News has spread that Chateau d’Yquem will not be releasing their 2011 this year at En Primeur and some have speculated that this is a move which mirrors Chateau Latour’s exit earlier in April.
However this is not the case – if anything Latour was mirroring the past actions of Chateau d’Yquem. Historically d’Yquem was not released at En Primeur instead vintages were released after the vintage was bottled. Primeurs were introduced when LVMH and Pierre Lurton took the reins in 2004.
Lurton brought the release of d’Yquem into line with much of the rest of Bordeaux, putting subsequent vintages onto the market with the rest of the Sauternes properties during the En Primeur scramble.
Incidentally there is another practice that marks d’Yquem out from the rest of its peers – in a poor vintage, the entire crop is deemed unworthy of bearing the chateau’s name; this happened nine times in the 20th century: 1910, 1915, 1930, 1951, 1952, 1964, 1972, 1974, and 1992.
The 2011 vintage is a great year for Sauternes and Lurton has compared d’Yquem’s 2011 to the ‘legendary’ 2001. His reasons for not releasing at En Primeur are simple – the Bordeaux 2011 En Primeur Campaign has stalled and he does not want to release a potentially superb wine at a low price to a disinterested market. He is quoted on d’Yquem’s blog as saying:
‘The decision was difficult to make, but seeing as the red wines set the tone for the futures market, we would have found it extremely difficult to convey the message that 2011 is an outstanding vintage in Yquem, on a par with the fabulous 2001. It turns out that the present context is not good to give this wine that we all love the chance it deserves.’
Lurton has made it clear that he still supports the En Primeur system and told Decanter.com that:
‘There is no question that we are following the example of Latour, or legitimising their commercial decision.
We are not withdrawing Yquem from the en primeur system, it is simply that we feel this is not the right moment.
We have tried in the past not using the en primeur system, but we believe it is very important, and fully support it as a method of selling our wines.
I feel that in the context of a difficult 2011 for the reds – together with the general economic uncertainties – that it is more sensible to wait, and ensure Yquem 2011 gets the reception that its quality deserves.’
Very few chateaux can afford to pick and choose whether they release or not and both the chateaux that decided to withdraw from En Primeur this year have the very sound backing of their own distribution networks should they need them: d’Yquem has that of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) and Latour has that of François Pinault’s luxury goods group PPR, whose stable of businesses includes Christie’s Auction House and the fashion brands Gucci and Puma.
Pierre Lurton’s letter to negotiants explaining d’Yquem’s withdrawal from En Primeur this year is below: