‘Lots of risk for a low-margin game.” That is how David Harvey, head of Raeburn Fine Wines’ London office, describes the Bordeaux en primeur system. In Bordeaux’s version of the futures market, producers sell the latest vintage before it is bottled and delivered to the customer up to 24 months later. It is an opaque, low-tech system fraught with financial risk for the participants, yet one that, for decades, has been central to the Bordeaux wine trade. However, both its scope and its primary objective are evolving.
UK importer Raeburn ceased almost all en primeur activity after the 2010 campaign, whose high prices provoked the “Bordeaux-bashing” seen in recent years. “The only potential price movement on the hyped ’09s and ’10s is down,” says Harvey, referring to two vintages. He believes most of the top wines — grands crus classés — are as “valuable as junk bonds”, calling them “expensive oak-infused beverages”. His minority view represents the most extreme face of Bordeaux’s detractors.