A Guide to Buying Wine En Primeur

Wine Barrels

In June’s final instalment here at the Octavian Vaults blog, we take a look at a subject that is never far from the news – that of buying wine “en primeur”. Translated from French as “wine futures”, this is the process of buying fine wines whilst they are still ageing in the barrel, then waiting until they mature into an exquisite product before delivering.

Typically one would receive their “en primeur” wines 2 or 3 years after placing the order, something that began hundreds of years ago from nautical explorers who wanted fine Bordeaux for their voyages.

En Primeur Advantages

Guarantee of Provenance

En primeur wines have a fantastic advantage; that collectors receive them directly from the Chateau in question. This all but guarantees perfect provenance. 

Youthfulness

If you are a keen wine collector or even an investor, then “en primeur” wines will be of particular interest due to their young age. This makes them a prudent investment due to the fact that the potential price increases over time.

Thriftiness

En primeur wines typically go for lower prices due to the fact that they haven’t yet matured and no - one really knows how this will pan out. If purchased from a chateau of high calibre, then this is unlikely to be an issue, but there are no guarantees. This makes them low cost compared to other wine investments. 

Secondary Trends

In the majority of instances, the secondary market trend is for actual physical stock. So, collectors and fine wine investors are able to take advantage of en primeur gains.

Robert Parker – Wine Advocate and His Role in En Primeur

You can always find out more about en primeur wines and indeed, many other fine wine topics at robertparker.com, the dedicated blog of globally renowned wine critic Robert Parker. Otherwise known as The Wine Advocate, the site is generally accepted as the absolute authority on all things Bordeaux and “en primeur” wines inevitably feature on a regular basis.

Parkers Step Back

Robert Parker Jr actually took a step back from reviewing Bordeaux En Primeur wines a couple of years ago after four decades of being the absolute authority. He handed the reins over to colleague Neal Martin, who may well be the best bet for anyone looking for further information on buying wine “en primeur”.

In an article at Decanter, Parker intimated that it was always the plan for Martin to take over the reviewing of en primeur wines when he was employed back in 2006, so the transition has actually been somewhat seamless.

En Primeur Checklist

The final part of our guide to buying wine en primeur is the Octavian Vaults checklist to the process. This may give you some insight into how this complex system works and how you can go about negotiating it as an investor. 

As we always say, we can’t teach you taste, or indeed business acumen as a fine wine expert, but hopefully the following pointers can help you to make an informed decision regarding your en primeur wines.

 Wine Storage

 

  • The process starts with the “en primeur” tastings at the start of Spring.  This will often be a considerable length of time before they are ready to drink, so takes some intuition.
  • The barrel tastings are then analysed by wine experts, critics and investors alike.
  • These investors will then be invited to purchase these en primeur barrels before they are bottled and released to the market while they are still in Bordeaux. These are all “In Bond” which means the purchase prices are exclusive of Duty and VAT. Just refer to the Octavian Vaults guide to bonded wines for more information on this.
  • As mentioned, the chateau will sell these en primeur wines at a lower price than matured Bordeaux. The barrels are released in tranches, typically at higher prices depending on how the market is behaving.
  • Delivery of these wines in the UK can be around a year after release, but can be as long as 2-3 years.
  • Many clients will then take advantage of bonded warehouse facilities such as those available here at Octavian Vaults, so that when the time comes for the wines to be sold or drank, it is in absolutely perfect condition. The wines will be stored at perfect temperature, laid flat and in the right light, so the investor can always rest easy about the condition of their investment.

That concludes our guide to en primeur wines and gives you a feel for what this represents in terms of an investment. If you have any questions about this or any other aspect of fine wine storage or cellarage, then just get in touch with our team of specialists.