wine-searcher

Wine Name:
Vintage:

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Berry Bros 1 Robert Parker 1


Press release today from Berry Bros & Rudd

Parker agrees with Berrys on Bordeaux 2009

28th April 2010Robert Parker’s verdict on Bordeaux 2009 has been revealed in The Wine Advocate today and his findings are unprecedentedly similar to those of Berry Bros. & Rudd.

 “2009 is not as consistent as 2005, but the peaks of quality in 2009 may turn out to be historic,” Parker says, adding: “2009 is the greatest in the Médoc and Graves, where it can often eclipse 2005 and 2000.”

 Berrys’ Sales Director, Simon Staples, says he was pleased Parker’s top scores were awarded to some of Berrys’ favourite châteaux including Pontet-Canet, Haut Bailly and Leoville-Poyferre.

“I am delighted Robert Parker has seen the light and agrees with us,” he says, adding his thoughts on the likely resulting high prices: “There have never been so many high scores before and this will only add fuel to the fire on the pricing of the 09s. Sanity is unlikely to prevail on the big brand wines and the top 50 will wait to release after Vinexpo (25th- 27thth May), but there are great wines to be had between now and then and the prices should be reasonable.”

But Berrys warns buyers should be extra vigilant when deciding who they buy their wine futures from.

 Simon adds: “Be careful who you are buying from, high scores and high prices only encourage more skulduggery in the wine world.”

“We have heard horror stories of people selling 2009 Lafite already. People’s desire to buy 2009 might well cause an error of judgement. If you have any doubt at all check out the WSTA’s guide to the en primeur market. I heard only this week that more than 50 companies* have set up this year and are selling wine fraudulently or in excess of market price.”
 
Independent consumer guides to buying en primeur can be found at: http://www.wsta.co.uk/Guide-to-the-en-primeur-wine-market.html and http://www.investdrinks.org/

***

'more than 50 companies* have set up this year and are selling wine fraudulently or in excess of market price.'
Simon may be right here about 50 companies being set up this year. Certainly there are nearly 50 companies that when asked I recommend people should avoid – 'woodchip rather than blue chip'! It is definitely true that there are a considerable number of new entrants into wine investment, some making wild claims about their experience and expertise but 50 this year may be an over-estimate. 

Monday, 26 April 2010

The Premier Wine Company

The enquiry from BR (received 23rd April 2010)

‘I wonder if you could tell me if you know anything about the Premier Wine Company? My cousin has been badgered by a James Wood at this firm urging him to invest in some 1st growth wines from Bordeaux. He has been told they will make some very healthy returns in the next 2 years. I have attached the paperwork they are asking him to sign.

The company claim they do not charge any commission apart from 10% they levy on any profit made from the sale of the wines.

Having looked at the individual case price of the wines attached, they appear very much over priced.

They also claim to have been trading wines for over 10 years.’

The suggested wines

1 X Case (12 Bottles) Mouton Rothschild 2000                  £12,540.00
1 x Case (12 Bottles)  Lafite Rothschild 2005                     £15,345.00

1 x Case (12 Bottles)  Mouton Rothschild 2008                    £5,527.00

Sub Total: £33,412.00                                              Total: £33,412.00


My response
The Premier Wine Company is the trading name of C F One Investments Ltd with a registered office at Mortimer House, 40 Chatsworth Parade, Petts Wood, Kent BR5 1DE. The company was incorporated on 28th January 2005 and the last accounts filed up to 31st January 2009 with Companies House are for a dormant company. The company voted to change its name on 14th April 2010. 
 
The Premier Wine Company gives its trading address as 88 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1PL. However, a recent job advert suggests that the company may be based in Bromley:

The Premier Wine Company
OPENERS / BROKERS

REQUIRED
Bromley Area

We are looking for experienced people to join our team of brokers.
Must be ambitious and driven and have a good telephone manner.
Excellent pay package and incentives.
Please send CV with any further info to:
Michael Morrison
jobs@thepremierwinecompany.com

(http://www.fish4.co.uk/jobs/advert?parentId=1227866572&industrySectors=15&chk=109c23b62e50c08883150c9c3947e883&adId=26299697&pagetype=searchresults&offset=7&maxResults=3329)

BR is correct in thinking that it is possible to buy these wines for considerably less than the prices quoted by The Premier Wine Company. www.wine-searcher.com shows that:   

Albany Vintners has the 2000 Mouton Rothschild for £7600
Roberson Trading has the 2005 Lafite for £9500
Bibendum Wine has the 2008 Mouton-Rothschild for £3200

Total: £20,300. Difference between these three companies and The Premier Wine Company: £13,112

I emailed The Premier Wine Company asking the prices for the three wine quoted and received the following reply from Leigh Cramer:

Dear Mr Budd,

Thank you very much for your email. I am not in the office right now, so I am unable to elucidate what the prices are concerning the fine wines you have requested.

As an overview, our prices vary depending on the source of the product, the availability and the usual market pricing indexes - which I am sure you are aware of. There is quite a large fluctuation and variation in prices as at times we are quite far down the supply chain (hence higher prices) and other times we are near to the source or we own the product ourselves (hence lower prices). We cannot publish a set price list as do Bordeaux Index for instance. When we are selling on behalf of a client, they set the price and we advise the saleability and facilitate the sale - if possible - and gain a 10% broker fee.

We are in the process of purchasing a very large consignment of vintage wines. We will be wholesaling them to suppliers as well as selling them directly. This will have a major benefit to the market place and will help to keep some of the wines in Europe as opposed to sending everything to Asia!

Having read some of your blogs for the first time today, I would like to wholeheartedly support your contribution to the integrity of the wine industry. It is a shame that a minority spoil it for others by bringing the market into disrepute. Please feel free to contact me at any time.

Kind regards,

Leigh Cramer


The Premier Wine Company
88 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1PL
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 6868
Mob: +44 (0) 7740 256 148


I replied to Leigh Cramer asking him to send me the prices for the wines when he ws next in the office.

My advice
Given the difference in price (£13,112) it makes no sense to buy from The Premier Wine Company. The claim to have been trading in wine for 10 years looks unlikely as the company was founded in 2005 and was dormant at least until the beginning of 2009. 

Warning from Bordeaux Index

Bordeaux Index issues warning over Chinese Bordeaux 2009 frauds

Press Release: London, 26th April 2010Top London wine merchants Bordeaux issue first warning of illicit trade in unreleased vintage.
 
The quality of the Bordeaux 2009 vintage currently has the world of fine wine in a state of high excitement, with many experts declaring it the ‘vintage of the century.’
 
However, top wine merchants Bordeaux Index (http://www.bordeauxindex.com) today issued a word of warning, revealing for the first time that private clients have already been persuaded to order and pay for 2009 Bordeaux wines that have not even been released yet – from rogue traders based in the Mainland.
 
Such is the quality of the 2009 Bordeaux, many seasoned fine wine buyers – and growing numbers of investors new to fine wine – are expected to buy the vintage ‘en primeur’ (whilst it is still in the barrel). This maximises the potential return on investment, which according to Bordeaux Index could be as much as 20 percent within one year.
 
The vast majority of en primeur Bordeaux 2009 is yet to be released, and no wines of any significant merit have yet hit the market. With this in mind, Bordeaux Index Sales Director Sam Gleave was very surprised to learn that trade in certain high-profile fine wines was already booming – despite those wines not yet being released.
 
“We’ve long had concerns that a vintage like the 2009 Bordeaux could result in fraudulent futures trading,” says Gleave. “We urge buyers interested in the 2009 Bordeaux to deal exclusively with reputable merchants ONLY. Anyone offering top 2009 Bordeaux today is a fraud.”
 

 The wine most likely to be offered will be 2009 Lafite. I understand from Sam Gleave that just as in the UK people are in China are being offered 2009 Lafite well before the price has been released. The danger is that the companies doing this have no chance of securing any 2009 Lafite, will pocket the cash and will have disappeared by the time the 2009s are due to be delivered. 


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Capital Vintners Ltd – 'brokerage service for many years' while dormant?!


'About Us

Capital Vintners has provided personal and private fine wine brokerage service for many years, establishing a porfolio of wines with excellent performance and generating substantial returns and significant value for its client base. The success of these portfolios together with a general lack of easy access to ethical and transparent brokerage services in fine wine has led Capital Vintners to open up its brokerage services to the general public.

