En Primeur is an old French term coined to describe the process of buying wine whilst still in barrel. It is often referred to as ‘EP’ for short and translates roughly as ‘wine futures’. Many Bordeaux Chateau’s suffered greatly during the world wars leaving an economic crisis and poor financing. In order to stay afloat, wineries agreed to sell their wines to prestigious merchants for a reduced price but receive valuable cash up front. The model stuck and each spring, Bordeaux releases their wines to the market using this model.
Although it originally started in Bordeaux, other regions such as Burgundy are now also in on the act as demand for their wines far exceeds supply. Demand for prestigious wineries and vintages has grown through the use of media and more often than not, once certain wines release, they are sold out before physically arriving on the market. Small production high quality wine from the Northern Rhone such as Cote Rotie & Cornas and often Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the South (producer dependent) often sell out before hitting the market. The same goes for highly sought vintages from Italy with regions such as Barolo, Barbaresco and Tuscany, including the famous ‘super Tuscans’ such as Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Tignanello all selling out before leaving the winery. We’ve seen an increase in pre-arrival selling over the years and getting comfortable with the model is a must for fine wine lover.
Bordeaux: There is usually an ‘en primeur week’ when the wine trade and critics travel down to Bordeaux to taste the new barrel samples in spring with the release coming shortly afterwards. The release dates vary each year but typically goes from May to June. The wine is roughly ready to be collected two years later.
Burgundy: The Burgundy releases occur in January to February of each year
Rhone: New Rhone releases typically come from March – May and are often ready 6-12 months depending on the winery. This is a generalisation however and many producer are on their own time tables.
Barolo/Barbaresco: The Barolo’s and Barbaresco’s tend to release somewhere between January to April depending on the producer.
Super Tuscans: The main three super Tuscans generally release between February – April of each year and many other producers follow suit.
Price: Once the wines are released en primeur the prices are usually ‘sensible’ but increase as the wine become physical and demand starts to build in the market. This is also a great way to invest in wine, buying at the lower en primeur price and selling later on once the market price increases
Securing an allocation: When it comes to Burgundy for example, they often only make one or two barrels of certain Grand Cru sites like Echezeaux or Clos De Vougeot. Being able to get a case requires that you buy it during the en primeur campaign, but getting an allocation can be tough.
Provenance: Buying from a merchant that has bought the wines en primeur and shipped directly from Bordeaux to their own warehouse guarantees absolute provenance of the wine.