Primeurs of Bordeaux

En Primeurs tasting with the Oenoconseil team

Présentation :

The wines En Primeurs is major event for Bordeaux wines and the world of wine. This event takes place every year at the beginning of spring in Bordeaux. Thousands of wine professionals from all over the world come to taste the wines of Bordeaux “en Primeurs”.

 En Primeurs, what is it ? 

Buying the wine “en primeurs” means buying the last harvest produced before its bottling. The wines are still maturing. We are therefore buying a wine that we do not yet know the final result. Do you find this strange? Well, not so much!

Indeed, most Bordeaux wines require a period of ageing in oak barrels, and it can very long: 12 months, 18 months, or even more… it means for the estates that they must wait before selling wines in bottle. With the En Primeurs system, it is possible  to sell the wines before the end of the maturation process and thus benefit from an advance on their cash flow. For the people who buys his wines En Primeurs they have the possibility to acquire the wine at a lower price than it will be finished and launched on market places.

What are the origins of En Primeurs ? 

The origins of the En Primeurs is based on an ancient tradition where merchants (négociants) came to taste and appreciate the quality of the grapes. They bought En Primeurs and charge themselves of the ageing of the wine (hence the importance of the mention “bottled at the castle” appeared in the 1920s). The actual system was developed in the 1980s (particularly 1982), allowing the estates to their self-financing.

Do you say Speculation ? 

The En Primeurs system was long acclaimed and then decried. The main reason ? The fact that on some vintages, the “En Primeurs” system did not prove so interesting as this. Some people even lost money. Why ? Because the En Primeurs system has generated a lot of speculation, and, if prices could reach a certain level, with a so-called “exceptional” vintage, it also could that the next vintage, perceived as less qualitative, is less researched. So, if the price displayed on this designed just “good” vintage was approximately as high as the one seen as exceptional, there is a good chance to create an overvalued price En Primeurs, and consequently having difficulty to sell these wines. This occurred for the 2011 vintage, which is yet composed of certain wines with a very good quality, but coming after 2009 and 2010, which are two exceptional vintages, and which have undergone a very strong speculation with a considerable increase of prices.

primeurs bordeaux
"Blind tasting" of the Saint-Emilion Crus Classés

Tasting the wines En Primeurs 

Tasting the wines En Primeurs is not an easy exercise, but it is precisely that makes it so interesting : you have to imagine and project yourself ! And then during a tasting, it comes, the feeling that this wine will be exceptional… because in reality a part of it is already exceptional !

Who taste wines En Primeurs ?

The wines En Primeurs are reserved time for wine professionals such as brokers, négociant, journalists, etc. These different people taste the wines En Primeurs to get an idea of the vintage. Estates set their prices based on returns. Everyone is looking to find the best wines of the vintage. There is a great interest in this subject and the notes published by some critics may decide on the feelings. We cannot said that without a special mention to Robert Parker , now retired, but considered as the most influent wine critic, with its famous 100/100 wines, which considerably increase the prices. 

 My catégories of En Primeurs year by year 

I follow the wines En Primeurs since the 2014 vintage, and really communicate about them since the 2017 vintage. To access the articles of the corresponding vintages you can go to the dedicated section in the main menu of simply click on them:

-> 2017 Bordeaux En Primeurs

->2018 Bordeaux En Primeurs 

-> 2019 Bordeaux En Primeurs

My personal view about the En Primeurs event : 

This event is crucial for Bordeaux wines and especially for Grands Crus Classés. Maintaining the Primeurs is to maintain the visibility of our wines, of our Bordeaux région which fascinates so much and which produces wines with worldwide reputation. We must nevertheless keep in mind that this event is not just an annual event where we taste the vintage. It is a “business” meeting where we maintain relationships, and it is therefore a crucial moment for business. According to this, it is necessary to know how to remain attractive. A wine bought En Primeurs as to be a good investment, according to its final price. We can always discuss to the level of profitability, but it is clear that if this is not achieved, the En Primeurs may eventually lose their meaning. So I am enthusiastic about the 30% drop in the prices charged by some wineries on the 2019, despite exceptional wines are part of this vintage. But we have to stay vigilant because there is still much to be done, especially when we are looking for wines from other regions and countries. There is an extremely competitive global competition, with wines of very high quality, and some incredible value for money. Magnificent wines are produced in many other countries, and this reinforces this feeling and this necessity: the En Primeurs must remain attractive at all levels !

Xavier LACOMBE (XL-VINS)

Dinner of the " Commanderie du Bontemps" during the Primeurs