Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or looking to lay down the foundations of your collection, buying wine futures boasts many benefits. Also called en primeur, wine futures are a clever way to obtain wines before they hit the market, giving you the best value for your money while also potentially allowing you to get a hold of wines from some of the world’s greatest estates, and stay ahead of the curve regarding up and coming producers. There are a few risks involved in investing in wine futures, but with diligent research or expert advice, a savvy collector can reduce the risk potential.
What are wine futures?
When you purchase wine futures, you’re buying wine that has yet to be bottled – it’s still undergoing maturation in barrel. The practice started with the great châteaux of Bordeaux, allowing aficionados to buy a vintage come springtime after the harvest. You can also buy wine en primeur wines from other highly sought-after regions such as Burgundy, Napa Valley, Piedmont, Tuscany, Port, and the Rhone.
The benefits of buying en primeur
There are many benefits to purchasing wine futures. Buying wine en primeur means you can pick it up at its first release price, giving you the best value on collectible wines whose provenance you can be assured of. If you plan on selling bottles in your cellar at a future date, being able to prove their provenance is essential.
It’s also a brilliant way to get your hands on highly allocated wines, as well as large format bottles. You can potentially purchase wines from some of the world’s most renowned estates including first-growth Bordeaux, grand cru Burgundy, and cult wines from top producers. As demand has gone up, buying wine en primeur offers you the chance to secure the bottles you want before other collectors snap them up.
How buying wine en primeur works
In the spring following the harvest, producers allow buyers to invest in a vintage. Prices for en primeur wines are based on how they taste in the barrel before they’ve reached maturation. Buyers put a down payment on a case (or more) of wine, then pay the remainder once they hit the market, usually a year to upwards of 18 months down the line.
Often, the wines are allocated, so if you’re looking to purchase wines from the top estates, you might find it tricky, especially if you’ve never purchased from the winery before. If you’re keen to get your hands on a bottle of first-growth Bordeaux, for instance, Establishing relationships with reputable retailers are key if you’re after big-name bottles.
While storied names like Lafite and Petrus may garner a great deal of attention, buying en primeur means you can snatch up excellent wines from rising talent in the region. A quick glance at how lesser-known producers scored over several vintages can offer excellent clues as to which estates to buy from.
When buying wine futures, refer to critics’ scores after the initial barrel tasting. Widespread acclaim by a representative array of critics is a good indicator of the vintage as a whole. In excellent vintages, the top producers will tend to have all their wines allocated, however, you can find exceptional value from smaller houses in such years.
What are the risks of buying wine futures?
For all its benefits, buying en primeur have a few risks to be aware of, like any other investment. There is the risk that rather than going up in value, a wine’s worth may fall over time or it may stay the same year in, year out. Aside from value, there’s simply no guarantee of quality. While a wine may show beautifully during the preliminary tasting, it may fail to come up to scratch after bottling.
That said, if you’re an avid wine aficionado and have the means to indulge your passion, the risk can well be worth the reward.
Burgundy can pose more of a risk due to the sheer number of producers and the range of quality present in the region. To make sure you’re investing in quality wines, it pays to know your producers, rather than merely focusing on famous vineyards.
Follow the course of a vintage and look at how wineries performed across past vintages – including challenging ones. This will give you a clearer picture as to whether it is wise to buy. Read reviews, compare the current vintage with those with similar growing conditions. When in doubt, seek out advice from a wine professional. The resident sommelier at your local trustworthy wine shop can be a good place to start. Of course, you can always contact a professional wine consultant for expert advice.
Where to look for wine futures
You can buy wine futures from reputable auction houses such as Sotheby’s, or specialist sites like Millesima, certain local retailers, and occasionally in some instances, the winery itself. Browse sites like wine-searcher.com to compare prices, but only shop with established, reputable sellers.
Without a doubt, if you’re a serious collector or looking to become one, buying en primeur gives you the best prices on exemplary wines to expand your cellar.
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