Last week Slurp.co.uk took a stand against two elements of Bordeaux en primeur ‘tradition’ that have long been bugbears of UK wine buyers.
For several years now many UK fine wine merchants have forced customers seeking Lafite and Duhart Milon to purchase quantities of Château Rieussec at the same time. Still other merchants have priced Rieussec at a level vastly above its price on the wholesale market. Slurp believes both practices are out-dated against customer interests. Last week Slurp broke ranks and offered Rieussec free of any ties and at a price reflecting only a reasonable mark up on the wholesale price. This led to Slurp offering Rieussec 2010 at prices ranging from £250 – £295 a case when some merchants were (and still are) quoting prices of almost £500.
Slurp published an in-depth Investment Research note explaining how and why it was pricing and distributing Rieussec (full report). The report noted that because négociants were tying allocations of Lafite and Duhart to Rieussec the Sauternes being anonymously dumped in the market at prices up to 60% less that the release price of €48 a bottle (this for one of Sauternes most venerable and desirable producers). Slurp has been (to our knowledge) the most active secondary market buyer of Rieussec from négociants and UK merchants alike – and its customers have benefitted accordingly. Slurp has sold a multiple three figure number of cases in just the first five days of its campaign.
Slurp’s Chief Executive Dr Jeremy Howard explained the company’s stance:
“If something looks wrong and feels wrong it doesn’t matter to us whether it is ‘established practice’ or not. As a new company we are outside the ‘en primeur establishment’ and hence think independently. Where we see an opportunity to help our clients buy a great product at a fair price we are going to seize it. If it means breaking ranks with the traditionalists then so be it. Our relationships with négociants are important to us, but just because they are asked to do something by a producer does not mean we as a merchant have to follow suit.”
Slurp is not alone in its view that some en primeur practices are now out-dated and no longer working in customers’ interests. In her Financial Times column this weekend the UK’s leading wine writer Jancis Robinson wrote a withering critique of the 2010 campaign, specifically referring to the exasperation caused by “Bordeaux negociants’ attempts to bundle less desirable wines with the most sought-after.” (see article, July 9-10th)