En Primeur, Day One: Pontet-Canet Price Sets Tone

Read about the reason behind the chateau’s early price announcement, plus ratings and reviews of select Sauternes and Barsac.

Before attendees of Bordeaux’s annual barrel-tasting event sipped any samples—and even before buyers and journalists had made pronouncements about the vintage—one of the Médoc’s top chateaus broke ranks by announcing that its 2013 price would be the same as last year.

Alfred Tesseron, the bashful yet renegade owner of fifth growth Château Pontet-Canet, declared that the price per bottle would be €60 ($82). While that may not seem a dramatic measure, it arguably is, because the 2013 vintage is in fact dodgy.

“I am very sure of my wine—I had a small crop, so why wait,” Tesseron said about his pricing decision. “I have already sold three quarters of the wine.”

Despite his confidence, Tesseron’s decision has generated concern among other producers, who consider the move a threat to the entire en primeur campaign. Most are expected to quickly follow suit and announce their pricing.

“I think it shows disrespect for Bordeaux producers and for the wine world that’s paying good money to come here and taste wine,” said Aymeric de Gironde, general manager of second growth Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe.

Still, some won’t let Tesseron’s decision dictate their prices.

“I understand what he did, but it’s not going to impact what the rest of Bordeaux does,” said Prince Robert of Luxembourg, owner of first growth Château Haut-Brion in Pessac-Léognan.

That may be true of Prince Robert, but the majority of Bordeaux is echoing the message behind Tesseron’s move—the small crop—means prices wont drop.

Production was down by as much as 50 percent this year, resulting in even smaller quantities of top wines. Severe selection means as much as 40 percent of the wine will be declassified into generic Bordeaux.

Storms that hit during flowering cut yields dramatically, rainfall during harvest was unrelenting and rot hit the vineyards, attacking ripe grapes over one weekend. Picking went as fast as possible. On a single day, for example, Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac had 695 people picking grapes in their three-estate vineyards. But sometimes these too-early pickings resulted in unripe grapes.

The story is not quite the same everywhere, and certainly not with regards to Sauternes and Barsac—one of the few highlights of 2013. Even if yields are similarly small, the concentration of botrytis is excellent, and the result is a series of homogenous wines that are rich and fresh, with intense acidity. These wines are ageworthy, without a doubt.

Here are the top 10 Sauternes and Barsac wines. Read these reviews, plus more Sauternes and Barsac ratings and reviews in the Buying Guide >>>

96–98 Château d’Yquem 2013 Barrel Sample (Sauternes)
94–96 Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2013 Barrel Sample (Sauternes)
94–96 Château Coutet 2013 Barrel Sample (Barsac)
94–96 Château Lamothe Guignard 2013 Barrel Sample (Sauternes)
94–96 Château Rieussec 2013 Barrel Sample (Sauternes)
94–96 Château Suduiraut 2013 Barrel Sample (Sauternes)
93–95 Château de Malle 2013 Barrel Sample (Barsac)
93–95 Château Doisy-Védrines 2013 Barrel Sample (Barsac)
93–95 Château Guiraud 2013 Barrel Sample (Sauternes)
93–95 Château la Tour Blanche 2013 Barrel Sample (Sauternes)

En Primeur 2014, Day One: Pontet-Canet Price Sets Tone >>>
En Primeur 2014, Day Two: Complex Right Bank Wines >>>
n Primeur 2014, Day Three: Fantastic Whites and Fair Reds >>>

Read Wine Enthusiast's continuing En Primeur coverage >>>

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