Sir Lunchalot: what is en primeur?
Author: Sir Lunchalot
Dear Sir Lunchalot,
I have a rather intimate question. You see, I keep hearing my friends at dinner parties talking about en primeur when the conversation meanders around to wine. I was rather dense at school and I did dreadfully in my French O-level. I was wondering if you had a moment to translate for me?
Dear Mr Platt,
Not to worry, old chap, I did terribly in all my O-levels. A few summers picking grapes in Bordeaux quickly whipped my French into shape. En primeur refers to the process of buying wine before it is put into the bottle, straight from the barrel you could say. This is common practice in great, traditional regions, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône – and other regions have followed their lead.
The main benefit to buying these phantom bottles is you will almost always get a better price than what you would pay for the mature wine. You must remember, though, that the en primeur price is exclusive of duty and VAT as the wines are shipped under-bond to our Hampshire cellars (ok, fine then – Basingstoke warehouses). The taxes are only due when you want to get your hands on the bottles.
What can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around are the release dates for the different regions, as they are all different, and highly awaited annually. Burgundy releases the second January after the vintage, while the Rhône is divided – some release in the autumn following the vintage, some in the early spring of the following year. Bordeaux en primeur takes place between April and June/July the year after the vintage. To add to the confusion, in Bordeaux each producer releases its wine at different times, so you have to have your ear to the ground for any new releases. Typical of the French, if you ask me, but hey-ho.
Should you have a question of your own for Sir Lunchalot, please do email us or leave it in the comments section below.
I purchased one bottle of la tache 1990 from bbr sold as en primeur last July. This presumably had been around since 1992 ish.
Am I being naive? After all it seems rather odd following your definition of en primeur.
Brilliantly put Sir Lunchalot. I thought I knew what en primeur meant but as it has never been fully explained to me I was close, but no cigar. Thank you for the full explanation.
Lucky you; what a wine (should you be interested in sharing it over lunch, do let me know). Your question is not in the least bit naive. I’m afraid you have pointed out a shortfall of our website; alas, technology sometimes fails us. Wines that are offered “WLA” (Wine Lying Abroad), effectively wines that have not yet been shipped to us but are in bottle already, are labelled as “en primeur” on bbr.com. What ever happened to ink and parchment, eh?
Dear Sir Lunchalot,
Is it possible to set up anything when logged into bar.com to alert one to new releases?
Indeed, if one isn’t within hollering distance of St James’s, we’ve got this wonderful email system. If you’re logged into your online account, simply go to “My Account”, then select “Your Preferences” on the left-hand side. From there, you can tick “Fine Wine Alerts” under “Service Interests”, and before you know it you’ll be in the know. What an age we live in.