Was buying Rhône 2016 en primeur worthwhile?
Last year, I wrote about how I had bought a small amount of 2016 Rhône en primeur - that is, in advance of its release. The idea is that buying en primeur secures an allocation of sought-after wines at preferential prices.
As I wrote at the time, it is fairly easy to buy mature vintages of the same wines at much the same price - so one objective of buying en primeur seems undermined. Furthermore, of the 24 bottles I ordered, six were not allocated to me (specifically, Cuilleron’s Bassenon 2016 Côte-Rôtie). This was even worse for the (admittedly depleted) 2017 Rhône vintage: I ordered 24 bottles and was only allocated 6 - this time, I missed out on Chave’s négoce Côtes du Rhône and Gonon St-Joseph. Grr!
So, in case you ever wondered if wine writers get preferential treatment: we don’t. Or at least, I don’t. But that’s not my point.
My point is that the two main motivations for buying en primeur (price and availability) seem easily refutable.
Earlier this month, I received notification that my 2016s are now available. To release the wines from bonded storage would make my total cost per bottle as follows:
Ch de Beaucastel, Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2016 Côtes du Rhône: £12+£5.08 = £17.08
Delas, Dom de Grands Chemins 2016 Crozes-Hermitage: £15.33+£5.74 = £21.07
Pierre Gaillard 2016 Côte-Rôtie: £25.83+£7.84 = £33.67
The best prices I can find to buy these wines today are as follows:
Ch de Beaucastel, Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2016 Côtes du Rhône: £18.95 = 11% more expensive
Delas, Dom de Grands Chemins 2016 Crozes-Hermitage: £25.48 = 21% more expensive
Pierre Gaillard 2016 Côte-Rôtie: £42.75 = 27% more expensive
On average, I’ve saved around 20% per bottle on release, and you’d only expect those retail prices to go up as time passes. So buying Rhône en primeur is evidently worthwhile from a financial point of view - but I hasten to add that I have no intention of selling these wines, and if I want to store them in bond, the cost is £0.72/bottle per year.
Even so, buying en primeur has clearly worked for me in terms of securing (some) wines at good prices, as well as providing the emotional investment in wine - which is arguably just as important. But with an ostensible 20% return in 18 months, you can understand why speculation on fine wine has become so prevalent in recent years.
But I fully intend to drink the profits.