Bordeaux En Primeur 2012. Does the system work?

The ‘en primeur week’ black teeth week is nearly upon us when the world’s wine trade and press (around 3000 people) arrive to taste and judge the new baby vintage. This traditional system of selling wines (initially developed to finance the expensive oak barrels) is criticised for being too early and unrepresentative of the finished wine.


Frederic Engerer of Château Latour believes that the en en primeur system has had its day no longer offering Latour en primeur. The 2012 vintage will be available for tasting this week but not available for sale. He recently released an allocation of 1995 Latour ready to drink!

Too Early: Simon Staples of Berry Bros calls it ‘infanticide’. The 2011 Burgundies have just been released and have tasted well and been much appreciated, a year and a half after the harvest. In Bordeaux the tastings are usually the first week of April (one week later due to this year’s early Easter). The wines are tannic, tasting of these Cabernet/Merlot wines is hard-going. Black teeth for the week is inevitable. Wines have hardly come out of their fermentation, are just getting used to their new oak barrel abode and are yanked into the daylight to be prodded and criticised and graded for the rest or their lives by the world’s wine trade and press. Journalists, in an attempt to be the first with the news arrive earlier and earlier (this year from mid March).

Unrepresentative Samples: It is the make or break moment for a wine. Most wines in Bordeaux are blended at the end of their 18 month ageing in barrel. The samples for the primeur tastings are therefore prepared specially. The samples are fragile, easily oxidised.There is the temptation for producers to take samples from their best ‘cuves’. There are even barrels on the market that are particularly flattering for such early tasting. So what the grades are being based on are not necessarily representative of the final wine in the bottle (Summer 2014).There is often much disagreement among the expert wine trade and press tasters on the tasting of these baby wines.


En Primeur Had its day: So from 2012 there will no more primeur Latour released. Normally it is the first ‘tranche’ of wines that are the cheapest. The wines will stay in the safe and perfect conditions at the château until it is deemed ‘ready-to-drink’ like in Champagne or Rioja (and benefitting from an increased price tag at its release). Allocations of 1995 Latour recently released on the Place de Bordeaux have all been snapped up, mainly by the Asian market, despite the 15% increase. It helps to resolve two growing problems of provenance and fakes (each bottle has a sticker saying it was kept at the Château since bottling some 16 years ago) but will stamp out speculation which drives the primeur market. It is a wine that sells without problem despite the high price tag. They feel that they don’t need to lose margins and control of their wine (undrinkable before 15 years aging in bottle depending in the vintage). They don’t need the en primeur system.

Excellent article summing up recent year’s campaigns ….

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