The Bordeaux En primeur campaign, sometimes known as wine futures, is a way of purchasing the most highly-sought after Bordeaux wines and vintages while they are still ageing in barrel, offering the opportunity to invest in a particular wine before it is bottled and released on the market. Payment is made at an early stage, from 18 to 24 months before each wine is bottled. Delivery is possible from at least 24 months after the release of the Bordeaux En primeur wine price.
The largest fine wine region in the world. Falling on the 45th Parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole, Bordeaux is blessed with temperate winters and long, warm summers that are ideal for growing grapes. Taking advantage of the excellent terroir, microclimates and unique history of the Aquitaine region, Bordeaux has long set the standard for fine wine around the world, a standard it continues to uphold today. But history has not always been smooth sailing for Bordeaux. After the golden era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Bordeaux was ravaged by the phylloxera crisis of the late 1800s. Entire vineyards were wiped out and the vines were saved only after being grafted to phylloxera resistant American rootstock. Then again in the 1970s, Bordeaux was faced with a severe economic crisis. Many chateaus were forced to sell to corporate backers. Others turned to producing second wines, which are made from the same vines and in the style of the grand vin, but usually with a higher percentage of young vines.
The En primeur system has existed for more than 200, but is only since the 1980s that it has been open to private customers. This system enables the estates to sell their wine through allocations before the wine has been bottled. The readily available funds from these sales are then used for operational and production expenses for the next year. Bordeaux is the only wine region in the world to use the en primeur system through a closed market called the “Place de Bordeaux.” The estates sell most of their production to one of the 400 négociants registered in the “place de Bordeaux” through brokers (called “courtier” in French). Of these 400 négociants, only 150 deal with Grand Cru Classé wines; the 250 others focus on smaller estates. Négociants have the role of representing the estate owners in promoting and distributing the wines all over the world. Bordeaux is the only wine region in the world to work through this model.
Each spring, thousands of wine professionals visit Bordeaux for the opening of the en primeur campaign. Over 150 of the top estates welcome journalists, buyers, importers, retailers and other wine professionals from all over the world to taste barrel samples of their latest vintage. Estates use the feedback they receive about the quality of the wine and vintage to estimate demand and set initial prices. In May, the estates release their prices and allow wine merchants to buy their en primeur wines, starting the campaign. Generally, an en primeur campaign starts around mid-April and can finish around mid-July, according to the vintage. The campaign is then “over” when the prices of each estate has been released.
En primeur are usually bought for their prices. The price of an en primeur wine is almost always lower than the release price on the market. The prices are generally lower since négociants and retailers are taking smaller margins because they do not have to carry stock and promote the wines. En primeur wines are an excellent way of building a collection, investing in wine or simply to buying wines for a special occasion. Indeed, it is quite common to buy en primeur wines to obtain the wine for an anniversary year, a child or grandchild’s birth year, or even for a special occasion such as retirement, graduation, marriage, etc.
If you are considering buying en primeur wine, it is important to choose a reputable wine merchant. Indeed, you may have heard stories of merchants who have filed for bankruptcy, stored wine in poor conditions, sell wine they do not actually own or engage in wine fraud. To dramatically lower this risk, look for an established wine merchant who has been in the wine trade for years, is financially solvent, and will store your wine properly.