Why buying en primeur is the smart choice for wine investors

 
Paul Hammond
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Rauzan-Segla 2012, which won a Robert Parker score of 93-95; 6x75 will cost £200 IB (£254.76 incl duty and VAT)
“En primeur” is Bordeaux’s unique trade structure of purchasing wines as futures, offering the opportunity to invest in a particular wine prior to the physical release of a vintage. After two years of ageing, the wines are bottled and buyers can either keep the wines “in bond” or take delivery.

Last month, the City A.M. wine club visited Bordeaux to taste the new 2014 vintage – which will be available en primeur – from barrel. Many consider 2014 to be the best vintage since 2010, and we’re certainly inclined to agree, The left bank overshadowed the right, with wines from St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe being superb. The right bank was more uneven in quality, except among the leading estates. In particular, St Julien stood out, with Leoville Las Cases, Leoville Poyferre, Ducru Beaucaillou, Beychevelle and Talbot all very good indeed. The top wines of Pauillac and Pessac-Leognan were not far behind and it’s a very good year for first growths.

As wonderful as the wines tasted in barrel, and as beautiful as they may taste once bottled, en primeur pricing must be reasonable and affordable or Bordeaux will, once again, risk alienating customers. The campaign is now in full flow, beginning in earnest with Chateau Gazin on 14 April. The signs so far have been heartening: Gazin released at £32 a bottle, a decrease of 7.6 per cent (ex-London), while Barons de Rothschild, the largest beneficiary of the Asian fine wine boom, offered a large discount on its famous Duhart Milon Rothschild, releasing at £33 a bottle. Given the weakness of the euro, this equates to a 17.5 per cent discount on 2013 pricing. Yesterday also marked the first release of a first growth at £191 a bottle; the lowest since 2008 at 4.5 per cent less than 2013 and a 16 per cent reduction on 2012.

This presents a real opportunity for the Bordelaise as collectors have largely kept their powder dry during the last three en primeur campaigns and would be ready to open their chequebooks again for a well-priced vintage of merit.

The most recent former en primeur vintage to be bottled is the 2012. We re-tasted the vintage and found it to be charming and approachable due to its ripe tannins. Robert Parker, the leading wine critic, is set to release his in bottle scores for 2012 later this summer, creating even greater interest and speculation around this vintage.

Rauzan-Segla is one of our value picks of the vintage, receiving an initial score of 93-95 from Robert Parker who compares it to 2010.

The 2009 and 2010 both received a score of 95+ from bottle; 2010 was originally marked up from 92-94, and the 2009 was 92-95. The 2010 trades at £390 today, the 2009 at £480, while the 94+ scoring 2005 costs £440 per case of six. Rauzan Segla 2012 looks to be hugely undervalued compared to the equivalent vintage.

This wine is a second growth from Margaux, known for combining wonderfully focused fruits with beautiful fragrances of violets and rose. Since 1994 Rauzan-Segla has been owned by the Wertheimer Family of Chanel, who have invested heavily in the Estate and put in place a superb winemaking team run by David Orr and John Kolasa of Chateau Latour. Thomas Jefferson ordered ten cases of Rauzan-Segla in 1790 after visiting Bordeaux in 1787, immediately declaring it as one of the region’s top wines.

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