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"assemblage" and "en primeur" - Printable Version

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- asjoman - 01-19-2006 10:50 AM

Hi,

I am preparing a research project on Bordeaux wines, especially the "premier crus" for a faculty member at Harvard Business School. Right now, I am just trying to get all the processes and terminology sorted, and am wondering if someone can help me with the following:

- When in the wine making process does the blending (or "assemblage") of a Bordeaux-wine take place? Do you first fully mature the individual grape-wines (the cabernet sauvignon, the merlot, etc) and then blend them, or do you blend them at an earlier stage?

- When is a Bordeaux said to be "en primeur"? After or before the assemblage? After or before bottling? And when does it stop being "en primeur"? (More high-level, I guess I wonder what the term actually means.)

Thankful for all answers and/or pointers to resources. Hugh Johnson and Robert Parker has not helped me so far.

Many thanks,
Anders Sjöman
HBS Europe Research Center
Paris, France


- Kcwhippet - 01-19-2006 01:20 PM

Welcome to the Wine Board, asjoman.

Assemblage is done after the wines have aged individually in barrel. In the case of Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, etc. are harvested separately, fermented separately and aged separately. Then they're blended by the winemaker using the separate components to make what he feels is the best expression of the winery style for that vintage. Chateau Petrus, for example, is made from only Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and the percentage of each varies somewhat from year to year depending on the result of that year's crop. Merlot is the predominant grape in Petrus and in the modern version the percentage varies from 92% to 97%.

"En Primeur" is somewhat like buying wine futures. The grapes have been fermented and in barrel, but not yet blended or bottled. En primeur sales are generally made early in the year after harvest. The advantage is that these sales are made at lower than the prices found at retail after the wines are released to the public. The disadvantage is that you're paying up front for wines you won't see for a year or more. So the en primeur sales are made long before assemblage.