En Primeur (EP): The practice of buying wine which is not yet ready for delivery. Involves the payment up front for the cost of the wine excluding taxes; the balance payable upon delivery. This is most common in Bordeaux and Burgundy but also occurs in the Rhône, Napa and Italy. This short guide will explain everything you need to get started with En Primeur from choosing your wine, arranging storage, eventual delivery and all the costs you’ll face along the way.
Getting started with En Primeur is a daunting prospect, but it does not have to be. In fact, what may seem to be the complex preserve of the savvy wine investor is becoming more practical for people looking to buy wine to drink themselves. The first question you will ask yourself is, “is En Primeur for me?” If you enjoy wine and want to start building a collection for the long-term, no matter how modest, then the answer is yes.
"If you enjoy wine and want to start building a collection for the long-term, no matter how modest, then En Primeur is for you."
The most important thing to know before you get into EP is that you will buy the wines now, but in the case of Bordeaux, you will not get them until two years later. This is because wines from the 2015 vintage, which are on sale now (through the summer of 2016) will be aged in barrel and bottle over the next two years. That is why you may see that the estimated delivery date on your wines will be Spring 2018. It’s almost like deliberately putting a tenner in the pocket of your ski jacket in March and being totally psyched when you find it the following winter. “Thanks, Past-Me!”
The first step is the most challenging, especially when it comes to Bordeaux; and that it choosing the wine(s) you want. During EP season, your merchant will be coming at you with countless offers for wines at every price point. If you want wine for drinking, then think about how much you are generally willing to spend on a nice-to-nice+ bottle of wine and make that your budget.
Despite its reputation, Bordeaux is actually a great source for very good value wines. Look to appellations like Castillon, Haut-Médoc, Graves and the Right Bank satellites for good value, age worthy wines that you can enjoy over the next decade. You can easily find wines that are around £10 per bottle and will improve with time in the cellar, just as you can spring for something more like £30 and get really superb quality for your money.
If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your merchant and rest assured that they will be happy to give you honest guidance on these wines. Between you and me, they’re probably bored of people looking the same old blue-chip, high-priced first growths (which don’t actually make any money for them anyways!). Chances are, they’d be happy to talk to you about the good value, more esoteric chateaux.
Once you’ve chosen your wine, you will pay up front and then play the waiting game. Now is a good time to set up a bonded account if you don’t have one already. This will afford you access to professional storage and you will be charged only for the cases you store. Each merchant offers a different service. Cru Storage costs £0.55 per month per unit and includes condition reports (and photo) on demand, home delivery on request, portfolio analytics to keep track of your investment and full insurance on everything stored. Because of the level of professionalism and services involved, bonded warehouses are a great way to store your favourite wines until consumption whether you have room for a home cellar or not!
When the wine is ready for delivery, you can elect to have it delivered to your home address or to a bonded warehouse (if you have an account - more on this later). The advantage of a bonded warehouse is clear; the conditions are perfect and if you live in a city like London, chances are your space is limited and not many of us have the luxury of a home cellar. You will be able to buy as much wine as you want tax free and store it indefinitely in perfect conditions, paying a small price per case for the service.
If you want the wine sent to your home address then your merchant will simply bill you for the Duty + VAT (Currently £2.08 per bottle + 20%) and arrange delivery. You will be charge the prevailing rates at the time of delivery, rather than when you bought it, so this is something to bear in mind so it’s not a shock.
When it does show up, remember that not all wines bought EP come in wooden cases, so if this is something you want (better than cardboard for extended cellaring) be sure to check with your merchant when you’re first shopping.
En Primeur is certainly exciting though it is never short on controversy. More and more chateaux are slowly withdrawing from the system which is built on ancient practices and traditions. It may be that we are in the autumn years of En Primeur, however for those who know what they want to get out of it, there is plenty of reason to get involved. It’s easy and you’ll be sure to get a tasty bottle of wine, especially out of the 2015 vintage.
If you have any questions about En Primeur, bonded storage or anything else wine-y, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.