Buying wines En Primeur ultimately means purchasing wines that are still in barrel, yet to be bottled or become physical on the market. For first time buyers it can appear a daunting and formidable affair, yet this historical trading tradition is a rewarding experience on multiple counts when done right. Here we explore the history behind this long-established custom, explain why thousands of Claret drinkers buy En Primeur year-on-year and give guidance on how to get involved.
What is En Primeur?
The En Primeur system is widely established in France and historically focused on Bordeaux, although it has also been adopted by producers in Burgundy, the Rhone Valley as well as Italy and Port in recent years. The EP system as we know it today first came to life post-World War Two, when many Chateaux were poorly financed. Wealthy merchants agreed to buy wines from the top producers in advance, providing much-needed cash relief to struggling Chateaux whilst also allowing merchants to set their own prices on the market. The concept stands to this day with cash being re-invested back into the estates, allowing for technological advancements both in the vineyard and winery. Buying En Primeur, sometimes referred to as a ‘future’ wine, essentially means buying the wines before bottling, whilst still in barrel. It can take 18 months to 3 years from the vintage before the wines are physically released onto the market.
How does it work?
Held each Spring is the Bordeaux En Primeur week; an annual event where thousands of negociants, merchants and journalists from the wine industry converge to taste the young wines that have been harvested the previous Autumn. It’s an action-packed week, often spilling into a fortnight, where the trade partakes in a marathon of events and tastings around the region hosted by the top Chateaux.
Most of the renowned critics release their annual report and individual wine scores within a couple of months of En Primeur week. These critic scores (as well as our own IG Wines Bordeaux report) help to guide buyers through the vintage and advise on the best wines to select. Prices are typically released to merchants around late Spring and continue releasing into the Summer, at which point private clients can buy with us either through our website (see our dedicated Bordeaux En Primeur 2021 home here) or by speaking to their account manager.
Why buy En Primeur?
There are a number of advantages to buying wines En Primeur:
- By purchasing wines as a ‘future’ it is often possible to secure the wine at its lowest possible market price. Perfect for both investors and drinkers.
- For those who have an emotional attachment to a specific Chateau, buying En Primeur is a great way to support the estates.
- To secure wines that are often highly allocated, or if you are looking to build a vertical collection, buying En Primeur allows access to wines that may otherwise be harder to find once released onto the market.
- Buying from the EP campaign allows the purchase of unusual bottle formats (halves, double magnums etc.) as the wines are bottled to order.
- You can guarantee the very best provenance of a wine, since you are buying direct from the winery straight into your bonded account or home cellar.
How much does it cost?
Wines released En Primeur are sold under bond, exclusive of UK duty and VAT. UK duty is currently £2.23 per 75cl bottle of still wine and VAT is 20%, applicable on the duty and the value of the wine. These rates are set by the UK government and subject to change at any time.
Once the wines have been bottled and become physical in the UK, buyers who choose to keep in bonded storage will need to consider storage costs. At IG Wines, storage at London City Bond Dinton is charged per annum at £5.25 ex. VAT per 6×75 and £9.25 ex. VAT per 12×75. Clients looking to buy for investment can sell on under bond, as long as the wines remain in a bonded warehouse approved by HM Revenue and Customs once physical in the UK. Those who wish to take delivery to their home cellars will need to settle the UK duty and VAT on the wine when wines are withdrawn from bonded storage.