Buying En Primeur

Anything to do with Port.
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Flask
Cruz Ruby
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Buying En Primeur

Post by Flask » 19:16 Sat 06 May 2017

Hello,

I'm sorry if this is a stupid question but I'm new to this whole world. In fact, I'm barely able to legally drink. Because of my youth I thought that if I buy a few cases of wine every year (esp Port) in a decade or two I'll be able to have a first class cellar. With this in mind I've been reading up on wide world of Port and want to buy a case or two of the recently declared 2015. My understanding is that the cheapest way to do this is (and this is where my confusion kicks in) is to buy at "declaration price" or "en primeur" which might be the same thing. How is this accomplished? Is it done online or do I need to go into a wine store? Do I email the shipper? Or do I have to wait for the first bottles to show up on the market? Again, I'm sorry if this is a stupid question but enquiring minds want to know!

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flash_uk
Taylor Quinta de Vargellas 1987
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by flash_uk » 19:35 Sat 06 May 2017

Welcome to the forum Flask. There are many here, myself included, who will read your post and feel pangs of envy that you have elected to take such wise action of building a cellar from a youthful age!

On to your question of buying recent vintages. These tend to be offered by wine merchants, for example Seckfords or Berry Bros. They are only just starting to appear on their stock lists for the 2015 vintage. Note though that not many of the top tier shippers have declared their main brands for 2015, instead in many cases choosing to declare their single Quinta ports.

Given your desire to build a cellar, you could equally look to earlier vintages as in the grand scheme of things the pricing will not be vastly different to the more recent vintages. 1997 is just about coming into consideration for drinking, while 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2011 were all generally declared vintages for port. 2005 and 2009 also have some very good ports to offer.

And if you want to expand your experience of port more broadly, come along to one of our tastings - you will be very welcome!

John Owlett
Cockburn’s Special Reserve
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by John Owlett » 18:02 Mon 08 May 2017

Hello Flask and welcome to the forum.

Your post triggered many happy memories since, 11 years ago, my wife and I moved to a house with an underground cellar and set about filling it.

First, the bad news. Assembling a decent cellar will cost at least £50 a month; assembling a first-class cellar will cost at least three times as much.

In the case of still table wine, you are right to think that buying en primeur is a good idea. Good Burgundy and Barolo is hard to buy at all once the en primeur season is over. Much, much more good Bordeaux is made, but it is usually significantly cheaper en primeur. What Joy and I do is to buy two dozen good Burgundy (one case red, one case white) en primeur each year, and take a case of 12-year-old red and a case of 8-year-old white off the other end of the wine "ladders" for dinner parties each year. The same can be done with Bordeaux or, less expensively, with Rhône.

(Some prefer to buy twice as much en primeur as they intend to drink. Then, when the wine is ready, they sell half of it for twice its en primeur price, and kid themselves that their wine drinking is free.)

Port is different. It usually seems to be available at or around the en primeur price for some years after release (Champagne is a bit like that too) and then climbs substantially in price when it reaches about twenty years old. So you could, for example,

*** buy some 1997 this year and drink half of it;
*** buy some 2016 next year and drink the rest of the 1997;
*** buy some more 1997 in 2019 and drink half of it;
*** buy some 2000 in 2020 and drink either 1997 or 2000;
*** when a vintage is declared, buy that;
*** when a vintage is not declared, buy the next good vintage of which you don't have enough yet.

In ten years or so, you will have quite a Port cellar.

Later,

John

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AHB
Fonseca 1970
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by AHB » 08:58 Tue 09 May 2017

I do like John's approach. I agree with his view that Vintage Port is usually available quite easily for not much more than en-primeur price for a good few years after release. Just take a look at www.wine-searcher.com to check.

For example, the last big declaration was in 2011 when ports were being sold en-primeur in the summer of 2013 before being shipped to the UK in the winter of 2013/14. En-primeur Port prices ranged around £30-£50 per bottle in bond (so £40-65 if taken duty cleared). Right now, according to Wine Searcher, you can buy Dow 1983 for £45+VAT. The 1970s and 1980s were vintages where a lot of port was produced; declarations of vintage port in recent years have been much smaller so future pricing of the recent years might be different but the secondary market from reputable wine merchants does look attractively priced at the moment.

My advice echoes John's. Don't limit yourself to buying only what is new release port, but also look at buying older port to have a cellar which ages and matures as you do. If you buy port from the 1980s or 1990s today, before the price really starts to pick up like it has now for port from the 1970s, you can have the core of a port cellar which is mature and drinking nicely right from the start. Feed into the cellar slightly more port than you like to drink from younger vintages and watch your cellar mature in a balanced way with younger bottles aging and replacing the older bottles you open.

When I was planning my cellar and figuring out what to buy, I experimented a little with different types and ages of vintage port. I found that my palate preferred port that was 30-50 years old, with the occasional younger or older bottle. That allowed me to purchase what I needed to build a balanced cellar - which meant purchasing a lot from the 1970s and 1980s as well as buying younger and newly released port. If you don't take some time to model your cellar you could end up buying far more young port than you need and having to wait decades for it to mature to be the sort of port you enjoy.

You also need to figure out how many bottles of port you like to drink. If one a month, buying 24 bottles per year (half mature, half younger) will give you a balanced cellar and after 30 years you will have as much port as you will ever need. If you like to drink a bottle a day, you'll need to buy far more!

One extra thing I would suggest is to consider subscribing to Wine Searcher's professional option. That does give you visibility of a much wider range of wine merchants and potentially access to better prices.

