Cellar notes #17: Vintage value

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Expect to hear lots about buying en primeur this year. The 2002 burgundies on offer this month (see next week's column) look distinctly promising. The 2003 Bordeaux, which flopped with the 2002 vintage last year, is also eagerly anticipated when it goes on sale en primeur from May onwards. 2002 German riesling also looks a good bet.

Expect to hear lots about buying en primeur this year. The 2002 burgundies on offer this month (see next week's column) look distinctly promising. The 2003 Bordeaux, which flopped with the 2002 vintage last year, is also eagerly anticipated when it goes on sale en primeur from May onwards. 2002 German riesling also looks a good bet.

Primeur simply means primary, or in its first flush of youth, hence beaujolais primeur. You don't buy beaujolais for laying down, but you do bordeaux, burgundy and all classic wines that need time in the bottle before they come into their own. So buying en primeur means the wine is still maturing in cask before bottling. It works like this: you pay your wine merchant cash upfront with a final instalment once the wine has been bottled and shipped.

What's the deal? In a really good vintage, buying en primeur rewards you with a discount for the risk you've taken in buying early. The 2000 Bordeaux vintage was a case in point, with prices of first growth châteaux such as Lafite and Margaux already double their opening prices in two years. It also assures your allocation of the wine you want where quantities are limited.

Shop around by getting in as many wine merchant's offers as time will allow. Get independent views on the offers from newspaper articles and wine magazine websites. Remember, caveat emptor: all views are based on samples at this stage, so there's always a chance the finished wines may not match expectations.

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