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Bordeaux en primeur is ‘madness’: Petrus winemaker

Former Chateau Petrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet has become the latest high-profile wine professional to attack en primeur – calling it ‘madness’ and ‘a disaster for wine’.

Writing in the March issue of Decanter magazine the now-retired Berrouet says the en primeur barrel tastings, held the year after the harvest in Bordeaux, are a bad influence on the wines of the region.

The wines have to be ‘as seductive as possible far earlier, to the detriment of the Bordeaux style’, he says.

Berrouet, who worked at Petrus from 1964 to 2007, reckons en primeur is a ‘media creation’ and that wines should be judged over time and not in what he calls ‘a moment of madness’.

He also attacks the financial and speculative nature of en primeur as ‘a disaster for wine.

‘As soon as it becomes a financial product, it is no longer a wine. We have taken wine hostage and we need to set it free.’

Berrouet is not alone. Writing in the July issue of Decanter last year, veteran journalist Stephen Brook lambasted en primeur as a system ‘designed to transfer large amounts of cash from your pocket into the pockets of wealthy Bordeaux proprietors and merchants at the earliest possible moment.’

Jancis Robinson was equally outspoken. ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to play this game?’ she asked in an interview in June 2007. ‘I hope 2006 will not be a success. I hope it will really show the Bordelais the shortcomings of the system.’

Written by Oliver Styles

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