Like food, wine is a finite product. Only a certain amount is produced each vintage from a particular vineyard. The chance to buy wine not yet available on the store shelf is known as buying wine “futures.” Here in Orange County, wine lovers can get first crack at buying great wines, and often at better prices than after they hit the market. Here’s how it works:
- Wine merchants travel to the world’s finest wine centers, including Bordeaux in France, to taste the most recent vintage before it’s released. These merchants seek wines that fit their clientele’s palate, pocketbook, and possibly cellar.
- The merchants buy chosen wines from that vintage based upon their expert tasting. They’ve done their homework long before arrival and know the history, the weather during that vintage, and the potential of each vineyard and chateau.
- The wines chosen and bought by the merchant then are offered for sale while the wine is still in the barrel.
Tristen Beamon, co-proprietor of Wine Exchange in Santa Ana, just returned from Bordeaux, France, where he tasted hundreds of wines from the 2015 vintage. Wines have been produced in Bordeaux since the mid-first century, and Bordeaux reds have a cult-like following because of their distinct blends of the cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes. Wine Exchange has been selling Bordeaux futures to its Orange County and nationwide customers for more than 30 years, so I recently spoke with Beamon about why we Orange County wine lovers might want to consider them.
Does a wine consumer have to have high level of wine knowledge to be a futures buyer?
You just need a love of wine. If you love red wine, you’ll likely love Bordeaux. Wine lovers typically have a close relationship with their chosen merchant and look to them to be the expert for great buys. The caveat to futures is realizing that the wine offered is of a finite quantity or may be priced higher when bottled and released to the market and the futures campaign.
Bordeaux has a reputation of expensive wine and aficionado status. Accurate?
Other than the top 50 or so wines, there are hundreds of outstanding values that even California can’t compete with. This week, we offered three Bordeaux wines for less than $20 that scored in the low- to mid-90s.
How does California wine pricing compare to Bordeaux futures pricing?
That’s a tough question, but in general it’s tough to beat Bordeaux for cabernet- and merlot-based wines in terms of the quality-to-price ratio. While names like Lafite, Mouton, Latour, and Cheval Blanc are expensive, so are Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Realm, and Scarecrow—and the latter don’t have hundreds of years of history behind them. Many wines from Bordeaux regions (Margaux, St. Emilion, Pomerol, Pessac Leognan) are stunning and have great scores, all priced under $50. Don’t get me wrong, I love the wines from our state, but I also love Bordeaux.
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