When you think of investing in wine, you might imagine bidding on a bottle at auction or heading to a wine shop to look at whatever is on the shelf. But did you know that some of the most investment-worthy wines are sold before they’ve even been bottled? Wine futures (specifically, Bordeaux wine futures) are highly sought-after because they’re one of the best ways to secure your investments long before a wine sells out on the wider market. This is also one of the most cost-effective ways to invest in blue-chip Bordeaux.
In this guide to Bordeaux wine futures, you’ll learn why futures are so beneficial as well as how to invest in the best wine futures on the market today. Familiarizing yourself with Bordeaux futures could help you break into the world of fine wine investments and diversify your portfolio.
What Are Wine Futures and How Do They Benefit Investors?
A wine future is the sale of a wine before it’s been bottled. Wine futures usually go on sale while the wine is still aging in the barrel. After you buy a wine future, you’re promised a certain number of bottles or cases from the winery. When the wine is eventually bottled, the winery will ship what you ordered to the retailer you purchased the futures from. Futures are essentially pre-orders.
Bordeaux wine futures are typically called “en primeur” wines, and they play a major role in the fine wine market. During en primeur week in Bordeaux, which happens every spring (in April), professional critics are invited to taste wine directly from the barrel and assess its quality. This rating can influence the price of the wine futures, but so can overall market trends and other factors. Generally speaking, if the wine is especially high-quality and rare, then the price may be proportionately high as well. Most of the top Bordeaux estates announce their futures prices for the latest vintage in June, about two months after en primeur week is over.
Bordeaux wine producers, especially the top-rated ones, sell the majority of their wine as futures. Each year, top wine producers in Bordeaux will release anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of their wine as futures. For example, if a producer makes 35,000 cases of wine this year, then between 28,000 to 31,500 of those cases will be sold long before the wine is bottled.
This is one reason why investors should strongly consider buying Bordeaux wine futures. Investors who don’t buy futures will only have access to about 10 to 20 percent of the remaining wine from any given vintage. Moreover, some of this wine may continue to be held by the estate to sell directly to investors at a later date (a process called selling wine “ex-château”). In other words, it can be difficult to get your hands on the latest Bordeaux vintages unless you buy wine futures in advance.
Another benefit of Bordeaux wine futures is that they’re typically more cost-effective than buying the wine after it’s bottled and released. For example, futures of 2020 Château Mouton Rothschild went on sale for $625 per bottle, however as a likely 100-point wine, its value is expected to increase as it approaches its ideal drinking window. It isn’t uncommon to see a wine gain in value when it’s finally released on the market. Investors who buy wine futures early typically pay the least, on average, for their wine compared to those who wait. This in turn increases the likelihood that an investor will see a higher return on investment, as the wine may continue to increase in value over the next eight to ten years.
However, to make the most of Bordeaux wine futures, you need to know how to find futures worth investing in and what to expect when you place your first order.
How to Invest in Bordeaux Wine Futures
The best way to buy Bordeaux wine futures is through a trusted retailer that offers the latest vintages from top blue-chip producers. Retailers usually offer two different types of “pre-order” investments: true wine futures and pre-arrivals. Wine futures are vintages that haven’t been bottled yet, whereas pre-arrivals are wines that have been bottled but have not yet been shipped by the winery. With a wine future, you may not physically see your wine until a few years after purchasing it. By contrast, a pre-arrival could be shipped within six months to a year, though sometimes the process is longer. While pre-arrivals are often shipped sooner, they’re also typically more expensive than wine futures, so investors tend to prefer futures over pre-arrivals.
Here’s what timeline to expect if you invest in Bordeaux wine futures:
|Late April||May-June||June-July||At Least Two Years after Harvest|
|The grapes are harvested and the wine is made.||The wine is aged in barrels.||En primeur week, where a very small portion of the wine is sampled from the barrel.||Producers announce ex-négociant futures prices (ex-négociant prices are what importers and retailers pay for the wine — essentially the wholesale trade price).||Retailers and importers begin selling futures to investors. You decide how many bottles or cases you want to purchase. Then you buy the wine through the retailer’s website.||Wine is bottled and shipped out. Each estate has their own aging and bottling process, which can take as long as three years.|
Meanwhile, the wine continues to age in oak barrels after you purchase your futures. Most wines are aged for a minimum of one year, and some for as long as three years. This means a vintage may not ship to investors until a few years after it was harvested. For example, although the 2018 Bordeaux vintage was grown and harvested in 2018, wines from some top estates didn’t begin to ship until 2021 or 2022. You can expect to wait at least two years before your wine will ship.
If you decide to invest in Bordeaux wine futures, there are only a few dates of the year to mark on your calendar:
- En primeur week in late April and early May: Tasting notes for the latest vintages are published around this time and will give you a sense of how the latest vintage is faring quality-wise.
- Shipments in late spring: Many retailers start shipping past futures orders in the spring, though this varies from year to year. The retailer will inform you when your wine is ready to ship.
- Sales in early May through June: This is when retailers sell futures of the latest vintage online.
Late spring in general is the best time for investors to pay close attention to Bordeaux wine futures. Nearly everything relevant to investors happens at this time of the year.
The actual purchasing process varies by retailer. In general, you will place an order just as you would for any other online wine purchase. You’ll select how many bottles or cases of wine you want, pay the cost in advance, and the retailer will keep track of your order until the wine is ready to ship. Some sought-after wines from highly-rated vintages can sell out quickly, just as they do on the general market, so it’s important to secure your investments as early as you can (ideally within the first week the wine futures are available).
Where to Find the Latest Bordeaux Futures
Not all retailers offer Bordeaux wine futures. It can take time for retailers to establish a relationship with the top estates in Bordeaux and to secure enough wine for their clients every year. This is why it’s important to work with a retailer that has a long history of selling wine futures. It can be a time-consuming and complex process, so you should rest easy knowing your investments are secure, especially if it takes two years or more for the wine to ship.
You should also work with retailers that offer futures from the top producers in Bordeaux, as these are the wines that are most likely to gain in value over time and help you see a return on your investment. Here are a few essential producers you should consider buying futures from if you get the opportunity:
Another benefit of working with an experienced retailer is that the retailer may offer professional storage services for your wine. This is particularly useful for investors who don’t plan on drinking the wine themselves and are investing purely for financial reasons. For example, many of Vinfolio’s investors buy the latest Bordeaux futures and then have the wine shipped directly to Vinfolio’s storage facility in the UK when the wine is eventually bottled. Investors can avoid import taxes this way, and this also preserves the wine’s provenance (the unbroken chain of ownership from the winery to the professional storage facility). Since the wine never leaves storage, it will be more appealing to prospective buyers in the future and may be of higher value. Then, eight to ten years later, Vinfolio’s experts can put the wine on the market for the investor. You never have to handle the wine yourself.
With secure online purchases, professional storage options, and investment experts by your side, it’s never been easier to invest in Bordeaux wine futures. This spring may be the best time to dive into the world of wine futures and start a diverse portfolio of the finest wines in the world.
You can find the latest Bordeaux wine futures for sale on the Vinfolio marketplace. For more information on the latest vintages, be sure to follow our blog as well.