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Rack to the future: how en primeur offers work


Martin Brown Martin Brown / 01 October 2019

Martin Brown from our Fine Wine Team gives us a quick explanation of how we sell some wines before they're even bottled

I've been working on our en primeur offers for about seven years now and during that time have learned to look out for a crude but accurate litmus test of how well any given offer will sell: once the near-final version begins circulating, I listen out for a fellow member of the Fine Wine Team lamenting that their spouse, bank manager and/or pet with expensive tastes in slain poultry is going to kill them.

While Martin is delighted with his en primeur purchases, at home he doesn't always receive a sympathetic ear
While Martin is delighted with his en primeur purchases, at home he doesn't always receive a sympathetic ear

Admittedly it's often me. Despite the oft-lofty ideas associated with the term 'fine wine', the team here at your Society are as much punters as they are purveyors and we like seeking out a good buy from our offers every bit as much as fellow members do (unless of course there isn't enough wine to go around – then you, quite rightly, get first dibs!).

We started offering wines en primeur, while they're still maturing in their cellars prior to bottling, in the 1970s and were one of the first to do so. In recent years, we have had a lot of fun expanding these offers to include regions and even countries that are not often offered en primeur: recent successes include Madiran, Rioja, South Africa and Argentina.

While members have responded with immense enthusiasm, I'm still conscious that if an alien landed and requested an explanation of the process (in fairness, stranger things seem to be happening in the world) I would not blame them for being a little bemused by it, particularly at a non-profit maximising co-op such as ours that doesn't sell wine for investment.

How en primeur offers work
Find out more here.

En primeur is about much more than that, though. It's a genuinely fun, if arguably eccentric, way to secure something special (as it may sell out later) at first-release prices. In the event of any oversubscribed goodies, we sort out the allocations, take payments, then let you know once the wines are bottled and have made their voyage to our Stevenage cellars. It's at this point you can either leave them in our Members' Reserves cellars (the vast majority will need some ageing) or take delivery yourself, paying duty & VAT on your initial purchase.

Often members tell me it takes one special or special-sounding vintage, grower or occasion (for me it was a currently-not-of-drinking-age family member's birth year being offered) that lights the blue touch paper and gets them into en primeur. And while it can seem a complicated process from the outside, our team is here to help make it as simple as we possibly can every step of the way. Depending on the animal and vintage, we might even be able to help you explain it to your pet too…

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