En Primeur - which translates as 'Wine Futures', is a process be where you can buy wine while the vintage is still resting in the oak barrel. This method offers the serious wine customer the opportunity to invest (as you pay a deposit) in a particular wine before it is bottled. A final payment is typically made a year or 18 months before the official release of the vintage.
An advantage of buying'en primeur' is that the wine can on occasion be cheaper than when finally bottled and released. Though this is not guaranteed and some wines have lost value over this time. Wine experts, recommend buying 'en primeur' from known quality wineries - that product limited quantities and typically sell out instantly on release. The wines most commonly offered 'en primeur' are from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Port Wine.

 

Although today, more and more wine regions around the world are adopting the practice. In the following spring after the harvest, merchants will taste barrel samples of wine that are often only 6-8 months old. In the case of Bordeaux, where the final wine is often a blend of several grape varietals, the winemaker will try to craft an approximate blend to sample. The composition of the final wine may differ from the sample depending on how each barrel matures during aging. Based on the initial sample-tasting, it will be given an initial score or rating - based on (previous vintages of similar quality) the expected quality of the wine once blended, bottled and released at a future date.

Wine bought 'en primeur' is often directly placed into custom-free storage holdings, 'in bond'. This practice of buying wine-futures, is known as a delicate method of investment, as a purchase may ultimately be deemed a loss, or there may be considerable profit if sold on to another at auction. An example of the later is the 1982 vintage of Château Latour, was purchased at $630 a case 'en primeur' in 1983, and then valued in 2007 at $22,770.

This method has existed in Bordeaux for centuries and has only occasionally been used in other wine regions such as Burgundy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Ribera del Duero and in Rioja. Over recent years Italy has done a great deal of work to promote the development of an Italian 'en primeur' wine market, and there is a growing interest. For the serious wine collector - this is definitely something to think about when you are next looking to buy some fine wines direct from a winery with a quality history of winemaking.