Capital Vintners offers a range of brokerage services for your fine wine portfolio, including purchasing, portfolio management, managed cellars, purchase and sales of stocks.

Registered in the UK
Company registration: 05496760'

Company history from UK Companies House
Incorporated: 1.7.2005
Series of accounts for dormant company filed. Latest filed on 22.8.2008 for dormant company taking accounts up to 31.7.08.
First accounts for active company filed on 15.4.2010 for accounts to 31.7.2009 (total exemption small)

Company address:
1 Liverpool Street, London EC2M 7QD
Regus serviced office:  http://www.regus.co.uk/locations/GB/London/LondonLiverpoolStreet.htm

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Making a complaint to the police

I received this message on Thursday from FG who invested some £20,000 with Finbow.

'I went home last night, I rang my local police who were extremely disinterested to say the least and told me that if a company has gone bankrupt, it’s nothing to do with the police. I also rang Clare Bracher and left a message, and I rang the Trading Standards number and spoke to a lady who said there was no record of any other complaints regarding Finbow. She took all the details from me, but basically just told me to contact my solicitor.
 
I intend to ring Scotland Yard later today when I can access a phone with some degree of privacy. However, all the other people writing on the blog seem to have been a lot more successful with their complaints than I have been – so where am I going wrong????'

*


Although it is disappointing that FG's local police were 'extemely disinterested' it is perhaps not surprising as they may well not have had any complaints about Finbow Wines Ltd before. The fraud alert advises you to contact your local police but it may well be worth contacting the police where company you are filing a complaint about has its registered office and its trading address. In many cases this is likely to be either the Metropolitan Police or the City of London Police. 


Fortunately FG did later contact the Met he was put through to a policeman who knew about the investigation and so when FG goes back to his local police station to file a complaint they will be more up to speed.

It is crucial not only for people who think they have been victims of a scam to be able to make a complaint to the police and get proper attention but for the police too so that they are aware of the scale of the problem. Unless reports are collated the police will not be sure whether there is the odd isolated incident or that there is a widespread problem. Clearly, however, from comments that have been made by David Cross about Operation Iceman the Met are aware that this is a subtstantial problem. 

Given that companies like Nouveau World Wines and Elite Wine Portfolios are likely to have had clients in various parts of the country it would surely make sense if there was central website where complaints could be filed. 

Friday, 16 April 2010

Jancis Robinson MW: Bordeaux 2009 - don't part with a penny!

Excellent warning from Jancis not to part with any money for 2009 Bordeaux en primeur before prices have been released and allocations secured. 

'16 Apr 2010 by Jancis Robinson
Shocking tales are emerging of opportunistic entrepreneurs trying to persuade inexperienced wine buyers to invest in 2009 Bordeaux before any serious prices have even been released - let alone any allocations made. It is a familiar and justifiable practice among well-established primeur merchants such as the UK specialists we list here to ask their customers to submit wish lists. But because there has been such hullabulloo about the 2009s, even in the mainstream media, some lurkers on the periphery of the wine trade have been tempted to try to part innocent investors from their money even at this early stage. They are being...'
to read the rest you will have to subscribe to Janicis' Purple Pages

*

Another dubious claim: invest in 2009 petit châteaux Bordeaux!

The Telegraph ran a piece on wine investment yesterday, which concluded thus:

'Simon Staples, sales director at wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, said wine started to catch on as an investment in 1996, a top year in Bordeaux, but really took off from 2003. 

During the financial crisis, investor interest continued to rise because wine, like gold, is a tangible asset. Prices dipped after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 but picked up again from the middle of last year as confidence returned to the City. Prices of top Bordeaux at Berry Bros are also being driven by huge Chinese demand.

"China has a new thirst for the top 20 brands from Bordeaux," Mr Staples said. "Lafite is going up 15pc or 20pc a month in just about every vintage."


Start your investment with a 2009 Bordeaux from Telegraph Wines'

If you click on Telegraph Wines you go to an offer of 2009 petit châteaux
from Averys of Bristol (owned by the UK's largest wine mail order company. These wines may prove to be an investment in pleasure but they will certainly not be a financial investment. Misleading and irresponsible both by the Telegraph and Avery's of Bristol particularly given that the ad came immediately after an article trumpeting the financial returns possible from top Bordeaux.     



Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Bordeaux Wine Company: Anthony Grant responds

This is a response I have received today from Anthony Grant of the Bordeaux Wine Company. As it is a lengthy response I have decided to put it in a separate linked post. 

Hi Jim,

I am writing to you to for 3 reasons, firstly, to let you know that your site is being used and manipulated by a disgruntled former employee of BWC who I will not name for various reasons.

The enquiry and posts you have received have not come from a client or potential client, all been written by the same person as a way to discredit BWC and myself due to his dismissal.

After the enquiry, you posted what you knew about BWC, our trading history and the partners, most of which was fairly accurate.

I don’t wish to go into the ins and outs of mine and my investor’s (Frederick Achom) past history, we feel that is in the past and the best we can do is try and be as open, honest and as transparent in our business dealings as possible.

Secondly, I am was not sure if you were implying that at Boington & Fredericks wines were deliberately not purchased for clients but I wanted to address that subject if that was the case.

Boington & Fredericks was never accused by the DTI or anyone else of failing to purchase wines for our clients. All wines up until the company ceased trading were purchased or ordered and placed under client accounts.

I would like to make it clear that wines were purchased for clients mid way through the following month once all funds from the  previous months trading had been received. So when the company was halted from trading in November of 2001 it was unable to fulfil clients orders for October. The company was consequently wound up by the courts in January 2002, 3 months after ceasing trading.

The main reason for the court’s decision was that clients were being misled and the wines being offered by B&F had almost no chance of making a profit for the client as suggested by the company, not that wines were not being purchased on the clients behalf.

Today a simple wine searcher search will show you that some of the wines purchased from B&F have gone on to achieve good profits for the clients; one example being the Lafite 1996, sold for £4,300 and now commanding prices in excess of £10,150, a return of approximately 136%.

Now, a very simple argument which you have posed in the past is that the client can of course purchase the wines cheaper elsewhere. Now the same thing can be said for almost any product in any industry, and in the wine industry it can be said for almost any wine purchased from any well known merchant, this i am sure you know. You only have to look at wine searcher and there will be a spread of different prices with Berry’s usually being the most expensive!

All that said, we certainly recognise that the business model of B&F was flawed, front end loaded and geared towards a profitable company, with the client waiting longer to see profits. We have steered well away from the high mark ups we used 10 years ago.

Thirdly, BWC has been in operation for 8 years now and has to date never had a client claim we did not purchase their wines or anything remotely suggesting that they have been misled.

I am aware over the years you have spoken with some of our clients and our warehouse operators and have been satisfied that where the wine is concerned all was in order  and wines existed!

Those clients that were uneasy about being under an umbrella account were assisted in opening their own accounts at a warehouse of their choice.

Our aim at BWC is always to offer the best possible service and price for the clients and we are continually striving to do so. As we grow in the industry and make further in-roads with overseas suppliers and some larger UK suppliers therefore allowing us reduce our prices in an effort to be more competitive. Our brokerage fee was reduced from 25% to 15% two years ago and our mark up is approximately 25% at the moment.

We have always stated in our promotional literature that our prices are determined by source of purchase, competitor pricing and of course demand.

Anyone investing in wine is almost always in a loss making position initially and we offer a service that is no different but the length of time it takes to see a return is of course important and slightly longer with us because we don’t have the buying power of other larger merchants who can command lower wholesale purchase prices etc.

Our clients are provided with all of this information in a deliberate effort to be more transparent. We want our clients to be happy with our business model and on entering into an agreement with us understand that our fees are designed to align the interests of both the client and the company.

Please find below a list of wines we have sold over the last 8 years and the returns that have been achieved by our clients and also attached are testimonials received from our clients over the last 12 months.
(Unfortunately I’m unable to paste in the tables supplied. I assume that they would be available from The Bordeaux Wine Company.)

The past aside, we have been as open and as honest as possible from day one, at BWC and intend to continue until we areas competitive as any other merchants.

Over the years you have not hidden your scepticism for the wine investment market so I don’t expect you to start recommending us or the industry anytime soon but if you have any questions or queries that you want answered in the future, please feel free to contact me directly or my office and we will try and help if we can.

I hope this sets the record straight for you and all those that follow your site.

Many Thanks

B A Grant

NB. BWC has been offering en primeur wines since the 2003 campaign and to date all wines have been purchased and received and if not yet received we are awaiting receipt due to back log from our suppliers, all evidence of purchases are available at our offices.

We will be offering 2009’s Bordeaux once we have an allocation and look forward to a fruitful campaign.

  
*

'Those clients that were uneasy about being under an umbrella account were assisted in opening their own accounts at a warehouse of their choice.'

I'm pleased to see that the Bordeaux Wine Company assists their clients to set up their own accounts with bonded warehouses. My advice is that all private clients holding stock with all wine merchants, including the Bordeaux Wine Company, should have their own storage account if they hold more than the odd case of wine or if the wine is particularly valuable. 



Met Police Fraud Alert site

The Metropolitan Police has a Fraud Alert site that highlights their Sterling initiative:

'Sterling is the Metropolitan Police initiative to tackle Economic Crime throughout London. By working together with individuals and organisations, from all levels of the private and public sectors, Sterling aims to make London safer from all types of Economic Crime. Innovative new techniques are being developed to prevent, disrupt, and prosecute fraud related offences.'



Also on the site is a recent advice about high yield investments:

'The MPS would give the following advice to anyone offered high yield investment opportunities in products that are not tangible:

Beware anyone cold calling offering investment opportunities

Before deciding to invest in a particular product check with an established company or other suitably qualified person for advice. (For example if you are investing in wine contact a reputable wine merchant.)

Be prepared to make extensive enquiries into the source of the product to establish its credibility as an investment.

If a high return is promised it should be viewed with suspicion particularly in the current economic climate.

If the investment is one where the product will be kept for you either elsewhere in the world or in the UK you should always be able to request to see the product at any time.

If it sounds to good to be true it probably is.'

http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/news/high_yield_advice.htm


*
Interesting that they highlight wine contracts.

Ties in with the advice given at the time of the further Nouveau World Wine arrests:

Detective Chief Inspector Robin Cross, head of the Fraud Squad, said: "This kind of investment fraud is becoming far too common. People from all economic backgrounds are being targeted and persuaded to invest in what appears to be a sound financial opportunity.

"We would advise those considering investing money, whether it be a small or large amount, to do their research and be sure that the companies or individuals they are dealing with are reputable and legitimate."
 

Cold calls offering 2009 Lafite@£3995


Several companies are already offering First Growth Bordeaux 2009s, although it is unlikely that prices will be released before the end of May at the earliest. I have been contacted by several people cold called with offers on Lafite 2009.

In the most recent the cold call was to DD on their mobile offering Lafite 2009 at £3995. The caller said that they were just back from Bordeaux and that the 2009 vintage is fantastic and a great wine investment opportunity. Although the caller mentioned the company’s name, DD couldn’t be absolutely sure afterwards what it was.

The company had worked with Bordeaux – it wasn’t clear whether the caller meant the châteaux or the négoce – helping them to manage the cash flow. This was why they had been given a priority allocation of Lafite and could offer it at £3995 a case.
 
DD told me that he thought it very odd that they were only offering one wine and so early in the en primeur campaign. At the end of the spiel DD asked some questions that the caller couldn’t really answer. “The spiel was cracking up, so I told him I wasn’t interested,” DD told me.    

A senior broker for one of the UK’s most respected merchants said “Whoever is offering Lafite now at that price is a charlatan and should be locked up. This campaign is going to be bloody and stressful. Allocations will be tight and we will allocate the best wines to our best customers. They look after us, so we look after them. No Tom, Dick or Harry can phone up and expect to buy a case of 2009 Lafite. This is standard practice across the trade.”   

Monday, 12 April 2010

2009 Bordeaux en primeur – some sources of information

The big en primeur tasting week is now well over and journalists and buyers are now posting their impressions of the 2009 vintage on various sites. Here is a small selection:

Journalists:

Jancis Robinson MW`
http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a20100408.html

Decanter
Bordeaux 2009 - Scores, tasting notes, news and views - En Primeur coverage on decanter.com

http://www.connectionstowine.com/bordeaux-2009/bordeaux-2009-complete-tasting-notes/

Guardian video with scenes from the en primeur tastings
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/video/2010/apr/07/bordeaux-2009-wine-france

Jane MacQuitty: A crimson classic: Bordeaux vintage is everything we heard on the grapevine



*
Companies:

Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry's Bordeaux blog: http://bbrblog.com/category/berrys-in-bordeaux/

Bordeaux Index
http://www.bordeauxindex.com/primeur.php

Corney & Barrow blog
http://www.candbscene.co.uk/bordeaux/bordeaux-2009-day-1

Farr Vintners
Includes blog by well respected Bordeaux expert – Michael Schuster.











