Author Photo - Written by The Vinorium

What is En-Primeur?

What is En-Primeur?

En-Primeur is the term used across the industry for buying wine that has not been bottled and is still in the barrel. Essentially, the wines are sold as ‘futures’. Buying this way dates back to the 11th Century and is a long established practice where Châteaux would sell wine before it was bottled to fund the following year’s harvest.

Why should I buy En-Primeur?

There are a number of advantages to purchasing wines En-Primeur (in no particular order…)

  1. It allows you to secure an allocation of potentially rare, highly sought-after wines, which may be produced in very small quantities. Buying En-Primeur gives you the best opportunity to acquire wines from a great vintage, such as 2000,’05,’09 & ’10.

  2. Securing wines at release price can often mean that you pay substantially less when compared to buying the wines when they become ‘physical’ (bottled and shipped to the UK).

  3. You have the opportunity to specify the size format you would like; halves, magnums or larger formats.

  4. Arriving directly from the Châteaux or Domaine guarantees the absolute best provenance of your wines. You are receiving immaculate, original stock.

How does the Bordeaux system work?

Each year in the Spring the Châteaux of Bordeaux produce samples for the wine trade and critics to taste. These wines are then made available for merchants to buy, to then be sold on to customers. These are released in ‘tranches’ (a tranche simply being a proportion of their total production). The first tranche is released at an ‘opening price’, further tranches are sometimes offered by Châteaux but these are always more expensive than the first tranche. Châteaux provide allocations to négociants in Bordeaux. Négociants have been part of the fabric of Bordeaux going as far back as the 11th century. In turn, they sell their wine allocations on to merchants around the world. The system is relatively straightforward however, everyone’s allocations are closely guarded… including our own!

Who are Z&B Vintners, I thought you were called The Vinorium?

Granted, it can get a little confusing. In simple terms The Vinorium is our retail brand, Z&B Vintners is the trading company, the foundation of which is Bordeaux and En-Primeur (this will be my sixteenth campaign!). The reason we still run En-Primeur campaigns as ‘Z&B Vintners’ is because that is how we are known in Bordeaux; to the Bordelaise, The Vinorium does not exist. We have very good, long-standing relationships with the leading Châteaux and négociants and our favourable allocations all sit under Z&B Vintners and quite frankly the Bordelaise don’t like change…

Why should I buy from Z&B Vintners?

Me of course! I’m only joking… I have been in the ‘game’ for nearly 20 years, and I use the term ‘game’ as in many ways Bordeaux is very much based on historical trading and relationships (though it is starting to change a little now). Over the years I have built excellent relationships with leading Bordeaux négociants and consequently we receive superb allocations from all the great Châteaux, which we can offer to our customers. I would probably say what makes us stand apart from other wine merchants would be the advise we offer clients. Undoubtedly we offer some of the most honest advice available in the market, if we do not believe in the wine or the price is too high, I will not sell or recommend it to my customers. You will find that many wine merchants will just sell for the sake of selling. You certainly will not find that at Z&B, for me it is all about trust. The ‘long game’ I spoke of earlier works two-fold, it is also about building relationships with clients (I am proud to say that to date I have never lost a customer). Our customer base is truly global, from private clients to trade buyers and investment wine funds. Other points to note I guess, are that we have no hidden charges as our prices include delivery from France, transit insurance and warehouse receiving charges at LCB, Vinotheque. Duty and V.A.T. will be payable only if wines are later released from bond. Clients wishing to purchase for export, under bond transfer or under bond collection have no additional costs barring your own transfer fee.

Okay, so I understand how the system in Bordeaux works, but how does the actual ‘campaign’ run?

An En-Primeur campaign can be fast paced and incredibly exciting. Given the excitement surrounding the 2016 vintage, we expect the Châteaux to refrain from releasing any wines until the major wine critics have released their respective reports and scores. The US critic, James Suckling has already awarded 8 wines with a perfect 100 points! However, given the gargantuan task of compiling up to 600 notes, the majority of reports will be released during the latter part of April. Then, things really tend to kick off during May, however we are at the mercy of the Châteaux and they set the pace. Many Châteaux will prefer to wait to see the performance and market reaction from their neighbours and other leading Châteaux before releasing their own wines into the market, which can result in the campaign grinding to a halt in a standoff worthy of a John Wayne movie. Although frustrating at times, it does add to the excitement. Historically, most campaigns come to a close during the latter part of June when we send out a full round up of what to avoid, the must-buys and the forgotten ones (which there always are).

How much can I buy?

There is no maximum however, there is a minimum as shown below:

  • 24 x 37.5cl
  • 12 x 75cl
  • 6 x 1.5L
  • 3 x 3.0L

When will I receive my wine?

The wine is not ‘physical’ for a further two years after you purchase, so if you were to buy in this years campaign (2016 vintage), you would not take receipt of the wine until 2019. So you understand, the wine is kept in oak barrels until around September 2018 when it is then bottled. A further six months later (this varies slightly from producer to producer) the wine is released from the Châteaux and shipped. They hold it back for six months or so as it can suffer from what is known as ‘bottle shock’, going from the barrel to the bottle.

What happens when the wine arrives in the UK?

When the wine is bottled and shipped to the UK, you will be informed and asked to decide on your delivery options. You may opt for the wines ‘in bond’ or have the wines delivered. Should you choose to store your wines in bond, we can create an account for you at LCB Vinothèque and there will be a charge for storage on an annual basis in arrears. Should you choose to take delivery of the wine, you will then be required to pay Duty and VAT at the cost price not at market value. We can of course ship anywhere around the world, rates will vary so I would advise getting in touch with myself, or one of my team for more details.

What does “in-bond” actually mean?

This means that no UK Duty or VAT has been paid on the wine. The wines are held in a bonded warehouse and if you request the wine to be delivered (anywhere in the EU) then Duty and VAT will be payable in addition to the price.

I don’t want to invest in wine, I want to drink it! Why would I be interested in En-Primeur?

That’s a really good question… So many people associate En-Primeur with buying wine as a commodity (investment), which is a substantial part of Z&B’s business as we manage millions of pounds worth of clients’ fine wine stocks. We also help many clients put together a wine collection for drinking, which is much more fun. Buying wines En-Primeur is a fantastic way to secure wines at a better price than when they become ‘physical’ (bottled and shipped to the UK). You also have the opportunity to specify the size format you would like; halves, magnums or larger formats, which in itself is rather novel and fun. Buying to suit your palate often means steering away from the hype of the critics and ‘top wines’ resulting in a very cost effective way of buying and building a collection. I will be the best critic to assist with your palate / cellar as I have met many of you in-store.

I would like to start a Wine Syndicate with some friends, how would I do this?

Ideally, all members of the syndicate should have the same ethos. To include, how long you want the syndicate to last for and is it for investment or drinking or combination of both. I would also advise that you all put in the same capital outlay, therefore the syndicate is divisible by the numbers partaking… Then come and talk to me.

Do any other regions / countries sell their wines En-Primeur?

Traditionally only wines from Bordeaux were sold En-Primeur, however over the last 15 years or so this practice has extended to Burgundy, Rhône, and as far afield as Argentina and California.

If you’re starting a wine collection for drinking, Know exactly what your looking to buy, Wanting to start a Wine Syndicate with friends, Looking to Buy as an investment, or simply want to know more

Please contact Stuart on 01622 859161 or email - stuart@zandbvintners.com