The high street giant has taken the wait out of buying Bordeaux en primeur; writes Christine Austin

Buying wine en primeur usually involves paying up front and waiting a couple of years before you actually receive the goods. You also have to buy by the case, or at least six bottles at a time. Now there is a way of taking the wait out of buying en primeur, and reducing the amount of money you need to put down to secure your wine. Marks and Spencer has selected and bought a fine selection of Bordeaux châteaux wines, and they are now releasing them into 80 top stores and online, where they are available by the single bottle.

The key to this en primeur offer, which may be slightly confusing, especially as the 2016 en primeur campaign hits its stride, is that these en primeur wines are from the 2014 vintage. This is a vintage that was generally described as consistent, attractive and good quality. 2014 started out with early bud break but a cool August could have spelt disaster. The vintage was saved by an Indian summer that lasted through September and into October so the grapes were fully ripe when picked. Essentially this is a quality vintage, perhaps not a ‘vintage of the century’ which seem to come along every few years in Bordeaux, but a vintage that is well worth buying for quality drinking in the medium term.

Top Bordeaux wines available at M&S

Marks and Spencer worked with two Bordeaux suppliers, Sichel and Mouiex, to secure 3000 six-bottle cases of 32 wines from prominent chateaux. Marks and Spencer wine buyer Emma Dawson Master of Wine explained that the company’s usual buying practices were challenged by the whole en primeur process. ‘Allocations of top Bordeaux wines cannot wait for long meetings. Decisions had to be made quickly.’

This 2014 release is just the start of Marks and Spencer’s move into Fine Wine. They have already bought stocks of the 2015 vintage which is still in Bordeaux and they have been buying at the Hospices de Beaune auction in Burgundy for several years. ‘We want to be more like a fine wine merchant, as well as offering our regular range of wines’, said Emma, ‘but rather than do en primeur traditionally, we want the wines to be physically in the country before offering them to customers.’

Once you have bought your wine it would be advisable to hide your purchases at the back of your wine rack. These are wines that still need to age. Traditionally most people decide to leave their en primeur purchase with their wine merchant for a few years until the wines enter the right drinking window. That option isn’t possible with M&S, but good storage in a cool place at home will allow the wine to continue its maturation satisfactorily. Of course if you have a cellar that is ideal. The essential point is that a wine rack in the kitchen is not the best place to mature your 2014 Lafite for the next ten years.

I tasted through the whole M&S range, and then, since the bottles were opened, tasted them again with other writers over dinner. Despite being so young, several of the wines showed immense potential for drinking in the next 5 – 10 years.

Of the 32 Chateaux on offer, here are my favourites from the range.

Ch. Potensac, Médoc, (£26) With deep cassis fruits and firm structure, Potensac ages wonderfully in a firm, no-nonsense way.

Connétable de Talbot, St Julien (£27) Classic St Julien with blackberry and cassis fruit and a distinct cedar wood note. Terrific value and age worthy.

Ch. Angludet, Margaux (£27) 13% Petit Verdot in the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend lifts the aromas, giving leafy tobacco and herbal notes with cassis fruit. Supple even now.

Ch. Angludet makes excellent wines

Chevalier de Lascombes, Margaux (£30) The second wine of Second Growth Ch. Lascombes. Deep, chunky fruit lurking behind firm tannins. This will be a fabulous wine.

Ch. Chasse-Spleen, Médoc, (£33) Warm, red berry fruit, cedar notes and a long, persistent finish. This wine always develops deep complexity as it ages.

Le Croix de Ducru-Beaucaillou, St Julien, (£44) Deep complex flavours with spice and herbs amongst the dark red-berried fruit.

Ch. Lynch-Bages, Pauillac (£90) Gorgeously structured, classic and intense. Do not pull the cork before 2025 at the earliest.

Ch. Cos d’Estournel, St Estèphe (£132) An intense, powerful wine, rich in fruit, cocoa and spice. This will be a long, rewarding wait.

Ch. Léoville-las-Cases, St Julien (£135) Sheer elegance, with years of maturation ahead.

Ch Leoville-las-Cases, now available en primeur from M&S

Ch. Lafite, Pauillac (£420) Just in case you were not sure, £420 is the price per bottle and the wine is gorgeous. The fact that M&S have stocks is astonishing.

The only downside of the M&S en primeur offer is that once you have bought your wine, you need to find a good place to keep it until it is ready for drinking. That means keeping it out of reach of any itinerant students who may come home and feel they should open it. There is always the chance that a treasured bottle may end up in a casserole unless it is safeguarded. To prevent accidents like that you may prefer to buy your en primeur wines in the traditional way, which allows for the merchant to hold on to your wine until you want to take delivery.

Jamie Goodhart of Bon Coeur Fine Wines (www.bcfw. co.uk, 01325 776446) has spent a week tasting around Bordeaux and is now adding to his list of en primeur 2016 wines on a daily basis as prices are released. Allocations of sought-after wines are quickly snapped up so do not delay. Cos d’Estournel has come out at £1400 per case but there are many good quality wines from lesser chateaux at more affordable prices.

Ch. Lanessan, where Hubert du Boüard is consultant is a terrific wine and at £115 is a star buy.

 

En primeur prices are for the wine only. Duty and VAT still need to be added at a later date when the wine is physically shipped to the UK. The advantage of placing your order at this time is that your wine can be bottled in the format you want, such as half bottles, magnums etc. The key advantage of this whole en primeur process is that you secure your favourite wines at opening prices. Whilst prices can go down as well as up, Bordeaux prices generally go in an upward direction.

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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