Chinese demand sends top Bordeaux prices sky-high

BORDEAUX, France (Reuters Life!) - Prices for Bordeaux 2009 vintage wine that has not yet even been bottled look set to top those from the last classic year of 2005 thanks to demand from wealthy Chinese buyers and speculators.

Pickers work at the Chateau Haut Brion vineyard in France's Bordeaux region in Pessac, southwestern France, August 31, 2009. REUTERS/Olivier Pon

Prices straight from the producer have already reached 1,000 euros ($1,282) per bottle for exceptionally fine wines, according to the Bordeaux Wine and Spirit Brokers Association.

Francois Leveque from the association says the explosion in prices is due to speculators and Chinese buyers.

The 2005 vintage broke records but that of 2009 is already coming in at 20-30 percent more expensive, and sometimes more.

Georges Haushalter from the Bordeaux Wine Merchants Association says it’s all about supply and demand.

“The supply of the best ‘Grands Crus’ is limited, but demand is greater because of both the exceptional vintage and also the arrival of the Chinese onto the market,” he said.

Buyers from China are particularly interested in the most well-known estates from Medoc, Saint-Emilion, Sauternes and Pessac-Leognan and don’t want to miss out on an historic vintage, he said.

While export volumes fell 14 percent last year, sales to the Chinese market almost doubled.

Wine merchants, especially those in Britain, see the Chinese market as a key target for the 2009 vintage.

Buyers can expect to pay more than 1,000 euros for a bottle of Chateau Ausone (Saint-Emilion) ‘en primeur’ -- pre-release -- meaning it won’t be delivered unil the end of 2011.

Bottles of Yquem (Sauternes) are trading at 800 euros, while those from the Latour estates of Mouton-Rothschild are reaching prices of between 700 and 800 euros.

Jean-Philippe Delmas from the Haut-Brion estate in Pessac-Leognan believes other buyers will enter the market soon.

“China is adding to pressure on the market, but in 10 years’ time, we’ll be talking about South America,” he said.

Reporting by Claude Canellas, Writing by Victoria Bryan