Merchants divided over Bordeaux en primeur

A recent report from fine wine exchange Liv-ex has shown that its global members, all leading fine wine merchants, are somewhat divided over the importance of en primeur today.

The annual release of the latest vintage of Bordeaux wines through La Place each summer is still a pivotal moment in the fine wine calendar but recent years have seen a trend towards less stock released, rising prices, a lack of new customers and shrinking margins.

As Liv-ex pointed out in its report, from 1994 to 2005, what the châteaux charged for their wines on release represented 50% of the wine’s value, leaving a healthy margin for others in the chain.

Since 2006, however, the châteaux’s slice of the pie has increased to 70% on average. In the survey around which the report was then based, Liv-ex asked its international members to what extent they agreed with the following statement: “Bordeaux en primeur remains the most important buying event of the year”.

Now, 26% of respondents ‘strongly agreed’ with that statement which is no inconsequential amount but 23% disagreed and a further 15% strongly so.

With 19% agreeing with the statement and 17% declaring themselves fairly neutral about it, the respondents were fairly evenly split between agreement and disagreement; 38% against and 45% in favour.

In part this chimes with other findings from the survey that show merchants favour sourcing wines either direct or through middlemen and it plays into the importance of provenance that was placed high on the list of criteria for merchants when buying stock.

There’s also a case to be made that, a few obvious false steps aside, there’s still a good chunk of Bordeaux that is worth buying en primeur.

There may be less margin to play with these days and pricing from certain estates leaves a lot to be desired but, for now, a slight majority of merchants are clearly still able to balance out the downsides with the remaining positives.


READ MORE: 2019 en primeur: success of merely an illusion?

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