Wed 25 Jan 2017

Reaping The Rewards Of En Primeur


All the current excitement about the excellence of the 2015 vintage reminds me of my first year working at The Society back in 2006.

The talk then was of the brilliance of the 2005 vintage, which was similarly hugely successful across much of Europe. My first few tasks were to write about this ‘Vintage of a Generation’ and my capacity for superlatives was being tested to the limit.

This was my first exposure to the concept of buying wines en primeur, ie purchasing wines that not only were nowhere near being ready to drink but not even bottled or shipped.

Persuaded no doubt by the overwhelming pulling power of my purple prose, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and take the plunge.

And all I can think now is why on earth didn’t I buy more?!

Languedoc en primeur wines

Just before Christmas I withdrew one of the mixed cases I had bought from the 2005 Rhône & Languedoc-Roussillon en primeur campaign and had been keeping in The Society’s Members’ Reserves storage facility since.

The case in question was the 2005 Languedoc First Growth Case and includes a roll-call of the great and the good of the South of France. And it provided all the wow factor I needed over the Christmas period.

The wines

• The one I was keenest to try was the Coteaux du Languedoc, Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian and it didn’t disappoint. Deliciously à point, this thrilling blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre confidently treads that fine line between power and elegance.

• I may have broached the cabernet sauvignon-dominant Mas de Daumas Gassac, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault a tad early; it was still mature and delicious but I think that I’ll leave the second bottle until next Christmas.

• Conversely, the Domaine de Perdiguier, Cuvée d’en Auger, Vin de Pays des Côteaux d’Ensérune may have been better last Christmas (the initial recommended drink date was indeed for 2015) but it was still a great taste experience.

Domaine Alquier’s Faugères Les Bastides couldn’t have been better: all velvety richness and concentration.

Domaine Madeloc Collioure Magenca was very mature and a tad raisiny, but I mean that as a compliment. The primary fruit flavours had all but disappeared to leave a rich, mineral, spicy, earthy complexity.

• The Roc d’Anglade, Vin de Pays du Gard was extraordinarily fine and elegant, and could easily have been mistaken for a very posh northern Rhône costing many times its price.

And let’s talk about the price, as that for me was the real bonus part of the whole experience and one I hadn’t really anticipated. I paid for the wines in 2007 and the duty and VAT in 2008. So long ago that, such is my head-in-the-sand attitude to personal finances, I felt that these fine wines were now, to all intents and purposes, free.

Sure I did have to pay for their storage in the interim but even so a little research online suggests that were I able to find these wines now (no small task in itself) it would have cost me a darn sight more than I had shelled out. Furthermore, if you factor in the pleasure of the anticipation of enjoying your purchases then I’ve had more than a decade of mouthwatering expectation!

That isn’t the point, of course, and it shouldn’t matter, but it does add to the rather smug satisfaction one experiences when you pull the cork.

I did my best to hide my self-satisfaction when sharing these special bottles, but even if I failed to suppress it then I’m not sure that anyone would have noticed. They were too busy enjoying the wines! I’m delighted to see that we’re expanding the range of wines we offer en primeur. In 2016 we offered wines from Ridge in California and the Cape’s Meerlust as well as the usual suspects from the classic French regions, and we have plans to continue to look further afield in 2017.

I for one will be buying as much as I can afford, including a good chunk of our 2015 Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon allocation and I advise you to do the same. A decade or so down the line I’m certain that you’ll be very glad you did!

Paul Trelford
Head of Content & Communications

Our en primeur offer of the 2015 Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon vintage is available until 8pm, Tuesday 28th February.


  1. Ian Day says:

    Paul precisely nails the problems of mixed cases EP namely

    1. The differing maturity dates of the individual wines and which makes judging the withdrawal date tricky.
    2. If you find one, or more, wine that is just wonderful frustration kicks in because that’s all you get !

    I will be putting in an order for cases of six; which six I know not – yet – so many to choose from.

  2. John Lavis says:

    A nice reflection on the joys of en primeur – all the fun of gambling without the guilt. Though it has to be said that en primeur is in danger of falling into disrepute if other regions follow the greedy Bordeaux example. And a final word of warning – you know you’re getting old when you start to check the drinking window against your own life expectancy.

  3. Hugh says:

    Great article. I’ve bought lots of wine EP from the wine soc over the years and I am enjoying the fruits of my endeavours now. For ports and Sauternes I’d recommend buying halves, more flexibility, and one can always open 2 bottles.

    • Guy Dennis says:

      How I wish the Society offered more half bottles in its en-primeur offers.. it’s one of the main reasons for buying EP. I don’t really understand why so few half bottles are offered, eg for Burgundy and Rhone.

      • Shaun Kiernan says:

        Thanks for your comments. We intend to do more this year for Bordeaux and should there be demand from members for this option, we will look at Rhône and Burgundy to possibly do the same, provided bottling arrangements allow us to do so.
        Shaun Kiernan
        Fine Wine Manager

  4. Soorat Singh Esq says:

    Bordeaux en primeur has never been cheap, I remember the howls of protest for prices of the 1982 wines, which were terrific; but nothing like the 1984’s which was a bad vintage at horrendous prices that no one bought. And that’s the lesson, if you don’t like the price and/or the quality then go else where. Today Bordeaux is not cheap but there are great value, stonking wines there such as Roc de Cambes, well made petit Chateaux or some of the 2nd wines from great Château in very good years. Presently, we as members have the opportunity to purchase from an utterly fantastic 2015 Rhone offer that has terrific wine from small, virtually artisan vignerons for around £10 bottle after taxes. If that is not a mouth-watering prospect then I don’t know what is. The world is awash with well made and well priced wine if one takes the trouble to cast ones net further afield. And with global warming it is entirely possible that the Bordeaux First growths may be submerged next century and the successor to Latour may be yet to be discovered in Chile or China!

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