Rupert Millar
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En primeur vs peanuts & parrots

30th April, 2014 by Rupert Millar

No not peanuts, Peanuts or as it’s sometimes known here in the UK, Snoopy, the loveable cartoon characters created by Charles Schulz, though, thinking about it, peanuts is sadly not what the wines cost this year.

22So what’s the link to the cartoon? Well, I rather like this one actually.

One of the charming quirks of Charlie Brown in the cartoon was the glorious failure he inevitably faced when trying to kick a football, win at baseball or fly a kite.

Now, in the cartoon, this was all a metaphor for perseverance as a child on the road to adulthood. Try, try and try again, even if you’re no good at something and never give up.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that the trade is no good at what it does, they’re an extremely competent group of professionals.

Nevertheless, en primeurs are rapidly beginning to bear a scary resemblance to Charlie Brown’s annual efforts to kick a (American) football.

The trade, like Charlie, want to give it their all but find themselves frustrated through what is effectively sabotage.

It happened with the 2011s and it happened with the 2012s. Heavens, it’ll happen with the 2014s too no doubt – unless it’s the vintage of the century again, which as my Super Bowl piece emphatically, empirically, proved, it will be – no doubt.

So in our new metaphor for the Peanuts cast, the trade, naturally, is Charlie Brown and Lucy the Bordelais. Each year Lucy/the Bordelais places the football (vintage) before our hero (merchants) assuring him all will be well.

Our hero prepares his run up confident in his ability to kick/sell the football/vintage but at the last instant it’s whipped out from under his feet by Lucy/the Bordelais pricing it too high or releasing too much at once and the whole thing goes “THUD!”.

This cartoon sums it up rather well.


And next year the whole thing will be repeated and the year after that and the year after that until Lucy/the Bordelais leaves the ball in place/prices correctly.

There is an argument that repeating the same action expecting a different result each time is a sign of madness but I disagree.

I don’t buy into the popular argument of the moment that the whole en primeur rigmarole is a busted flush. Like Charlie Brown I maintain a childish optimism in the belief that it worked once and, ergo, can work again.

Even so, speaking to despairing merchants for two or three weeks does leave me feeling a bit like this at times.

charlie-brown-1“So that’s Peanuts dealt with what about parrots?” I hear you cry.

Anyway, parrots, yes. This streak of optimism and whether or not you might feed an actual parrot actual peanuts aside, I also know when I’m beat and there’s no denying that Bordeaux 2013 is very much an ex-campaign now.

Prices have been too high, too many châteaux want to protect their brand than offer the consumer a good deal, the consumer is quite rightly brassed off with the whole thing and the merchants have struggled to sell very much.

If I’m being unkind then certain elements of recent en primeurs are beginning to resemble something Monty Python would cook up. Consider the classic “dead parrot” sketch re-imagined as a conversation between a merchant and a château owner – one that thinks, say, €150, €165, €81 a bottle is a fair price for a less than stellar vintage (naming no names).

The merchant, unable to sell it, brings it back (if only) to complain. You’ll have to add in the right bits of dialogue yourself but you catch my drift I’m sure.

“Hello Polly!”

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