What is en primeur?
En primeur, also known as Wine Futures, refers to the process of buying Fine Wine before it is bottled. It has traditionally been the way Bordeaux Châteaux release their wines from the most recent vintage.
How does en primeur work?
Wines still in barrels are marketed and sold in advance ‘en primeur’. The Châteaux release their wine at opening prices in the Spring following the vintage. Purchasers rely on feedback from their merchants or members of the press who attend the en primeur tastings that precede the release of these wines to help with purchase choices. The emergence of ‘scores’ has helped customers immeasurably in this way, though variance among the scores can lead to some confusion and different journalists have very different tastes!
The primeur campaign usually takes a number of weeks, it is a game of ‘wait and see’ with Château owners hoping that their neighbours will release and test the waters with that year’s price; no one wants to be first! The wines remain in the Châteaux for a further 12 to 18 months before they are bottled and then shipped about 6 months thereafter.
Release prices exclude duty and VAT, these are paid when the wine is taken from the bonded warehouse in Ireland. Current rate of duty is €38.24 for a 9 litre case of 12 x 75cl bottles with VAT @ 23%, though with the enthusiasm for increasing taxes on alcohol in this country this cost may well have changed by the time you take delivery of your wine.
Why Buy En Primeur?
Buying the Châteaux wines at opening prices has in the past offered many the opportunity to purchase at preferable rates in an ‘I scratch your back…’ exchange with the Châteaux who needed the advance payment to fund cellar upkeep and barrel purchases for the coming year. Recent strong vintages and increasing prices have seen the monetary benefits of buying en primeur reduce considerably with many backing away from this system. But for those looking for assured provenance and availability of the top Châteaux in good vintages it is certainly a path to consider. You can gain comfort knowing that the wine from your favourite Chateau is sleeping comfortably in your cellar waiting for you to pop the cork a couple of decades down the line. For big entertainers, those with ostentatious habits or careful collectors looking to extend a wines life using larger format bottles the packaging size is up to you.
Buying En Primeur for Investment.
As with every investment there is risk. Recent price rises for Bordeaux mean that a return on investment is certainly not guaranteed. Demand for top Chateaux as they age does outstrip supply, so patience can be rewarding. Like all investments, values can go down as well as up. We are of the belief that opening a wine you have cellared and finding that it has reached its best expression of maturity is the greatest reward of all.