Wed 18 Jan 2017

Investing in Pleasure: Tasting En Primeur Wines

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Recently I was at my village wine club tasting (nothing to do with my job at The Wine Society) in the local parish rooms for a tasting. Our host Simon brought along some wines he’d bought en primeur, some from us and some from another merchant.

He wanted to see how the wines had developed and to see if buying them en primeur had ‘paid its way’ in terms of initial cost (including storage) vs how much the wines would cost now.

The wines were great (with just one that was ever so slightly past its best), and Simon had done his calculations and seen that, for those wines which he could still get, the prices now were much higher on almost all the wines.

En Primeur tasting

It was a fascinating evening for me as I look after our en primeur offers at The Society and it was very reassuring to meet another wine drinker so interested in it and getting such satisfaction from the service; both in terms of value and, more importantly, pleasure from the experience.

I buy en primeur myself mainly for the enjoyment and delayed gratification of having it stored away – sometimes for decades – only to get them out, having long forgotten what I paid for them and slightly smug about being able to drink something so mature that not many others can!

So it was nice that, for the wines we had last night anyway, the numbers also made great sense…

I did come in to work the next morning feeling that what I do gives enormous amounts of pleasure to a lot of our members and it offers good value too. Oh, and none of the wines were the stellar-expensive wines you often hear about – most were in the £15-£40 bracket.

With our 2015 Rhône offer available now, it also felt like a good time to share the experience!

Shaun Kiernan
Fine Wine Manager

Here are some quick notes from what we tasted:

1. Three vintages of Clos Floridène Blanc, one of members’ favourite dry whites from Bordeaux.

Clos Floridène Blanc, Graves 2010
Real class here – exactly what you’d hope for from this excellent wine and vintage. The sauvignon blanc and semillon that make up the blend were in perfect balance, and this wine will still keep for some time yet.

Clos Floridène Blanc, Graves 2009
Still very good too with real class and finesse, and a long satisfying finish.

Clos Floridène Blanc, Graves 2007
Sadly this wine was just outside its drink date and should have been drunk already. It was slightly oxidised but still interesting, but its mature flavours may not be for everyone.

2. Four vintages of Vacqueyras Saint Roch from Clos de Cazaux. This family-owned southern Rhône producer is another popular name at The Society, featuring regularly in our regular and en primeur offers – not to mention being the source of our Exhibition Vacqueyras – so I was especially intrigued to taste these.

Vacqueyras Saint Roch, Clos de Cazaux 2010
From a great year, this is still muscular and would benefit from further ageing. You could certainly see its potential though. Keep for two more years: will make a fab bottle.

Vacqueyras Saint Roch, Clos de Cazaux 2009
Similarly young as per the 2010 and would be better kept for longer, although the 2009 was lighter in weight. Still highly enjoyable.

Vacqueyras Saint Roch, Clos de Cazaux 2008
Smoother and more mature, this was just about ready, and backed up by some appealing sweetness of fruit.

Vacqueyras Saint Roch, Clos de Cazaux 2007
Wonderful wine – for me, this is what what en primeur is all about. Totally à point, this is all chocolate and cream, with the freshness that demanded we try a second glass! Best wine of the night for me.

3. Three vintages of Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux, a bit of a Bordeaux ‘insider’s tip’ gaining an increasingly large following for its excellent claret, which is offered at reasonable prices.

Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Médoc 2009
Lovely sweetness here, and quite tannic. Not typical of 2009, so without the heaviness I sometimes associate with the vintage. Good wine.

Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Médoc 2008
Leave a little longer: quite typical of 2008 (not my favourite vintage) in its austerity, but the quality was evident and there is more to come from this wine.

Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Médoc 2005
From a classic vintage, this is now ready but was drier than I thought. Slightly muscular, and would come into its own with food.

4. Two vintages of Château Suduiraut, Sauternes, one of the grandest sweet wines one can find in Bordeaux, and which still offers excellent value for its quality.

