Each spring, usually towards the end of April, the Châteaux put together their blends from the previous vintage. These wines are shown to the customers (‘brokers’) and the press and is sold as ‘futures’ via the En Primeur system. So, what can the happy investor expect from En Primeur 2022?
Prices are released a few weeks or months after, and the wines are released and sold in batches (called ‘tranches’), often at increasingly higher prices. Investors can make money on buying early wines which subsequently are positively received or over-subscribed. The wines are sold in the summer and will be bottled and released around twelve to eighteen months after that, although the allocations may be traded in between times.
Historically what was shown in April was just a representative wine and often subsequently changed. But today, almost all châteaux make their actual final wine blend before the Primeurs tastings so that journalists, investors and consumers can be confident of how good the wine is and, therefore what it will become on release.
However, the wines will alter as they will then age further in oak barrels, which will change them, reducing bitterness and tannin, adding flavours of spice and toast, and allowing oxygen to make the wines more integrated.
Tasting them at the early stage, just six months after the harvest, is a skill and an art. But it can be more representative than tasting the newly bottled releases which are usually simply dominated by oak flavours. The quality of any wine, after all, is determined by the fruit that it is made from.
Almost all châteaux follow a similar oak regime each vintage so that experienced tasters can know what to expect. Top producers use all-new oak for up to 18 months. Lesser red wines, and some whites, may get all previously used oak barrels, and for as little as six months. Most properties are somewhere between these two: some new oak for around 12 months. The Cellar Master may vary the precise duration of oak ageing according to how the wine tastes during its maturation, but the amount of new oak will have been decided by the time of the Primeur tastings.
Vintages do not have to be regarded as ‘great’ for particular wines to offer a good return on investment. Great vintages will often be released at very high prices, and then increase in value slowly, while lesser vintages will be cheaper at first, and the price growth may be more rapid.
You need to trust your broker, such as Vindome.net, to search out not just the really great wines but those that offer the best chance for a good return on investment.
The En Primeur 2022 Vintage
According to Hubert de Boüard, of Château Angélus, 2022 is an outstanding vintage:
“Every day, we taste wines from all the Bordeaux appellations, and our first impressions have been confirmed and affirmed. This vintage is unlike any I’ve vinified over the last forty years. This is a vintage that one rarely encounters in a lifetime as a winemaker. This will undoubtedly be a memorable vintage. Surprisingly similar to the great post-war summers, which produced exceptional vintages, 1945, 1947 or 1949.”
More recent vintages, which 2022 is likely to resemble, are 2015 and 2018. There will be great wines.
2022 was a hot vintage with a ripe and lush crop, very much the opposite of the cool and more difficult 2021. However, there were some similarities and the Spring of 2022 had some frost, and quite a lot of hail, both of which had the effect of reducing the size of the crop. The size of the crop is not an indicator of quality, however, and in fact, smaller yields usually lead to greater concentration. So, there will be less wine from 2022, but it will be good! The wines produced then had sunshine and warmth, including a heatwave in August. They ripened well and were harvested in perfect conditions, relatively early in September and October (and sometimes as early as August for the whites).
There is more detailed information about the 2022 harvest in Bordeaux, and elsewhere, here.
Pierre-Olivier Clouet of Château Cheval Blanc commented that the conditions of hot vintages are becoming much easier to adapt to with extra leaf cover, earlier picking, organic farming methods and planting trees and other crops around the vineyards.
Likely wine styles
The dry whites were picked in the heat of August and are likely to be rich and deep in consequence. They should offer excellent drinking in the short to medium term, but are not likely to benefit from significant time in the cellar after release.
The reds of Merlot in the ‘Right Bank’ (St Emilion and Pomerol) were picked in September, and the best will balance the richness of the warm vintage with a freshness from careful picking and selection. They will be generous and rich wines.
The Cabernet-based wines of the Médoc (‘Left Bank’) were largely picked during October when the heat had receded and there was even some much needed rain. They will be fresher and balanced, but still with deep black fruit flavours.
The sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are likely to be the best for several years. The late September rains perfectly encouraged the development of ‘noble rot’ to make for richness and depth. Lorenzo Pasquini of Château d’Yquem says he is incredibly excited about the En Primeur 2022 vintage at the estate.
For more information on the regions of Bordeaux, see this article.
Until the prices are released, it will be difficult to know much money is to be made from early En Primeur 2022 purchases. There remains quite a lot of stock of 2021 and some earlier vintages in Bordeaux, so there is a desire to move, which could keep prices attractive. Limited quantities often favour clever and early investors. At Vindome, we will keep you up to date with all the news as soon as we get it!
As we commented in this post, wine is one of the best collectables for a good return on investment in this financially challenging world.