Friday, 9 April 2010

Two more arrests in investment fraud investigation

Press release from Metropolitan Police (London) Latest from New Scotland Yard at 14.36 on Friday 9th April
'A further two people have been arrested in connection with an alleged £3million wine investment fraud.

Officers from the MPS Fraud Squad carried out raids at two business premises in east London last month, 4 March, and arrested six people on suspicion of money laundering.

Since then, a [G] 40-year old woman attended a central London police station on the 16 March and a [H] 53-year-old man attended a central London police station on the 29 March. Both were arrested on suspicion of money laundering and have been bailed to return in October.

The eight arrests, part of Operation Iceman, followed searches at two business premises and a number of residential addresses in the Docklands area and in Sidcup and Bexley.

Police believe that victims of the alleged fraud were persuaded to invest large amounts of money in specialist wines from Australia that did not actually exist. Those targeted were told that Australian wines can be 'laid down' and increase in value with age and that this scheme was a solid investment to put their savings into.

The six arrested on the 4 March were: Two women aged [A] 28 and [B] 32 and four men aged [C] 40, [D] 65, [E] 30 and [F] 34. They were arrested on suspicion of money laundering offences, and were taken to an east London police station.

They were later bailed to return pending further inquiries. They are next due in October.

The investigation remains active and inquiries continue.

Detective Chief Inspector Robin Cross, head of the Fraud Squad, said: "This kind of investment fraud is becoming far too common. People from all economic backgrounds are being targeted and persuaded to invest in what appears to be a sound financial opportunity.

"We would advise those considering investing money, whether it be a small or large amount, to do their research and be sure that the companies or individuals they are dealing with are reputable and legitimate."

For further advice please visit the MPS Fraud Alert website at: http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/'

investdrinks understands that this investigation is also looking at Finbow Fine Wines Ltd and up to 20 drinks investment companies.

Eighteen55 Clarets Ltd offer 2009 Lafite already


Eighteen55 Clarets Ltd: premises in Forest Hill, London SE23

The Enquiry
I received this enquiry from DC about buying 2009 Lafite yesterday afternoon:

'I was reading your website with interest, doing a bit of background research, after being cold-call telephoned by Eighteen 55 clarets. I haven't invested in wine before but the person on the end of the phone was very plausible and persuasive. He first contacted me in February, when I said I wouldn't want to invest. But he contacted me again yesterday, again sounding very plausible. He wanted me to invest around £5,000 in an en primeur case. I think it was a lafite rothschild (at least it was the first time he rang me). He said that it was almost guaranteed to grow within the first 2-3 months, and if I wanted to sell after that I could. Or I could wait till it had matured for the 2 years after which it would be bottled.'

My response 
Eighteen55 Clarets Ltd was founded on 23rd June 2008 and the current registered office is at 61 Waldram Park Road, London SE23 2PW – the offices of the Forest Hill branch of estate agents, Next Move. Its sole director is Altaur Rahman (DOB: 16.4.1973) of Catford. The company's first set of accounts are now just slightly overdue (since 23.3.2010). 

They are offering 2009 Lafite en primeur before the château has released its opening price – unlikely to happen before the end of May and pretty likely not to be until June. Nobody yet knows what you are going to have to pay for 2009 Lafite, which is likely to be in great demand whatever score it gets from Robert Parker. A very good Parker score will probably only push the price further into the stratosphere given the likely interest both from the Chinese and from investors. If this turns out to be the case, then can Eighteen55 Clarets be sure that they can secure stocks of this wine?          

I trust that the salesman made it clear how speculative a purchase this would be – unknown price and with no guarantee of getting the wine. The company's terms and conditions do quite properly make it clear that: 'Eighteen 55 CLarets is a non-stockholding retailer which means the wines listed are subject to availability.'

