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General Wine
En Primeur Update: A Jonathan is Appalled
Thursday, 14th July, 2005  - Richard Farmer

A Jonathan Bennett has sent me an email commenting on a piece written back on 8th May headlined One for the Brave Investor. Mr Bennett says:


Dear Mr. Farmer,

I have recently been searching for information on the wine producer, Robertson and de Bilde wines using Google, and have come across your review on the newly established group. And in short, I must say I am appalled.

Having a broad wine background, and knowing, as well as you do, the details on their "Max V" Clare Valley Blend, I find it simply and utterly rude for you to judge them this way. For example, you mention within your review that the RdB website makes no mention of Mr. Simon Gilbert's past venture. Why would a producer valuing the expertise of this Winemaker make mention of a previous ill-fated venture?

Your article immediately dismisses the producer's wine, through your comment "At Glug we will be giving it a miss". How is it that you make a judgment on the quality of the company and wine through past observations and knowledge? It is not my business to know the motives behind the production of this wine, nor is it appropriate to publicly speculate. My knowledge of this company is as extensive as your own, and really, how can an opinion be generated without a tasting?

I respect the fact that we are entitled to our own views. However, your scaving review is one of the reasons small producers find it difficult to compete in the oligopoly-style wine industry.

I certainly hope money is not the mechanism for receiving a good report.

I'm sure you understand my basis for this complaint.

Regards,

Jonathan Bennett


Glug readers can make their own judgment. The original piece can be reached by clicking One for the Brave Investor.

For anyone attracted to the idea of buying wines en primeur the following advice from Jim Budd's drinks investment site (Investdrinks.org) is worth pondering.

"Offers of cult Australian or Californian wines should be viewed with suspicion. They are highly speculative as these newcomers have no track record. Wine is subject to fashion - in the 1960s some brands of Liebfraumilch sold for more than Bordeaux classed growths - and cult wines are more likely to be subject to fickle fashion than most. Don't get involved in investing in Australian or Californian wines unless you are really confident that you know what you are doing."

Jim Budd also has what he calls a "general health warning" when it comes to en primeur:

En primeur - a general health warning

Bordeaux starts to offer its top wines just a few months after the alcoholic fermentation has finished. When the world comes to Bordeaux at the end of March beginning of April to taste the latest vintage the wines are barely formed. This is particularly true with late vintages such as 2004. Despite the confident assessments from wine merchants they will not have tasted the finished wine. The final blend will not have been made. Often the different grape varieties will being aged separately and will not be blended for another year or so. The samples tasted are an approximation of what the final wine will be like. Given the amount of money and the status involved, the temptation to make a sample from the best barrels that will get high marks from merchants and journalists must be considerable. As far as investdrinks is aware there are no controls over the samples by any body such as the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. It's all down to good faith. Furthermore at this stage there is little sulphur to protect the wine and the samples are very fragile - there can be wide differences between samples taken from the same barrels.

You might wonder why then the rush to taste and offer the wines for sale? After all the Burgundians, with the exception of the Hospices de Beaune charity auction that occurs very soon after the vintage, do not offer their wines en primeur until some 14/15 months after the vintage. The 2004s will be first offered for sale in January 2006 when the wines are easier to judge. The blunt answer is cash flow. The en primeur system is a wonderful cash cow for the Bordeaux châteaux, the Bordeaux merchants and wine merchants around the world. Providing the public buys, en primeur provides all three with a rapid injection of cash. Don't imagine that your wine merchant will have to pay the Bordaux négociant as rapidly as you have to pay them. Normally they have several months in which to pay the Bordelais and, in 2004 with the current situation, terms are likely to be particularly easy.

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