En Primeur – five questions to ask before you buy

What is En Primeur?

En Primeur is the art of buying wine when it is still in cask before it is bottled. There is usually a two year wait before it is finally delivered, which happens shortly after the wine is bottled and shipped. After vintage, wine merchants and writers visit the Estates, Domaines or Chateaux to assess the quality for their customers. This is when the campaign begins.

In the United States, buying wine En Primeur is known as Wine Futures, which is slightly more demystifying; it clearly links the buying of unbottled wine in cask to the concept of buying futures on the stockmarket. It’s the same level of reward. And risk.

For those who don’t know much about Bordeaux, En Primeur can be on the trickier end of wine buying. For those who do, it can be a way to buy wine at a relatively low price which returns decades of enjoyment.

However, unlike other forms of investment, it’s a speculation you can eventually enjoy drinking. And if you do it right, you’ll always have quality wine on hand at a fraction of the future shelf price.


Right now, wine merchants are coming back with their report on the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux. Each year there will is a lot of hype between the facts; so, what do you look for when buying wine two years before it is bottled, often without having the chance to taste it?

Despite the very top Chateau bought on allocation (which means, only people who have a track record of buying Chateau such as Mouton-Rothschild etc are considered), there are still plenty of excellent buys to be found in Bordeaux. The question is how to pick wines right for you.

Five Questions to Ask

  1. Are you buying from a reputable, solvent wine merchant who has a track history of delivering En Primeur?
  2. Does this wine have the ability to age for at least 10 years (especially, Bordeaux)?
  3. Is the base price reasonable enough to allow future growth in price?
  4. Is this a good property but undervalued with respect to quality?
  5. Is this one of the good to great vintages?
I remember one man at the Burgundy En Primeur in January wincing over an unbottled red, “At this stage,” he said, “It’s like children when they are young, you never really know how they will really turn out. And I’ve made some mistakes!” But he was still there again at the yearly tastings.
Apart from asking these 5 questions, I suggest starting with a Chateau you know and like, develop a relationship with your wine merchant over a period time and, most importantly, listen to your instincts!
Link: Ten wines to buy 2009 Bordeaux En Primeur


Comments are closed.