My advice

Even from a very well established merchant I would be wary of buying 2009 Lafite before the price has been released and not being certain of being able to secure this wine, especially as allocations to merchants are likely to be very small. As Eighteen55 Clarets were established in June 2008 they have no real track record over supplying Bordeaux en primeur. I would advise against buying en primeur from Eighteen55 Clarets Ltd.  

Friday, 2 April 2010

Update on Finbow Fine Wines and a contact email

The Metropolitan police are investigating Finbow Fine Wines Ltd. I understand that Paul Rees has had a meeting with officers involved in the investigation. It is hoped that at least some the investors' money will be recovered from Finbow's bank accounts.


Clients of Finbow Fine Wines Ltd can contact Paul Rees on finbowwines@aol.com

En primeur: wonderful potential for fraud

The main 2009 Bordeaux en primeur tasting week is now drawing to an end. Several thousand journalists and wine merchants have descended on the Bordeaux region this week to taste the 2009 vintage, which is still in barrel and will not be bottled until  sometime next year. Bordeaux will have received more visitors for this primeur week than normal as 2009 is reputed to be a particularly good vintage.

Over the next few weeks the leading Bordeaux châteaux will gradually release their prices with the First Growths (Latour, Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Margaux and Haut-Brion) quite possibly not releasing their prices until June. The whole long drawn out en primeur process is like a stately waltz – makes panda mating look indecently quick!

Soon merchants will be releasing their 2009 Bordeaux en primeur offers – indeed for the first time the odd merchant was offering wines before the wines had even been tasted and several months before prices would be released! If you decide to buy en primeur you will pay upfront for wine that you will receive in 18 to 24 months time. This can be advantageous if the  price of the wines rise dramatically from that the initial release price. It is also a way of getting hold of wines that are produced in very small quantities and are rarely seen after their en primeur release. The rarity argument, however, applies more to Burgundy than to much of Bordeaux where many of the famous wines are produced in relatively large quantities.

With en primeur you are essentially extending an interest-free loan to your wine merchant, while trusting that they won't have gone bust or disappeared before your wines are shipped to you or to a bonded warehouse. You are trusting that your merchant will pass your order and your money down the often complex en primeur chain that will include a Bordeaux négociant company and then the château itself. Incidentally any company that tells you that they buy directly from the top properties in Bordeaux is talking nonsense. That is not the way the Bordeaux system works. The châteaux sell to a number of négociants in Bordeaux (often called La Place). The négociants then sell around the world.

Before buying en primeur it is essential to do a little due diligence as in the past a number of apparently reputable en primeur companies have gone bust, leaving their customers disappointed and without the wine they ordered and without a refund. There have been some instances when companies offering en primeur have just been completely fraudulent – just trousering the money and placing no orders. This is what makes en primeur such a potentially wonderful vehicle for fraud. The customer places their order knowing the wine won't arrive for best part of two years. It is only when the two years or so are up and there is no sign of their wine or the company that people start to get worried.

There have probably been even more instances of legitimate companies getting into financial problems, using customers en primeur money to shore up the business only for everything to unravel leaving some very angry, wineless customers. For it doesn't matter how impressive your certificate of ownership looks with crests and embossing, it will be worthless if title (right of ownership) to the wine has not properly passed down the chain. Ownership is complicated since for much of the time your en primeur wine cannot be identified as it is a fraction of some wine in an oak barrel. 

The château retain title to the wine until the Bordeaux négociants pay for the wine they have ordered . At this point a certificate of ownership is issued. Full title to wine does not pass until the wine has been bottled and ownership can be identified.

Thus it is crucial that you make some checks on the financial health and track record of any company from whom you are considering buying en primeur. Down load the latest company accounts and check when the company was founded. If I was going to buy en primeur, wouldn't buy from a recently formed company – the risk is too high. Deal with well established companies who have a track record of buying and delivering wine ordered en primeur. This may be particularly important for 2009 Bordeaux as if there is a huge demand, especially for the top wines, as some predict then it may only be established companies that have the contacts to source the wines.

Also watch out for any cowboys tempted to clamber onto the 2009 en primeur bandwagon with a boiler room team to fleece you and disappear into the sunset.   

I'd distrust any cold calls from unknown companies.