Tracey Claridge
Bonjour! Every year around the beginning of April samples of the top wines of Bordeaux are shown to the Wine Trade for the first time. The wines are very youthful, having only been in barrel (225L oak barriques) for 3 months. Some will stay there for a further nine to twelve months, depending on the year/quality of the crop. Bordeaux red wines can use six grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Carmenere and Petit Verdot. Bordeaux white is Sauvignon blanc, Sauvignon gris, Semillon and Muscadelle. They all ripen at different times. Blending is the key. In Burgundy they mainly use just one grape variety for the red, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay for the whites. This can put Bordeaux at an advantage, especially in difficult vintages.

So what happens during the week of the ‘En Primeur’ (first release) tastings? I hire a mini-bus and drive eight of my clients up and down
the Medoc, St Emilion, Pomerol, Pessac Leognan and Sauternes. In five days we taste around 200 wines. Each Chateau produces a blend (assemblage) of what they think is a perfect approximation of their own, Chateau style and quality. It is not an exact science, as the wines still have further oak maturation ahead of them. The late Peter Sichel said to me many moons ago that we should all wait until the wines have been bottled, two years down the line, and only then will we be sure of tasting the definitive wine of each producer. En Primeurs give the Wine World an idea of the quality of the vintage, and then the “First release” prices start coming out a few weeks later. The million-dollar question is: does one buy at opening price, or wait until the wine is released in the years to come? Like stocks and shares, prices can go up or down. Caveat emptor!

In the meantime enjoy your Christmas drinks!