Collapsed UK wine merchant The Cellaret failed to pay Bordeaux negociants for 2005 en primeur ordered and paid for by their customers, it has emerged.

The company, which collapsed in May this year with debts of £550,000, took its customers money for 2005 en primeur orders, but the money was never passed on to Bordeaux negociants

‘They [The Cellaret] paid over £135,000 to the négociants for the 2004 en primeur but £350,000 taken for 2005 was not passed on,’ Lisa Jenkins from liquidators the MacDonald Partnership told decanter.com.

Jenkins added that it was possible that The Cellaret had paid a small amount but that the majority owed had not been given to the negociants.

The MacDonald Partnership is still waiting for an explanation from the two directors Ray Dutton and Anita Doherty.

The Cellaret is the third collapsed company since April 2006 which has failed to pass on its customers’ en primeur funds.

The revelation has sunk a possible class action by a group of the company’s en primeur customers. They were considering challenging the liquidator’s claim that they did not have title to the wines because there was no evidence that specific cases of wine had been earmarked for delivery to individual customers.

‘The best practice would be if companies ring fenced en primeur money by putting it in a trust or deposit account,’ said Jenkins.

decanter.com understands that the Wine & Spirit Trade Association is looking at ways of trying to reduce the risk of buying en primeur and providing guidance to consumers when choosing an en primeur merchant.

‘We are looking at whether there will be benefits in developing a checklist for consumers and if so what it would include,’ said Jeremy Beadles, WSTA’s chief executive.

Written by Jim Budd