A group of wine collectors were talking about the best wine deal they missed out on, and why they wished they would have made a better choice. One of the collectors recalled a now-legendary release of Aldo Conterno Barolo in 2012, shortly after Conterno’s death. Some of the top wine retailers in the world offered special pre-arrival deals on bottles of 2000 and 2001 Granbussia as a tribute to Conterno, selling them at just $85 and $100 per bottle, respectively. These were bottles that ordinarily sold for at least $180 each, so collectors who invested in the pre-arrival deal saved anywhere from $960 to $1,200 per case. Those same bottles of Granbussia are now worth as much as $300 on the secondary market; collectors who were too afraid to buy pre-arrivals ended up paying much more for the wine months later.
Buying wine before it’s been released on the market is a great way to get the best deals on bottles, but only if you understand the differences between pre-arrival wines and wine futures. You need to follow different rules for each type of sale to avoid making a bad choice.
What Are Pre-Arrival Wines?
The main differences between pre-arrival wines and wine futures are that retailers sell pre-arrivals in bottles, and collectors usually receive their pre-arrivals years before they receive wine futures. When you buy a wine labeled “pre-arrival” from a retailer, it means that the retailer has a confirmed order on the bottles, and is simply waiting for the winery or distributor to ship the wine to them. These retailers don’t yet have the bottles in the warehouse, but they know exactly how many they’ll be receiving in the coming months, and what the quality is like. Some retailers get these confirmations the moment the wine moves from barrel to bottle, while others don’t get confirmation until after the bottles are ready to ship.
In an ideal pre-arrival sale, you’ll see an offer from a trusted wine retailer listing their price for pre-arrivals for a specific vintage. When you go through the ordering process, the retailer will tell you how many bottles they have available for purchase, along with an estimate for the wine’s arrival time (e.g. late September 2017). If a retailer doesn’t list an estimated arrival time, it’s best to avoid the purchase, no matter how great the deal claims to be. Next, you’ll order the number of bottles you want, and you’ll pay the retailer in full to put those bottles on-hold. Within a few months or, at most, two years, you’ll get an update from your retailer saying that the wine is on the way. Expect Bordeaux and Burgundy pre-arrivals to take longer to arrive than other wines, since French wineries sell pre-arrivals earlier than many other countries, and international shipping laws are complex.
What Are Wine Futures?
Unlike pre-arrivals, wine futures are sold before the wine’s even been bottled. At En Primeur week in Bordeaux, critics and distributors will sample wine directly from the barrel to give collectors information on the anticipated quality of the wine. From here, distributors and retailers can auction off pre-sales of the wine based on the number of bottles they think the winery will produce, and how they predict the wine will sell on the market. Since the wine’s quality can’t be confirmed, and it will be years before the wine moves from barrel to bottle, wine futures are inherently riskier than pre-arrivals.
However, collectors can also get better deals on wine futures than they can with pre-arrivals, depending on how the initial sale goes. In a perfect wine futures sale, you’ll pay close attention to the deals offered around En Primeur week in the spring, usually in early April every year. From there, you’ll pick out the wines that seem to win over most critics, and keep a close watch on the prices for those labels. When you find the lowest price from the most trusted retailer, you’ll pay for the wine up-front, then wait years for the wine to mature in the barrel, go through bottling, and then through distribution and shipping. Don’t be surprised if it takes as long as four years for your wine to arrive.
Which Option Is Best for Your Collection?
One of the main differences between pre-arrival wines and wine futures is that most beginning collectors find pre-arrival sales less confusing and easier to manage. The problem with wine futures is that, while prices are typically lower than they are with pre-arrivals, it also takes years for the wine to arrive, and in that time, it’s easy to forget about your investment entirely. Unless you’re prepared to email or call your retailer every three months for as long as four years, you shouldn’t invest in wine futures. And, if you choose to invest in pre-arrivals, you’ll also want to keep in touch with your retailer every three months, but you’ll only have to do so for less than a year in most cases.
Fraud is also a common problem with wine futures. Many collectors have invested in futures with companies they thought they could trust, only to have the wine never arrive. While you’re waiting, you have no wine and your money is sitting in your retailer’s pocket. That’s why you should always choose retailers like Vinfolio, who have pre-arrival guarantees. If something goes wrong with your wine before it arrives at the retailer’s warehouse, you’ll want to know that your retailer will work tirelessly to locate your wine and give you a full refund if they can’t supply it.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.