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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have a question about futures. I really want to buy a case of a good 2004 wine in honor of my wedding and store it to drink on anniversaries over the next 12 years. How do normal people buy a case or two on futures?

—Eric R., Alpharetta, Ga.

Dear Eric,

Wine futures most commonly involve buying Bordeaux wines after they are made, but before they are bottled—about two years before you'll actually be able to hold them in your hands. Some producers from other regions also offer futures, but the Bordeaux wine trade has been offering such "en primeur" sales for decades.

For the consumer, the appeal in buying futures is that you're fixing a price for a wine well ahead of its release (but when you agree to a futures contract, you may have to pay the full bill up front). When the wine is finally released, the price often goes up, or there might not even be any left for sale, so the hope is that you're making a wise investment.

Remember that the contract you make when you purchase futures is between you and your wine merchant, not the château itself, so it's imperative that you find a reputable retailer.

The châteaus often let critics get a sneak peek at the wines in barrel before futures go on the market. Check out James Suckling's advice and then search for a trustworthy retailer. Since you live in Georgia, where state law limits direct shipping, you might want to focus on shops in your area.

—Dr. Vinny

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