After harvesting the Chateau’s crop (usually around September), initial fermentation in Vats is done followed by a selection of the best Vats to be transferred to oak barrels for further fermentation and maturation. These barrels will be stored away in the Chateau’s wine rooms for a period of 14 to 20 months.
Around March in the year following the harvest, the new wine is tasted for the first time by the growers, wine critics and connoisseurs. Through this, they are able to make initial opinions about the quality of the harvest and the Chateau’s owner will peg a price per bottle. But take note that delivery is not until another one and a half to two years later, or when the Chateau feels the wine is ready for bottling. From the time the “En Primeur” is offered, all orders must be paid in full within the next thirty days.
The benefits of buying “En Primeur”
It guarantees the supply of the wine at the opening price, normally an advantageous purchase for lovers/collectors of the top classified growths which may become too hard to find or too expensive in the future. For some, this can be a duo form of investment – collecting their favourite wines at opening prices (usually the lowest possible) and perhaps to sell some of them at a later stage with a profit.
The price of the “En Primeur” upon release, however, will depend on the quality of the product and reputation of the grower. Another important benefit is that buyers can also be assured of the provenance of their wines when bought En Primeurs.
Who buys “En Primeur”?
Not just anyone can knock on the Chateaux doors and request to buy a few bottles of their best vintage. Traditionally, each Chateau has a few exclusive brokers who allocate the wine to people called négociants. From the négociants, out go the bottles to importers and wholesalers, then finally to the consumers through retail stores and restaurants.
Basically, people in the wine business (eg. brokers, négociants, merchants, wholesalers, retailers) are the main buyers of “En Primeur”. However, many wine enthusiasts also partake in this yearly ritual, basically for the same reasons of supply and price advantages. Priority allocations are often assured for those who follow the en primeur campaigns faithfully every year.
How does one buy “En Primeur”?
Because of centuries-old tradition and the need for financial balance for wine producers, only the merchants, brokers and négociants, who have very long and good relationships with the Chateaux are given allocations of the real “En Primeur” or “first release” prices against payments up front. These merchants, brokers and négociants, upon requests from their clients, may turn around and sell some of their allocations for the same reason.