Berry’s CEO: Bordeaux en primeur not dead, it’s exciting

Buying Bordeaux en primeur is far from “dead”, it gives “pleasure” and “excitement” to fine wine collectors, according to Berry Bros & Rudd chief executive Dan Jago.

Berry Bros & Rudd’s 2015 EP releases have “absolutely flown”, according to Dan Jago

During an interview with the drinks business on 26 April, just after the first wines of the campaign were being released, Jago said that it was wrong to think that the process of purchasing Bordeaux in barrel no longer offered appeal – even if the world’s most famous claret critic, Robert Parker, told db two years ago “that the en primeurs market – except in a great, great vintage – is largely moribund.”

Indeed, Jago said to db following the rapid take-up of 2016’s releases in the last few weeks, “Despite what a number of critics have said about primeurs being dead, our customers still love the process of buying en primeur, and that’s because there’s an excitement in it, there’s a pleasure in it.”

Explaining further his belief, he continued, “When the wine arrives in [Berry’s warehouse in] Basingstoke you suddenly realise you own this wine, and then you wait 10 years, and you’ve almost forgotten about it by the time it comes to life again.”

He then said, acknowledging that the economics of buying en primeur haven’t always been advantageous with recent releases, “Certainly I love the process of buying en primeur; I know it may not always financially be the most judicious way of doing it if you are buying purely for investment, but very few buy purely for investment, they buy for pleasure, and if they happen to have a lot of it and it has gone up in value then they might sell it, but that’s the important thing to do, to separate out this mindset that it’s all about investment; it’s not.”

His views echo those that featured on thedrinksbusiness.com back in April 2015, just as the 2014 vintage was being released en primeur, when president of Domaine Clarence Dillon, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, defended the practice of purchasing Bordeaux before it is bottled.

“A lot of people, like myself, like to have the wines from the get-go, and they are not looking at the price, because they are buying the wine to drink, although of course they are happy if in 15 years time when they drink it the wine is more valuable,” he said.

However, the Prince’s views were greeted by a backlash from readers of the db website, with one commenting, “Fine wine drinkers are typically wealthy and savvy people who have made their money in the world and enjoy the finer things in life. But they are not fools. Nobody with any sense is happy to buy at a price today only to find it is far cheaper two years later to acquire the same wine.”

Moving back to the current climate for en primeur, Jago said that the 2016 releases in the last few days have “absolutely flown”, particularly Domaine de l’A from Stephane Derenoncourt and his wife Christine. The wine, which is a Côtes de Castillon owned by the famous Bordeaux wine consultant, “sold out in one and a half hours,” recorded Jago, who also told db that Berry Bros & Rudd was “probably the largest player in the en primeur market.”

Explaining the success of the 2016 releases so far, he said that he believed it was due to the quality of the vintage, as well as a “rediscovery” of Bordeaux as a relatively good value and stable fine wine region.

“2016 is a wonderful vintage; it has an elegance, a complexity and a pleasure to it, I think of as being post Parker – the wines are back to being elegant,” he said.

Continuing, he observed, “I do think Bordeaux is back, people are rediscovering Bordeaux as being the most consistently stable and exciting region for fine wine in the world, and fine wine that extends from £10 to £10,000.”

Comparing Bordeaux with other fine wine producing parts of the world, he added, “Burgundy is almost unobtainable now, and it is very complex and very expensive, and I’ve yet to be convinced that the New World has an awful lot of fine wine in it.”

Concluding he said, “But if you want a wine that is consistently exciting, rewarding, delicious and gives pleasure to both you and your friends when you are serving it, it is almost impossible to beat Bordeaux.”

A full interview with Dan Jago covering a range of topics, including the global market for fine wine, will appear in the June issue of the drinks business.

3 Responses to “Berry’s CEO: Bordeaux en primeur not dead, it’s exciting”

  1. Stevie Evans says:

    I understand Dan’s thinking but do not really think it makes sense in practice. Take the recent fanfare within the wine industry as the Bordeaux second growth St Estephe Chateau Cos d’Estournel early released their first 2016 vintage Grand Vin onto the en primeur (futures) market at the same price as the 2015 release of €120 per bottle. Line pricing of 2015 and 2016 is a significant relief to the negotiants and wine merchants who make an (decreasing) income from selling these wines. The convention is for prices too rise ex Chateau if the vintage is well received by the wine critics and the very large 2016 Bordeaux seem to be excellent quality at this early pre-bottled stage.
    Never the less in my humble opinion the price of the 2016 & 2015 Cos d’Estournel wine is too high. Compare for instance the 2016 price from London merchants today at around £1400 per future 12 bottles, to the 2005 vintage priced at only £1500 per 12 bottles. Both wines are clearly great and respectively score very highly with the most prominent wine critics. Of those I noted the 2016 averaged 96 points and the 2005 averaged 98 points. But the 2005 wine is available right now, and though still a very young 11 years old is ready to drink and provide pleasure. In comparison the 2016 vintage is two years from delivery, then will not be ready to drink for another decade, and it will need to be stored which will add further to the cost.
    I will personally purchase the 2005. I do not see the point at all of paying the same amount of money to own the 2016 future, which is not even bottled yet.

  2. Reece Clarke says:

    The only people to profit from EP are the people in the supply chain trying to sell it, producers, negoce, merchants. Thats why they constantly talk it up, its their life blood. Even by a stroke of luck, if the end buyer should be looking to make a profit when he receives the wine or years down the line, if they come to sell it they are likely to be gazundered by the negoce/producer that sold it to him as they held back two thirds of the vintage and can now undercut anybody else selling stock, as they can discount as they see fit when approaching established markets.

    “Fine wine drinkers are typically wealthy and savvy people who have made their money in the world and enjoy the finer things in life. But they are not fools. Nobody with any sense is happy to buy at a price today only to find it is far cheaper two years later to acquire the same wine.”

    Pleased to be quoted on this!!

  3. Reece Clarke says:

    Anybody feeling any ‘pleasure’ and ‘excitement’ yet? Quote large merchant EP 2016 thanks to Jancis.” If we can get it we cant sell it, if there is demand for it we cant get it” Priceless!!

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