Collectors’ Corner: buying Bordeaux 2023 Futures

Collectors’ Corner: buying Bordeaux 2023 Futures

by Westgarth Wines May 28, 2024

In the world of fine wine, Bordeaux Futures represent a unique and often lucrative opportunity for collectors to engage directly with the lifecycle of a wine, from its nascent stages in the barrel to its full maturity in the bottle.

The allure of Futures lies not only in the thrill of journeying with a wine as it evolves but also in the practical benefits of securing highly coveted bottles, often at what is presumed to be the lowest possible price.

Over the last three weeks, the Bordeaux 2023 Futures campaign has been underway, with some of the most notable releases including Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lafite Rothschild, and Château Haut-Brion.

We looked at the critics’ top picks from this heterogeneous vintage a few weeks back, so today we examine if Bordeaux 2023 En Primeur merits collectors’ attention.

Who are Futures for?

Futures, or ‘En Primeur’, allow collectors to purchase wines shortly after the vintage is made while the wines are still aging in the barrel. This system can be particularly attractive for those who enjoy the romance of accompanying a wine through its developmental stages.

On the more practical side, it offers an early stake in wines that may become scarce or significantly more expensive by the time they reach general release.

Generally, if a collector wants to buy and hold a wine in their cellar for 10+ years, then purchasing En Primeur should be considered – and this year’s releases have a lot to offer.

The 2023 Bordeaux Futures campaign

Aside from the quality of the vintage, this year’s campaign has attracted attention because of its fast-paced nature and the châteaux’ pricing strategy.

With average price cuts of 22% so far, the 2023 vintage is being released at levels similar to the 2021, though there is certainly divergence between the châteaux.  

The price variation reflects a broader sense of market recalibration, particularly following last year's average price increases (the 2022s were released approximately 21% higher than the 2021s).

One of the first wines to make its way onto the market, Château Léoville-Las Cases, was offered at a 40% discount on last year after much of the trade had called for price decreases in the context of the current macroeconomic environment. While this signaled a positive start to the campaign, some previous vintages are available around the same price point including the 2021 and even the ready-to-drink 2012.

To buy or not to buy?

The key question for collectors is whether to invest in Futures or to wait and possibly purchase the wine later, potentially at a lower price. Another option is to look at older vintages that are ready to drink. During this En Primeur campaign, we have seen demand for classic Bordeaux from 2009 and 2010 – vintages that can be enjoyed now and in the years to come.

The risk of buying En Primeur is that an overpriced wine at release could depreciate, though this is balanced by the opportunity to secure exceptional wines before they sell out or increase in value.

The decision often hinges on the specific circumstances of each vintage and its perceived quality.

Estates that have judiciously acknowledged market sentiments, and also produced ‘spellbinding’ wines are worth seeking out this year.

A selective approach to 2023

Indeed, given the variable nature of the 2023 prices and quality, a selective strategy is advisable.

For instance, the 2023 Cheval Blanc makes a smart buy, being the second-highest scoring Bordeaux wine among twelve leading critics and the most affordable among the château's top vintages.

The 2023 Cheval Blanc features a significant proportion of Cabernet Franc (46%) – a hallmark of some of Cheval Blanc's most acclaimed vintages such as 2000, 2005, 2009, and 2010, all of which have achieved perfect scores from major critics.

The importance of context

Understanding the broader context of a Futures campaign is crucial. Factors such as global economic conditions, changes in consumer preferences, and critical reception play substantial roles in shaping the potential success of the campaign.

For those considering 2023 Bordeaux Futures, the key decision is whether the wines are worth the wait, given the abundance of high-quality older vintages that are ready to drink.

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