En Primeur is an April wine word that essentially refers to
how the new vintage of Bordeaux is traded. Do you know what it means?
most part the new vintage of Bordeaux wine is always sold 'en primeur.' This
essentially means that the wines are sold the spring following
the vintage, while they are still maturing in barrel, which is about two
years before they will be bottled and released from the Chateaux. Basically the
wines are being sold as 'futures.'
in April, the 'en primeur' campaign kicks off in Bordeaux. Hundreds of wine
merchants and critics from all over the world descend on the city of Bordeaux
to taste, rate and buy as futures, the new wines. The 'en primeur' campaign for
the 2012 vintage is currently in full swing in Bordeaux.
The 'Place de Bordeaux' – Where It All Happens
selling of Bordeaux wine is complex. Unlike most other wine regions, the
Bordeaux Chateaux typically do not sell directly to the merchants. Rather they
have a long tradition of selling through négociants, located in 'La Place de
primeur the wines are tasted and based on a combination of the quality of the
vintage and the 'mood' of the market, the Chateaux release their 'en primeur' prices and hope that the négociants will buy the wines.
who buy the wines, in turn sell 'en primeur' to the merchants, who in turn
(especially when it is a good vintage) try to sell 'en primeur' to the end
consumer. Two years later, when the wines are bottled and released they make their
way through the channel to the 'en primeur' customers.
As the end
consumer, does not get to taste the wines, they rely heavily on the
recommendations of the critics during 'en primeur' campaign. Over the past
thirty years Robert Parker has singlehandedly been the most influential critic
on Bordeaux 'en primeur' prices.
The Benefits, Or Not, of En Primeur
The 'en primeur' system is supposed to create to a win-win situation for everyone
involved. For the seller – i.e. the Chateaux, they receive payment
upfront during the campaign. This helps cash flow significantly, rather than
having to wait until 2015 to sell their wines.
everyone else involved (i.e. the buyers) — from the négociants through to the
merchants, retailers and even the final consumer — the idea is that by buying
at the 'en primeur' price you are getting a better deal than if you wait to buy two years later when the wine is finally released to the market. In good vintages, it is
expected that by this time the prices will have
increased, and everyone will have profited. That is the theory. While this tends to work in good
vintages, it is not guaranteed. Like stocks, wine prices can go down as well as
négociants are still sitting on 2007s and 2008s, which were released at what is now considered too high 'en primeur' prices. Many of these wines have decreased in price since they were sold 'en primeur' because they are now considered over-priced and demand is lackluster.
En Primeur Beyond Bordeaux
While 'en primeur' is most associated with Bordeaux, some wines from Burgundy, the Rhône
Valley and Port are also sold 'en primeur.'
Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master
of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer
and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de