I liked this thoughtful piece on Bordeaux primeurs by Oliver Styles, a Brit now resident in New Zealand.
I love Bordeaux as a region, but I have consistently avoided the primeurs. I just don’t think they work in the consumers’ interest. You get to taste barrel samples of very young wines. But there is no control over how these samples are prepared.
I taste in cellars all the time. One barrel is different from another. Sometimes the differences are marked. Barrel samples are a long way from finished wines, and so if I taste from barrel, I wouldn’t think about writing a detailed note and then putting a precise score on it.
The problem with primeurs is that (1) everyone is making too much of the cask samples they are trying; and (2) almost all the tastings are non-blind, so there is a strong anchoring effect, where existing knowledge of the various properties is affecting the perception and the scoring of the samples.
It’s all too cosy a system, though, for anyone to rock the boat. Those critics who trade in primeur sample tasting notes all battle to get their scores out as early as possible, and value the cooperation of the top Chateaux, who in turn reward the loyal primeur supporters with access.
Bordeaux is a great wine region. There is a lot of great wine being made here that’s outside the inner-circle of the 1855 classified Medoc Chateaux. But there’s a concentration of power that makes life difficult for those outside the system to break in. With the sort of money flying around Bordeaux at the moment, there are a lot of vested interests. Who among the journalist fraternity has the courage to step outside the comfortable inner circle?