Journal

Discover en Primeurs at Haut-Bailly

It’s an event that punctuates springtime in all Bordeaux wineries. The sale of En primeurs wines in the region dates back several centuries and is still an essential concept for acquiring certain bottles today. Here’s a look back at a week of tastings for wine professionals and a crazy period of excitement at Haut-Bailly.

Les Primeurs on the Bordeaux marketplace

Initially, Bordeaux wine merchants went to the châteaux to evaluate the grapes “sur pied” (in the vineyard) a few months before the harvest. Professionals judged the quality of the grapes, then became responsible for maturing and bottling. Some even bet on the quality of a vintage simply by tasting the grapes!

The concept was modernized in the 20th century, as the role of the négociants was deemed too important by some winemakers. Some decided to manage the ageing and bottling of their wines entirely at the château.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Bordeaux wine market began to take on an international dimension. The practice of En primeurs sales enabled merchants, importers, and private individuals to buy wine from the estates almost two years before it became available in bottles. The profits made by the estates in this way can be reinvested to improve the precision of work in the vineyards, modernize the cellars and, ultimately, improve the quality of the wine.

Bordeaux wines in the spotlight at En Primeurs

The term “Primeurs” covers two distinct phases. The first is a tasting stage, what mondo vino calls “La semaine des Primeurs”. For ten days at the end of April, wine professionals flock to Bordeaux to taste the new vintage, which is still being aged. Ageing refers to the time between the end of maceration and bottling. The wines have not yet finished aging, and the taster’s main aim is to assess the wine’s potential. It’s a question of imagining what the wine will become when its barrel ageing is complete, and how it might evolve over time once bottled.

It is also during this crucial week that critics and journalists taste and rate vintages. Many critics and oenologists have made a name for themselves in this way, such as Robert Parker, who was the only one to consider the 1982 vintage to be an exceptional year.

After the tasting phase comes the second stage, that of selling. The estates set their prices and market their wines via what is known as the “Place de Bordeaux”. A network of wine merchants who market Bordeaux wines to customers (importers, restaurateurs, wine merchants, private individuals) all over the world. What’s the advantage of buying En primeurs? Being sure of finding the volumes they need at the best price.

Discover the characteristics of the Primeurs at Haut-Bailly and how this tradition remains a key event even today. Three questions for Daina Paulin, Head of Commercial and Public Relations – Château Haut-Bailly.

1. Can you tell us about the En Primeurs Haut-Bailly experience?

At Haut-Bailly, we always try our best to ensure a personalized experience for all our visitors. We hold that same standard for everyone despite the incredible number of visitors coming to Haut-Bailly for approximately a month for the En Primeurs period.

For many years now, we have made the decision to taste the wine uniquely at the property to guarantee their quality. It is a time of year when the wines are particularly fragile and after all the hard work of our team, it is important to ensure this crucial final step. You can see it as a celebration of all the efforts of our teams in the vineyard as well as in the cellar and we want to honor that work.

It is also a privileged moment with our clients. To answer their questions and to preserve a personal exchange, we adapt each visit to the questions and needs of each guest. For example, you know when someone just got off the plane and arrives at Haut-Bailly for his first En primeurs tasting, his questions aren’t the same as the journalist that has been in Bordeaux for a week already. So, we want to adapt the message, not only to the customer but also to where they are in their En primeurs tastings agenda.

For us at Haut-Bailly, it’s the time of year when the whole team comes together, that’s what makes it really special. Because the vineyard and the cellar team, they are really involved during this period too, it’s a celebration of their work. And the hospitality team, the cuisine, the commercial teams greeting our guests…everyone is working together side by side. In a lot of ways, the En primeurs is the most important time of year for the wines since it is the final step after creating the wines, so we make sure they are tasted in the best possible way.

2. How did the En Primeurs go at Haut-Bailly this year? What were the characteristics of this 2023 edition?

Finally, I think this year, En primeurs was back full force post-pandemic. The world was traveling again, and Asia was back: it’s the most visitors we have ever had for En Primeurs! There was an incredible energy during the whole month and an energy about this 2022 vintage, the wines were enjoyable. In a lot of ways, it was a really energetic En Primeurs season for us here at Haut-Bailly and in general.

Haut-Bailly is also well known for its cuisine and this year for the first time our own Chef, Maxime Pommier, created a beautiful buffet of delicious food for lunch. It allowed our guests to stay a bit longer, to enjoy a selection of special vintages as well. It was a way for us, to offer a more in-depth privileged Haut-Bailly experience.