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En primeur imperfect but here to stay: Decanter

The en primeur system is fundamentally flawed because the wines are tasted too early, Decanter editor Guy Woodward says.

Buying wine so young is a gamble, he suggests in his editor’s letter in the June issue of Decanter magazine.

‘It should be remembered that the wines being assessed are six-month old barrel samples, 18 months off being bottled, years off being consumed…much can happen to their progress in that time. Buyers are taking something of a gamble by investing early.’

There is a ‘plethora of reasons’ why the final wine may end up ‘substantially different’ to the samples tasted by the world’s press and wine merchants in early April.

These reasons range from variations in barrel quality, to the addition of press wine and wine from different vintages.

All are perfectly legal, Decanter makes clear, but they are reasons why En Primeur favours the seller rather than the buyer.

‘We believe, as do many others in both press and trade (including many producers) that the wines are tasted too early. So why do we devote such space to our verdicts,’ Woodward asks, referring to the 20 pages of Bordeaux 2010 coverage in this month’s Decanter.

As with any tasting, Woodward concludes, en primeur gives ‘an imperfect snapshot’ of the wines at one moment in time.

But the system is well-established, and, ‘like it or not, the wines will go on sale in the coming weeks [and] we want our readers to have as much information to hand as possible when they come to make their buying decisions.’

Read the full letter and complete Bordeaux 2010 guide in the June issue of Decanter magazine, out now.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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