The process of pre-selling wine is a millennial tradition in the Bordeaux wine region in southwestern France. This practice, which involves opening their châteaux for wine tasting two years in advance of their market launch, is a unique strategy that has been adopted and perfected over the centuries.
The pre-sale of wine, also known as “sale en primeur”, takes place for one week a year, usually in the spring. During this time, the doors of the châteaux are open to wine professionals from all over the world. Visitors have the opportunity to taste the young wines, still in the barrel, two years before they are officially launched on the market.
Selling en primeur not only offers a unique opportunity for industry professionals to get an early glimpse of the quality and potential of upcoming vintages, it also allows wineries to obtain early financing for wine production. It is, in essence, a form of financing in which buyers purchase the wines before their final bottling and maturation.
Although this tradition has a long history in Bordeaux, its popularity has increased in recent decades. The en primeur sale has become a major event on the global wine calendar, attracting wine connoisseurs, buyers and critics from around the world.
The en primeur tastings offer an exclusive look at the quality of the season’s grapes, the weather conditions and the winemaking techniques used. The wines are evaluated based on their aroma, flavor, structure and aging potential. However, it is important to note that since the wines are at an early stage of their development, en primeur tasting requires an advanced level of knowledge and experience to assess their future potential.
Selling en primeur also offers benefits to buyers. On the one hand, it allows them to secure high-quality, limited-production wines that could be difficult to obtain once launched on the market. In addition, the advance purchase of these wines can result in significant savings compared to their final sale price.
However, selling en primeur also involves a level of risk. The buyer is purchasing a wine at an early stage of its development, and its final quality can be affected by factors such as storage conditions and the evolution of the wine in the barrel.
In terms of sustainability, selling en primeur also has a positive impact. By reducing the need for long-term storage and by allowing production planning.
The “en primeur” system allows winemakers to offer their product at a lower price, on the condition that the wine is paid for in advance and delivered two years later. This is a process that may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it has benefits for both growers and buyers.
For winemakers, selling en primeur provides early cash flow, allowing quick recovery of production costs. It also represents an opportunity to receive feedback from wine professionals and adjust your production based on market trends and demands.
Despite the benefits, the en primeur selling system also presents challenges. There is a risk that the wine will not meet expectations once it is ready for the market, which may result in a loss for the buyer. There is also the possibility that the wine could depreciate in value, which could result in losses for buyers who view it as an investment.