Bordeaux datapoints of the day
I’m a little late to this, but Shanken News has the latest Bordeaux export league tables, and they’re quite astonishing. The US is now only Bordeaux’s sixth-largest export market, in both price and volume. Meanwhile, the top spot on the dollar league table — held since time immemorial by the UK — has now moved to Hong Kong.
The numbers: in 2008, the US imported 1.75 million cases of Bordeaux, at €141 per case. By 2010, imports were down to just 1.36 million cases, and the average price per case was a mere €72. That’s wholesale, to be sure, but even at wholesale it’s hard to find decent Bordeaux at €6 per bottle.
China’s just a little bit cheaper. It imported 771,000 cases of cheap Bordeaux at €69 per case in 2008; by 2010 its 2.5 million cases were averaging €65 apiece.
And Hong Kong is a whole different world. In 2008 it imported 381,000 cases, which were worth €197 each on average. By 2010, imports had risen to 791,000 cases — still a fraction of the other countries on the league table. But the average price per case was a whopping €371. That’s well over four times what American importers are paying.
At the very top end of the market, the same thing is happening. “Last year, Hong Kong became the worldwide center of wine auctions,” Shanken News reports: total auction sales there outgrossed London and New York combined. To a first approximation, of course, wine auctions are Bordeaux auctions, especially in Hong Kong.
My feeling is that this is a positive development for the wine world more generally. Bordeaux is no longer the benchmark of quality that it once was: it can’t be, if an entire generation of non-Chinese wine drinkers is growing up never drinking the stuff. Instead, the world of wine is becoming more heterogeneous, and wine lovers are exploring many different regions, from California to Italy to Australia to Spain, as well as the Rhône and other bits of France far from the Garonne River. Such areas won’t attain cult status in Hong Kong for a while, if ever. But they’re just as easy to fall in love with as Bordeaux, and variety is always a good thing, with wine.