Bordeaux en primeur prices for the 2000 vintage have soared to record levels. Prices have caused outrage in France and abroad, with initial releases to the trade from first growths Chateau Lafite, Rothschild and Chateau Latour set at 120 Euros (US$102) per bottle, up 71% on the 1999 level.

The announcements come after weeks of steady rises during the "en primeur" campaign with average increases ranging between 20 and 60% on the levels set in 1999.

Amazingly, even larger price hikes are expected with the likes of Petrus, Haut Brion, Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Le Pin still to declare.

The issue is intensified as many of the top chateaux keep back wine, looking to exploit the profit potential of the millennium vintage. And, serious price hikes have not been the preserve of the first growths alone, with some notable rises from properties on the Right Bank also.

Adam Brett-Smith of merchant Corney & Barrow described the increases as "seriously regrettable".

He said: "It was so important for Bordeaux to win back friends lost in the '97 campaign and a modest level of price increases, say up to 30%, would have done that. We're not buying for stock at these prices, we're acting more as broker than a merchant."

Indignation was not the preserve of those outside Bordeaux either. Jean-Francois Mau, chairman of Yvon Mau, told "It's terrible for Bordeaux. More and more there are two markets, the classified growths and the rest. Prices are not going up, except for the happy 200 chateaux. There are 12,000 growers in Bordeaux not 200, 11,800 are very upset and when they read this in the newspaper tomorrow, at a time when the price of generic Bordeaux is just stable, they'll be very, very cross."