En Primeur

What does en primeur mean?

En Primeur is the release and sale of wines by growers and their brokers to the market before they have been bottled. Bordeaux and Burgundy adopted this system many years ago and are the most well-known regions for selling their wine in this way, and we now regularly see wines offered en primeur from the Rhône, Piedmont, Tuscany, California and Portugal (Port, in declared vintages). Once the wine has completed its maturation process in barrel, which in certain regions can take several years, the wine is then bottled and made available for delivery to the end customer.

How does it work?

As a wine merchant, we are invited to taste the wines at the earliest stage in their development, at which point we use our expertise to assess the quality, prospective longevity and price:quality ratio before choosing which wines to offer on to our customers, with the promise to deliver at a later date. In Bordeaux, whilst some châteaux sell direct to wine merchants, the majority of properties release allocations of their new releases to their négociants (brokers) in the spring following the harvest, who in turn sell the wine to us. In Burgundy, however, we can buy directly from the wine grower and we taste the wines in the November, a year after harvest.

For our storage information, terms and conditions, please click here

En Primeur wines are usually offered one or two years after the harvest, usually as follows:

Bordeaux     The spring following the harvest
Burgundy Approximately 15 months after the harvest by most growers
Rhône 12-18 months after their harvest
Italy Italy varies from region to region with the top Piemontese wines and Brunello di Montalcino being released up to four years after harvest and the top wines of Tuscany approximately 2½ years after harvest
Port If a Port vintage is declared it is usually released 18 months following the harvest
California The wines from Joseph Phelps Vineyards, including Insignia, are usually offered in November each year


What happens when the wine arrives in the UK?

Our customers purchase the wine ‘In Bond’ as it is not possible to pay UK VAT or Duty on wines lying overseas. The In Bond price includes the cost of shipping the wine to the UK. On arrival into the UK, the customer has two choices: to take delivery and store their wine at home, in which case Duty, VAT and delivery will become payable, or to store in our temperature controlled, Bonded warehouse where the wine can be stored tax-free until delivery is required or the wine is sold on, in which case annual storage is charged which also covers insurance.

UK Duty rates, per case of 12 x 75 cl bottles as of April 2019*

Wine: £26.78
Sparkling Wine: £34.30
Fortified Wine: £35.70


* Duty is reviewed at each annual Budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and VAT is charged on Duty.

Why buy en primeur?

In exceptional vintages, demand for certain wines can exceed supply and therefore buying en primeur is the best way to secure stock of the most popular wines and also those which may increase in value over the years. Buying direct from the châteaux or vineyards also gives a guarantee of provenance, giving the customer confidence that the wine has been stored in excellent conditions prior to shipment. The customer also has the option to choose in which format to have their wine bottled in (magnums, halves or even larger bottles).

Why does en primeur exist?

En primeur was originally introduced to help the châteaux and vineyard owners with their cash flow, particularly in Bordeaux where the wines are not ready to be shipped for at least two and a half years after harvest. By selling their product as a future, the châteaux receive payment for wines which would not have otherwise been saleable until after bottling.

Does en primeur still work?

The answer is yes if you would like to guarantee allocations of stock and cast-iron provenance of the wine. As provenance becomes more and more relevant in today’s world of on-line trading, this is now the first and most important factor in buying en primeur.

In Burgundy, the en primeur system is essential for securing sought after wines thanks, in part, to the recent succession of small vintages. With the sensible pricing approach taken by most of the Burgundian vignerons the market remains very healthy.

With regards to making a profit on wines purchased en primeur, the advantage of buying at the time of en primeur has become less clear-cut in Bordeaux as opening prices have crept (or in some cases rocketed) up meaning that the château owners are making a larger margin at the outset which, in turn, means that the consumer has to wait longer for any potential rise in value. It is also possible to buy some wines at a later date at much the same price, or sometimes even less, depending on the global economic situation in the years following their initial release and the quality and size of follow on vintages.

To ensure that you are added to our en primeur mailing lists, please telephone 01353 977 997 or e-mail Laura Taylor with your details.

Please visit our Offers Page for our current en primeur offers.

The Bordeaux Campaign

Perhaps the most famous en primeur campaign takes place each year in Bordeaux when each château releases its wine to the market place, the wine is purchased by the négociants (French merchants) who take their own margin and then offer the wine on to their customers (wine merchants, world wide). We place our orders, take our margin and offer the wine on to our customers.

There is no set date when prices have to be fixed and allocations released but generally we will expect prices to trickle out throughout April, May and June. There is much angst locally over who releases their price first, to set the market, and speculation as to whether their neighbours follow or flout the pricing trend. Meanwhile the merchants, in Bordeaux and across the world wait...

Allocations all along the chain are based on loyalty and if you refuse to buy one year, you probably won’t get your allocation the following year. In earlier decades, merchants might hold the wine that they didn’t sell en primeur and increase their margin to cover their “holding” costs, their clientele would tend to be loyal too, having one merchant who they bought from year in, year out and there was much less speculation and use of wine as an investment, so people were buying across the quality spectrum to accommodate different entertaining requirements. With the reduction in availability of the top wines, the narrowing of margins, the transparency of pricing through the advent of the internet, many more players on the market and the growing band of speculators, merchants are no longer prepared to buy non “blue chip” stock in a lesser vintage, priced too high at the outset, which they may have to finance for years, with little or no hope of making a margin to cover those costs. Add recession to the mix, and En Primeur may start to become unviable.

For our storage information, terms and conditions, please click here

Don't be a victim of Fraud! You might find this guideline document from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association useful (PDF):
Investing in Fine Wines: Don’t be a victim of fraud

To ensure that you are added to our en primeur mailing lists, please telephone 01353 977 997 or e-mail Laura Taylor with your details.

Please visit our Offers Page for our current en primeur offers.

Call us on: 01353 721 999 or email: finewine@privatecellar.co.uk for our en primeur offers