For lovers of Bordeaux, spring means futures season, the time of year when retailers begin selling wines from the newest vintage, even though they are not yet finished or bottled. The en primeur system allows wine lovers to secure bottlings from top estates before release, while the young wines have another 18 to 24 months to mature in château cellars.
While Bordeaux has the most established system, other regions in Europe and California may sell certain wines as futures or on a "pre-arrival" basis, which is common for rare Burgundies made in tiny case quantities that can sell out quickly.
With futures, ideally, consumers get the wines at cheaper prices than when they are released at retail. But that isn't always the case, and recent vintages of many Bordeaux wines have not appreciated. Still, buyers get an early opportunity to lock down case quantities or make sure they don't miss out on a vintage for their collection.