Jancis Robinson MW has entered the debate over en primeur by slamming the system, saying she hopes the 2006 campaign ‘will not be a success.’

Following Decanter’s debate between Stephen Brook and Steven Spurrier entitled ‘Is En Primeur a scam?’, Robinson is outspoken in her condemnation of a system that she says fails the consumer.

Robinson is interviewed by Berry Bros and Rudd’s Bordeaux sales director Simon Staples in a wide-ranging podcast just released by the London merchant.

‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to play this game?’ she asks. ‘I hope 2006 will not be a success. I hope it will really show the Bordelais the shortcomings of the system.’

She expresses the hope that the negociants will get left with unsaleable stock this year, and Staples agrees that is likely to be the case.

Chateaux are seduced by the new markets of the east, Robinson says. They feel that ‘there’s lots of money in Russian and Asian pockets – so we can get rid of [the wines] there.’

But, Staples says, the problem with Russia, China and Taiwan is that they tend to have ‘no belief’ in en primeur futures and buy only ‘physical product’ – another reason why negociants are going to find their shelves filled with stock.

The danger this year is that negociants will sell at cost to the French supermarkets, which will be putting 2006 on the shelves in September, ‘this will undermine the whole system,’ Staples says.

The system fails the consumer, Robinson says, because any newcomer to the market could see no sense in paying huge sums of money for a product that may change substantially in two months.

The system whereby barrel samples are assessed up to two years before they are sold is one that Stephen Brook also criticises in detail in the Decanter article.

Staples agrees. Although he is satisfied that chateaux give tasters ‘the best representation of what they think the final blend will be’, he worries how the wines can change.

He cites colleagues who have just tasted 2006 – two months after en primeur week – and found they have ‘added weight and are richer’

‘This does concern me. I would love to see [the wine] in the bottle before having to guesstimate how well it does.’

‘Is En Primeur a Scam?’ appears in the Bordeaux 2007 supplement to the July issue of Decanter magazine, out now.

Vote now on the decanter.com poll: Is the en primeur system fatally flawed? See panel, right

Listen to the podcast

Written by Adam Lechmere