Investing in wine before it reaches the open market is attractive to the wine connoisseur, especially with the new Bordeaux 2015 vintage showing such great promise.
If you’re serious about your wine, you have an eye on investment, and you also have room for even the smallest wine cellar—somewhere dark and cool with enough space for a modest hoard of fine wine—then ‘en primeur’ might well be the way to go.
En primeur, also known as ‘wine futures’, is the purchase of wine that is still in the barrel, before any bottles are released onto the market. Your wine purchase will be exclusive of duty and VAT and will be held in a bonded warehouse for two to three years after the vintage year and can only be purchased by the unmixed case (12 bottles, 24 half bottles, 6 magnums, etc.). What’s not to like?
There are some clear benefits from buying en primeur wine, not least that it keeps temptation out of reach for those two to three years, but more to the point is that the starting price for wine bought en primeur is frequently considerably cheaper than the same wine will be in the future when it reaches the open market in bottles. As an example, the outstanding Le Petit Mouton of Château Mouton Rothschild 2008 was originally offered by the Château at €32 and is now selling at £166 a bottle (see below for other significant price gains). Another advantage is that this is the only way to secure wines that are available in very limited quantities—bearing in mind that some properties produce as little as 200 cases a year.
When the big day comes and you can finally take delivery of your wine you will then have to pay the duty on your wine. The current duty is £2.08 per 75cl bottle of still wine; £2.67 per 75cl bottle of sparkling wine; £2.78 per 75cl bottle of Port wine; with the VAT at the current standard 20 percent.
One of the great names in the wine trade is Berry Bros & Rudd, whose wine shop at 3 St James’s Street has changed little since it opened in 1698. This venerable wine merchant offers a magnificent selection of wines for the connoisseur, including the opportunity to purchase en primeur. You may get the chance to taste the wine pre-purchase, of course, and the tasting is always an exciting event for the lover of good wine.
On July 6, Berry Bros & Rudd is offering an exceptional opportunity to taste the 2015 Bordeaux en primeur at a cost of £40 per person. The company tells us: ‘The 2015 vintage from Bordeaux has been eagerly anticipated, with rumours of its remarkable quality circulating far and wide. While our annual tasting of the new vintage from the wine world’s capital city needs very little “sell” on our part, we can only imagine that this year’s event—with a vintage of such stature on offer—will sell out even more quickly than normal. Alongside their 2015s, many of the châteaux will be pouring their 2006 vintage, offering a chance to check on the progress of wines in your cellar, or just taste a wine with more maturity. As ever, a supply of moreish cheese will be provided by La Fromagerie.’
Another expert we should always listen to closely is the wine critic Jancis Robinson. The 2015 vintage is, she says, ‘… much more promising in terms of both quality and quantity than any of the four that preceded it, [and] should represent a turning point for the fortunes of France’s dominant fine-wine region.’
So, if you’re considering buying en primeur, the experts’ opinion is that fine Bordeaux will be a dependable purchase. In order of high to lower price gains, the following (according to Liv-ex calculations) have significantly gained in value:
Beauséjour Duffau, St-Émilion
Clos Fourtet, St-Émilion
Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan
Clerc Milon, Pauillac
See also: Wine Investment: Pros & Cons