Brion, its famous neighbor, is a possible buyer.