Bordeaux En Primeur is a con trick perpetrated on a gullible public by wine merchants, chateaux and journalists, wine writer Stephen Brook argues in the latest issue of Decanter magazine.
In Decanter’s Bordeaux supplement, published with the main magazine’s July issue (out on 6 June), contributing editor Brook goes head-to-head with Steven Spurrier on the question of the viability of En Primeur.
Brook lambasts the system whereby the world’s press descends on Bordeaux every spring to taste the previous year’s vintage.
It ‘is primarily designed to transfer large amounts of cash from your pocket into the pockets of wealthy Bordeaux proprietors and merchants at the earliest possible moment,’ he writes.
Brook deploys a series of hard-hitting arguments to make his case, including the fact that, ‘even in a stellar vintage most of those who rushed to buy…could have hung onto their cash…and saved money by doing so.’
Finally he mocks the way wines that haven’t yet been assembled are sold: it’s like Karl Lagerfeld presenting a sketch to clients and saying, ‘I haven’t decided where to put the buttons, and I may change the colour, but you get the idea. Now please give me your money…’ he says.
Given the right to reply, Spurrier pulls no punches. Assessing wine, he says, is no different from assessing a horse’s form before a race.
‘Some turf gamblers I know never go near a racecourse… but place their bets purely on breeding and form.’
You judge the chateau in the same way: the label (ie the name of the property and the vintage) tells you the form. The wine submitted for tasting is ‘representative’ of that vintage and the subsequent elevage will add to, not detract from the sample. ‘It is rare that quality wine changes dramatically from barrel to bottle.’
‘History has proved [Stephen] wrong’, he says. ‘Provided the consumer pays attention, the system not only works, it also delivers.’
‘Is En Primeur a Scam?’ appears in the Bordeaux 2007 supplement to the July issue of Decanter magazine, out on 6 June.
Vote now on the decanter.com poll: Is the en primeur system fatally flawed? See panel, right
Written by Adam Lechmere