Advice from Liz Sagues for buying en primeur wine

13:58 February 19, 2022

14:01 February 19, 2022

Any fine wine collector will know the system en primeur – reserve and pay for chosen bottles months before they are ready to leave their maker’s cellar. It is a serious commitment, sometimes even risky.

Aside from fraudulent sellers (unfortunately they do exist), a vintage may not live up to its original promise, the excise duties and VAT rates you have to pay before delivery could increase, the eventual retail price once that wine is readily available might be less than you paid. Or, if you’re buying for fun rather than investing, you just might not like the wine.

But, most of the time, everything goes well. En primeur buyers can get their hands on highly desirable wine that sells out before it hits merchant shelves – and if it becomes available later, it could well cost a lot more.

That said, why not give it a try? I have, and have both loved the results and saved money. Currently, I savor the very classy Samuel Billaud Petit Chablis 2019, bought en primeur a year ago at Jéroboams and delivered last summer. The dozen bottles were £15.50 each once I had paid for everything; this wine is now sold out at Jeroboams, but at the end of last year it cost almost £20.

It was a real pleasure purchase, just like the excellent Barraud family Macons I have purchased over the years from Lea & Sandeman, and in terms of money, all were well worth it.

Far more significant, however, was the saving on JL Chave’s 2011 Saint-Joseph Céleste from The Wine Society’s Rhône en primeur offering. I’ve been patient, and it’s aged superbly (there’s still a bottle left, waiting for the right opportunity). It also cost me around £15.50 a bottle, two years after the vintage. Now I can’t find the 2011 anywhere in the UK, but the 2012 is £48.

En primeur choices are mainly French, with Italy and a few other wine nations. Deals come in at different times of the year – act fast, and you can still nab some for 2020 Burgundy and Rhône, a very good vintage in both regions. Like almost everywhere in France, both were hit by vicious spring frosts last year, so 2021 wines will be scarce and more expensive.

Bordeaux, a bit odd for wines that often need more time to reach their best, comes out earlier, so 2021 offerings will start showing up early this summer. It was a difficult vintage, so be careful.

You can see from my choices that I am a tiny fish in a huge sea, but I swim happily. You don’t need to be able to pay the astronomical prices of the best grand crus: en primeur, it can work well on fairly modest bottles.

Six wines to buy in February

No need to wait for these wines:

First, an already published Chablis 2020, Simonnet-Febvre Premier Cru Montmains (£25.50 from It’s still a baby, but it has huge promise. You can start to smell the fossil-rich stone of this east bank site, alongside the ripe fruit of 2020. The many Chablis crus are complex and there can be big differences between vintages, so when you find a place and a producer that suits your palate, remember that.

Chablis Premier Cru
– Credit: Provided

East to Italy, where Banfi played a crucial role in the re-emergence of Brunello di Montalcino as a great Tuscan wine. But this great company, committed to research, sustainability and community involvement, is also innovative. The Lus (£19-£20), from the Piedmont vineyards of Banfi, is a rare example of albarossa, a cross between barbera and the little-known French varietal chatus (mistakenly considered nebbiolo by the scientist in charge). It is a variety that deserves more recognition, giving here a chic and modern wine with elegant flavors, accessible but serious.

Banfi spread from the hills to the Tuscan coast, where The Pettegola (£15-£16) is a very tempting example of vermentino, floral, herbaceous, excellent balance, body and length. Both of these wines are available at and

The Pettegola

Banfi’s Pettegola
– Credit: Provided

Still in Italy, but from the far south, it’s a godsend in Morrison. colpasso (£7 until March 15) is made from a semi-dried harvest of nero d’avola from Sicily. This appassimento technique enriches the grape’s already generous character and the not-quite-OTT fruity result is a perfect sunny response to London’s wintry gloom.

Morrison's Colpasso costs £7

Morrison’s Colpasso costs £7
– Credit: Provided

There was an intriguing tasting recently, where Cabernet Francs from New York State clashed with examples from around the world. NYS wines were excellent, although hard to find – try the awesome 2020 Lamoreaux Landing Finger Lakes T23 (£19-£20,, An outstanding challenger was Zuccardi Apelación Cabernet Franc 2018 (£17.50,, from the top of the Argentinian Andes. It’s deep, dark and delicious.

Zuccardi Apelación Cabernet Franc 2018

Zuccardi Apelación Cabernet Franc 2018
– Credit: Provided

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