Like every year, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to check out the Bordeaux wine futures week (Les primeurs)!
But in fact, what are wine futures or les primeurs?
For a very long time Bordeaux has had a very particular way of marketing its wines. Today, this method only concerns a small number of vineyards; Welcome to the wonderful world of the great wines of Bordeaux!
Producing a great Bordeaux wine is by definition creating a complex wine that will evolve, and improve over time, softening and developing over the years. In order to make this valuable nectar, winegrowers and winemakers work all year long in order to make each vintage unique.
As you know, this work begins in the vineyard and continues in the winery. The harvest is an intermediary step between these two worlds. It occurs between late August and mid-October depending on the grape variety and the terroir. Once the harvest is collected, each winemaker will pamper his grapes, prepare his cuvée and raise it with a level of attention and care that you might give to your own children! All this, in order to bring the best possible wine to your table. Often 2 years will pass between the harvesting of the grapes and the bottling and commercialization the wine.
After the different fermentation processes have taken their course and the ageing process begins (end of March / beginning of April) the Bordeaux chateaus will assemble and present their wines en Primeur. These wines, which have yet to complete their ageing process, will then be tasted and judged by a jury of “ruthless” traders, brokers, importers, journalists and other professionals in the wine world. Why ruthless? Because between them they make up the first customers of this wine and their decisions and comments will have an enormous impact on future sales. The distribution circuit for Bordeaux’s great wines is longer and more complicated than that of other regions as it consists of quite a few intermediaries. The traders, brokers and importers buy wine based on what they taste at en Primeur and based on the feedback of wine professionals during the week. In short, this week of Bordeaux futures announces the potential of the vintage in question.
After this week of intensive tasting, chateaus await with impatience and apprehension the publication of the notes. It’s a little like when you expect you’re a-level exam results, even if you’re confident because you know you gave your best, you can’t help but feel a little nervous!
Once notes are in, the chateaus will work on a pricing structure based on their volume, their costs and the notes and comments they received during futures (as well as the promise of future orders)! Between mid-May and mid-June, they will announce their prices to professionals. Off of this announcement, brokers, traders and importers will then contact the chateaus they wish to purchase – their selection of chateaus depends largely on what they sampled at during the futures week. They will at this stage negotiate the amount of wine they wish to purchase based on the rates and quantities they can sell later. These negotiations usually take place over the course of a day or even a few hours for some of the most famous chateaus.
The pre-ordered wine is then delivered after a minimum 2 years wait. So, as you can see, the art of buying “en primeur” wine is truly like placing a bet on the future!
You will therefore understand why the futures week is an important milestone in the calendars of all the chateaus of Bordeaux.
So back to the 2015 vintage. After tasting many wines over the course of the week, I can honestly tell you this vintage seems very promising!
The nose is already very fruity, with a strong presence of black or red fruits – depending on the grape variety and the appellation.
On the palate it is powerful and there is a lot of volume in the mouth.
The finish is silky and already almost velvety…
That’s my general opinion regarding the red wine of this vintage. For the first time since I began working in the wine world, I think I’ll buy myself some wine en Primeur! And yes, more and more properties are offering their wine for sale to individuals. It’s the same concept as for a merchant, you buy the wine during the summer and it will be delivered when it’s ready to be commercialized in 2 years’ time. However, depending on the chateau there are significant savings which can be made, as prices can be 20% to 40% less than when they hit the shelves! If you’re ready to take the gamble it’s a great time to fill your cellars! And with the 2015 vintage you won’t go wrong!
Here are some of my favorites from the 2015 futures week:
Pretty meetings I have made: