How to understand Bordeaux en primeur in 60 seconds

Pic: M on Unsplash

Ever thought that the Bordeaux en primeur circus was crazy? Illogical? Infuriating? And that’s just the good bits.

Well, you’re wrong. The chateaux just have their own set of rules, passed down through the generations, along with tragic dress sense.

As this year’s en primeur campaign continues to enthral absolutely nobody, Fake Booze is happy to share the following Ten Commandments from the Bordeaux En Primeur Business Handbook, which we stole from Chateau Cheval Filet.

Those Ten Golden Rules in Full

  1. It is important to look the part. Wine is an agricultural product and your attire should reflect this. An unpleasant tie and shoes more polished than Emanuel Macron’s campaign promises are to be worn at all times. They are the perfect attire for surveying the vines that you never walk through.
  2. Always look after your core customer. Regularly reclassifying your estates and then arguing bitterly about the result for years in the courts is a good way to do this. This is because your core customers are lawyers.
  3. There are almost no circumstances in which prices cannot be raised. Though the rending of continents, falling of stars and consignment of half of humanity to the lake of fire might necessitate a small reduction. If you meet one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, make sure they pay cash up front.
  4. There is no such thing as a bad vintage in Bordeaux. There are good vintages, great vintages, classic vintages, collector’s vintages, restaurant vintages, Left Bank vintages, Right Bank vintages and winemaker’s vintages. But never bad vintages. Or Entre Deux Mers vintages.
  5. All these vintages have one thing in common: they justify significant price rises. The 2021 vintage has been described as having Burgundian elegance. The Bordelais hate the Burgundians, which means that they hate this vintage, but will put up prices out of spite anyway.
  6. On the rare occasions when you freeze prices, you MUST implement a double-digit price rise the following year. This rule can never be broken. It is as fundamental to the typicité of the region as wearing a jacket even when it is 30 degrees outside and your face has gone through véraison.
  7. If you are exceptionally unlucky, a journalist might describe your wine as being good value. This is a terrible, terrible insult and you should act on it swiftly. Be sure to enact swingeing price rises as soon as possible so that anyone who previously bought your wines can no longer afford them. You should also apologise to your fellow chateau owners for bringing disgrace on the region.
  8. Occasionally you will meet cynics who say that the en primeur pricing strategies of the chateaux are not related to the weather during the growing season. You must explain to these people that this is nonsense. The economic climate in Beijing is crucial.
  9. Environmental issues are important, so it is essential that you reassure people of your sustainability bona fides at every opportunity. The best way to do this is via a hand-engraved wine bottle dipped in 24 carat gold and hand-delivered from the back of a stage coach pulled by racing camels.
  10. Sometimes people will complain that the overall en primeur campaign is ‘boring’ or ‘lacklustre’ or ‘hasn’t caught fire this year’. This is code for ‘your wine is too expensive so we’re going to sulk’ and is proof that your strategy is perfect. As Oscar Wilde said, there is only one thing worse than not being talked about… and that’s selling your wines at a price that people can afford. Santé!

Read here about Bordeaux’s plans to start the fine wine space race; here to read about Bordeaux’s six new grape varieties, and here to read about why last year’s socially-distanced en primeur campaign was the best ever.

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