Château Suduiraut, Sauternes 2010
This is rich but also very fine with lovely balancing freshness, and will keep well. Marmalade nose and lemony freshness on the palate but rich too.

Château Suduiraut, Sauternes 1997
A lovely contrast to the 2010 with the aromas and flavours that come with maturity. A barley-sugar nose but rich on the palate, and again with good acidity. Needs drinking now but won’t go over the top for a few years. Very good indeed!

Comments

  1. Richard Boyce says:

    Fascinating article, especially as one does always wonder, as the years roll on, whether that en primeur offer from back in the day was a worthwhile purchase.

  2. James Banner says:

    What a great little read. I delved into my first en primeur in 2014 with the Rhone 2013 offer and just so happen to have Clos de Cazaux. Looks like I have some time to wait! ????

  3. Hugh Stirling says:

    I’d love to know what he paid and what they would cost now?

  4. Ian Day says:

    I really do wonder about EP, although I do it myself; but here is an example of clear success certainly from the tasting angle. As has been noted above the £ side of the equation would have interesting as well. With the €/£ exchange rate being what it is will EP be as attractive in the future ? Not to mention possible import duties.

  5. Shaun Kiernan says:

    Thank you very much for your comments and your enthusiasm! Whilst we do not and cannot guarantee en primeur wines will rise in value, this was an encouraging demonstration that buying wine in this way can offer exceptional ‘bang for buck’: a quick look at what we tasted reveals that two of the wines had nearly doubled in price vs the en primeur price that had been paid.
    For me, though, it’s more about the pleasure and the rewards you get from keeping a wine for that length of time and seeing it mature. As my notes hopefully show, the same wine often tasted very different depending on its age. Buying en primeur with us means you can take a few bottles out of your case/s at a time and find out more about how you like your wines (with some maturity or with the upfront fruit of youth).
    Shaun

  6. Guy Dennis says:

    Enjoyable post, and nice to read the notes.

  7. Stuart Sherwood says:

    Absolutely agree but you leave out another advantage! You can request halves or magnums but since the 2015 Rhones already have magnums, not sure if that choice is universal anymore? Smaller chateaux are never available 10 or so years later.

    • Shaun Kiernan says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mr Sherwood. Many merchants don’t have the capability to offer halves or magnums and we’re delighted to be able to offer them to members. However, I’m afraid that we are only able to offer what is made available to us in these formats rather than across the board. Hope this clarifies, and thanks again.

  8. Richard Young says:

    Fascinating. Firstly , I agree there is pleasure ? smugness from having bought before knowing how the wines might develop. There is some smugness but also a frisson of excitement that you are not really sure how they will turn out. Will our dinner guests say “Thank you for a lovely wine” or remain disappointingly silent? Then again, you know that some haven’t a clue, so doesn’t matter what they say, and others you know are discerning and whose praise you value. I enjoy the anticipation; if there is disappointment it is still better then plonk
    I have 2 of these St Roch vintages in my cellar, 2009 (drink 2014 – 2021) – 2 bottles left, and 2013 (drink 2017 -2024), all 12 bottles left. My cellar used to be quite warm though constant, say 19 – 21 degrees C, and I found wines matured faster than advised, so I drank early, hence the 2009 is almost all gone. Then I got a much more efficient boiler about 6 years ago and average temperature is 17 – 18 degrees C, so now I don’t rush. Problem is, we none of us know how long we are going to be spared, so should I drink them soon or leave them to my children?

    • Shaun Kiernan says:

      Dear Mr Young,
      Thanks for your comments. You are right, there is always a frisson of excitement when you open wines which have been stored for sometime and have some age, and also from the same case over a period of time as often the identical wines can taste different on different days in different conditions, food, company etc.
      Not sure I can answer your question on whether to drink them soon or leave them to the children, but I know what I’d do!

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