En Primeur is a process for acquiring arguably the best wines in the World at smart prices and in the format that you prefer. Essentially it is wine futures, similar to the way that coffee, cotton and other items are traded on international commodity futures markets.
The process can be traced back for centuries but only recently did it reach the popularity that it has today. It was in 1972 when Chateaux bottling became compulsory for Classified Growths that En Primeur in its current form was born. Prior to this, the Chateaux in Bordeaux would sell their wine in bulk or in barrels to a wine merchant. The wine was then bottled by each merchant at their offices in Chartrons.
The benefit of purchasing Bordeaux En Primeur is three fold. Firstly, in most cases the price that you purchase the wine at En Primeur is significantly less than the wine will be on the retail shelf two years later (that’s if it appears at all). Secondly, there’s the availability; many of the wines will only be available En Primeur and won’t make it on to New Zealand Retail shelves. And third is the bottling. Purchasing En Primeur you have the option to choose how you’d like your wine bottled, whether it is half bottles, standard bottles or even up to 6 litres.
The process of En Primeur essentially works like this (looking at the 2015 Vintage in Bordeaux as an example)
Whilst the 2015 Vintage wines are in barrel in Bordeaux
- The Chateaux invite the international press to taste and review the young wines in April 2016
- The Chateaux in Bordeaux offer their 2015 vintage wines to a Merchant (via a Courtier) around April – July 2016
- The Merchants offer their wines to Retailers / Importers the world around April – July 2016
- The Retailers then offer the wines to consumers around May – July 2016
- Customers secure their requests for wines En Primeur with their retailer around September 2016
Then around August 2018 the wines arrive in New Zealand
What’s the 2015 vintage like?
Whilst the vintage is complete, the wines safely resting in barrel, it is a little too early to give a complete overview of the vintage. By the time you are reading this though I will be in Bordeaux putting in the hard yards to try a large selection of the 2015 wines and then be able to report back in detail. You’ll be able to follow this on our En Primeur website www.enprimeur.co.nz, or follow me on twitter – @lizziewine. From the reports out to date, the growing season for the 2015 wines was excellent; hot in July, the right amount of moisture in August and then dry in September. The average temperatures and sunshine hours, some of the highest in ever, even higher than the great vintages of 1921 and 1947. In relation to recent years, the 2015 vintage is being compared to the 2009, 2010, 2005 and 2000 vintages.
Are there any catches? Things you need to watch out for?
Definitely. There have been horror stories internationally with En Primeur Purchasing, particularly through times of recession. It’s very important that the retailer you are purchasing from has a strong financial position (the wine is going to be delivered 2 years after you request your wines and pay your first payment). You need to discuss with the retailer and ensure they are purchasing from reputable Merchants, that are secure. Unfortunately, as interest in the top wines of Bordeaux continues to grow, demand exceeds supply and new international markets have emerged, leading to a lot of rogue operators at all ends of the operation.
Glengarry has been selling En Primeur for more than 25 years, with established connections and long term relationships. Visit www.enprimeur.co.nz or www.glengarry.co.nz for more details.