The En Primeur Parade

The en primeur tastings of the 2007 vintage are starting in Bordeaux. Every year the world’s wine buyers and press come to Bordeaux early April to slate or exalt the region’s latest offerings. There is no in-between view. Depending on the weather during harvest, minds have already been conditioned one way or another. The wet Summer of 2007 has not been a good promotion for the 2007 campaign.

Making the New WineThe grapes were harvested in the Autumn 2007 and over a few weeks the juice turns into wine. The different grape varieties and different plots of the vineyard with different aged grapes are kept separate. Once fermentation is complete these lots are put into barrel in the early new year for at least 18 months.

There are a few decisions that the winemaker can make to suit the style of the vintage. How long the juice is kept in contact with the skins after fermentation and the amount of new oak and the length in barrel are tweeks to the recipe of making wine to ensure that whatever the weather a balanced wine is produced each year.

The world’s wine trade arrives a few short months later at the beginning of April to taste the brand new wine and to decide on the successes of the vintage and which wines they want to buy when the prices are released in May/June time.

The winemakers make their ‘selection’, blending together the various different lots of grape wine to make the ‘new wine’ of the vintage of their chateau.  Final blending is done just before bottling which will take place for the 2007 harvest in June 2009 – to the same recipe, of course, as the samples for the en primeurs.

Are these young wines really representative of what the wine will taste like once bottled?

These wines are very young with a few months in oak and still over a year to go in barrel. Are they representative of what they will be another year in barrel? Recently tasted the 2006s after their second winter in barrel and these wines are very indicative. It is important to bear this mind. Tasting en primeur wines is not the same. Identifying the potential is what the aim is. Looking for potential balance of the different components. And who is to say that the final blend will be the same as the wine presented?

It is worth remembering that these wines are brand new and are not stable. Patrice Hateau, Technical Director of Chateau Pape Clement says it takes 2 and a half hours to prepare a sample. Freshness of sample is paramount.

How the En Primeur Tastings work

During the first week of April the Union de Grand Cru organises tastings of a range of the different appellations in different locations. There are five properties that host each year welcoming thousands of trade/press to taste the appellation’s wines and organising lunch too (news spreads fast as to who is doing the best lunch). Producers present their wines to the trade and press. Blind tastings are also available.This year the UGC tastings are at;

Chateau Desmirail, Margaux: Barsac and SauternesChateau Larrivet-Haut-Brion, Leognan: Graves and Pessac-LeognanChâteau Lascombes, Margaux : MargauxChâteau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac : St Julien, Pauillac, St EstepheChâteau La Tour Carnet, St Laurent de Medoc : Listrac, Moulis,Ht Medoc, Medoc

The first tasting the UGC organise is to the Bordeaux negociants themselves two weeks before the en primeur week starts.

Buyers also make appointments at the chateaux themselves so they can be presented in situ by the winemakers. Surely though it is more effective to taste the wines side by side and be able to compare wines of the appellations. Or even blind would be the best. Even the top wine journalists and buyers do not normally do it this way.

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