And lastly, please do feel welcome to join us at one of our offlines. We're a friendly group who really enjoy drinking port and we'd love to put together a theme which could help you figure out what you should be buying and/or drinking for optimum enjoyment. A couple of years ago someone joined the forum to ask for help in finding a replacement for his favourite port which he had been drinking for years but which was becoming more difficult to buy and more expensive. We had a lot of fun trying to figure out what to open for him to try as an alternative. We'd be delighted for you to provide us with a similar excuse if you're based around or visit London.
Top Port in 2017 (so far): Taylor 2010 LBV
2016 Port of the year: Cockburn 1908

Big Red
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by Big Red » 15:19 Tue 09 May 2017

Hi Guys
I am new to the forum but would always recommend buying from a reputable supplier as the storage of the port will be guarenteed. John's approach sounds great and allows you to enjoy the wines now rather than just parking them for a number of years. It will also give you an appreciation of how the port mature with age.
Check out the link http://www.thevintageportcompany.com/st ... 34663.aspx which explains the life cycle of port and also a good you tube clip from one of the leading suppliers about decanting.
Hope this helps.
Paul

Big Red
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by Big Red » 21:54 Tue 09 May 2017

Hi Guys - just for openess Derek recommends that I declare an interest in The Vintage Port Company Ltd. I set up the company in January 2017 having finally built up the courage to pursue my passion after 8 years being afraid of going it alone. I am trying to spread the word about this great producta dn to hopefully mount a single handed campaign to re-educate the rest of society. I feel the General Election may have a slightly higher profile but who knows. I am more than happy to offer guidance or advice to anyone even if they are buying port elsewhere!
Thanks
Paul

LGTrotter
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by LGTrotter » 00:07 Wed 10 May 2017

Hello and welcome. I would like to agree with Flash that starting young in getting a cellar together is a good plan. If you buy sensibly even if you decide to become teetotal then you will be able to sell the wine and recoup most of your money, add a bit of luck and you might even make some money, but this is less likely if you buy port.

I am a bit of a cynic but a brief word about en primeur. In the old days wine makers in Bordeaux needed to raise cash to buy barrels, pay staff and generally keep the wheels turning. In order to do this they would offer the wine for sale in barrel to brokers who would punt it on to merchants. They would offer these at a price which was substantially cheaper than the finished wine, i.e. what you might buy in a shop. However since about 2005 Bordeaux has not really offered any significant reduction in price en primeur. Indeed the few cases I bought of the 2009 I could buy now for roughly the same price as I paid. I cannot really see why anyone would want to buy Bordeaux en primeur with pricing as it is. A few wines will go up in price, but unless you have a large account with one of the big merchants you probably won't have access to these. Other regions have joined in this circus. Having grumbled about en primeur I must confess to buying Burgundy, Rhone and Barolo en primeur this year and I have a feeling I might give in and buy some claret.

When it comes to port en primeur the money side of things is even more obvious. You can buy port from the eighties for the same price as the newest releases. You don't have to store it, or have the money tied up in port, or wonder about how it will turn out in twenty years time. And do think about these sort of time scales for port to be mature.

If all this sounds like a bit of a cold shower, it isn't, for me having a cellar is one of the great pleasures in my life. Just be aware that buying en primeur is not necessarily a good deal financially. However if you decide this is what you want the easiest way is to contact a reasonably big and well established merchant (small ones sometimes fail taking your money with them) and ask if they are making an en primeur offer for vintage port this year. I do not know where you are based but if in the UK either one of the big regional merchants or a London based one. If you are elsewhere then let us know and we may be able to suggest alternatives.

Try all sorts of things and find out what you like, but your tastes will change. If I had to suggest a port vintage to buy for drinking in ten to twenty years I would probably start with the 2003s. Good luck and do let us know what you decide and how you get on.

Thomas
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by Thomas » 00:13 Sun 14 May 2017

I'll piggyback off the OP.

Which vendors do you experienced guys buy en primeur from?

Any on the mainland?

PhilW
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by PhilW » 14:50 Sun 14 May 2017

Thomas wrote:
00:13 Sun 14 May 2017
I'll piggyback off the OP.

Which vendors do you experienced guys buy en primeur from?

Any on the mainland?
I would recommend looking for vendors who are able to sell to you in-bond. While you may have no intention to sell, and depending what cellaring facilities you already have, it is likely that you will be keeping these bottles for a long time before you touch them. By keeping them stored in a bonded warehouse, if you ever do decide to sell then the wine will have held its value much better by being in-bond (as buyers will know that the wine has been kept in ideal conditions).

Many of the UK mainland fine wine merchants have this capability - but you may mean a different mainland :wink: The same could still hold true though, for example if buying from Berry Bros as an example, the wine can be held by them in bond, and sold through them later if wanted; other merchants have similar arrangements, and other off site storage companies can be used.

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AHB
Fonseca 1970
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Re: Buying En Primeur

Post by AHB » 19:11 Sun 14 May 2017

Thomas wrote:
00:13 Sun 14 May 2017
I'll piggyback off the OP.

Which vendors do you experienced guys buy en primeur from?

Any on the mainland?
I've only ever bought from UK wine merchants and traditionally the UK has offered wine (and port) buyers very keen prices. You could buy from Berry Brothers knowing that you can store with them and also sell through their online broking platform. I would also recommend Seckfords who can sell to you, store in bond and also list your wines for sale if you decide not to keep them.
Top Port in 2017 (so far): Taylor 2010 LBV
2016 Port of the year: Cockburn 1908

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