Tue 10 Apr 2012

The Week The World Came To Bordeaux


Primeurs week in Bordeaux is a marathon of tastings of inky young red (and a few dry and sweet white) wines, a whirlwind of meeting and greeting, top and tailed by fine food and wines. You may be thinking that we wine buyers are spoiled – and you’d be right (we’ll spare you the detail, but these experiences re-affirm why Bordeaux remains unrivaled in the world for its potential finesse and keeping potential) but the pleasure is greater, and the debate all the more stimulating in the good company of buyers and sellers from all over the world.

At Château Haut-Bailly this year our tasting group included contingents from the UK, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Chicago, and Texas (featured). The debate was open, friendly, and lively thanks to General Manager Véronique Sanders’ invitation to all of us to give her our views on the prospects for the Bordeaux Primeurs campaign this year. Irrespective of national and personal preferences, all nationalities were of one voice in asking for Bordeaux to reduce its prices significantly this year.

Generous hospitality is not unusual in Bordeaux, but this relaxed and open discussion was as refreshing as the very fine range of wines we enjoyed. Wines that could not come from anywhere else.

Please remember that we will be offering the 30 or so most sought-after wines from the vintage in a different way this year, requiring members to pre-order them. For more information, please refer to our website.

Joanna Locke MW
Buyer, Bordeaux


  1. Richard says:

    But is the wine any good? I read somewhere that people really go for the parties in a self-perpetuating Bordeaux sellathon…

    • Jo Locke MW says:

      Bordeaux is good at parties, and always generous, but Primeurs week is a serious business, and late nights and partying do not sit easily with tasting hundreds of young red wines. The Society’s three buyers tasted a lot wines we would not dream of buying, but, happily, many very good examples we would. We will be refining our Opening Offer shortlist after our follow-up visit next week.

  2. alex says:

    I am having an increasing problem with En Primeurs this year. Having bought regularly over the last few years (mainly in low/mid priced range) it seemed there were substantive advantages (keen prices, wines that were not always plentiful subsequently) but that no longer appears to be the case. Prices of these wines on release are not very different from when when they appear on the shelves (or in The Society’s lists) and once you factor in storage, inflation etc there appears very little point in buying EP anymore. Indeed, supply of earlier vintages appears plentiful and much cheaper! It’s also interesting to learn that one prestigious chateau has withdrawn from EP stating it will only sell its wine when it is ready to drink – one wonders what effect this will have on the wines further down the chain!

    • Tim Sykes says:

      There are two main reasons to buy Bordeaux en primeur; the first is to secure an advantageous price compared with the market price when the wine is available in bottle. The second is to secure stock of a wine that will be in high demand and which may not be available in future.

      When the market is strong, as it has been for the last few years, the en primeur model has largely been a success, with opening offer prices looking attractive compared with similar quality vintages already available on the market. However, some rather sizeable en primeur price rises in 2009 and 2010 (both extremely good vintages) have meant that in some instances this gap has narrowed. However inthe great majority of vintages over the past decade the en primeur system has worked well.

      Demand for many of the wines that we have offered en primeur in recent years has outstripped supply, justifying a system that helps to secure those wines early.

      As with all our purchases, The Society buying team only selects wines for en primeur offers that we believe in and from which we think the members will derive great drinking pleasure at a sensible price. Our view is that the en primeur system is still the best way of ensuring this aim.

      Regarding the prestigious château which has decided to stop selling en primeur, there are very few (if any) other châteaux that can afford to hold stock until ready for drinking, and we are of the view that this move will not be followed by other Bordeaux properties.

      Tim Sykes
      Head of Buying

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