The subscription process was introduced to the German book market in the 17th century in order to enable the publication of works that would most likely be difficult to sell due to their special content, their artistic design or because of their planned scope. This process was also used in the book trade of the 18th century, for example to determine a print run adapted to demand for copperplate engravings, multi-volume encyclopedias or scientific specialist literature and to ensure that production costs were covered. A special form of subscription was the prenumeration, in which the work had to be paid in advance.
In the wine trade, on the other hand, money flows, because before the young wine is bottled, the subscribed wine must be paid for. This is the only way for the wine buyer to be sure that the wine of coveted goods and coveted vintages will be available and enjoyed at a later date.
In individual cases, the young wine is stored in barrels at the winery for another three years after it has been paid for, before it is filled into bottles and delivered to consumers. It is even known from a winery that you will have to wait four years after payment before the wine will be delivered: the Sauternes sweet wine from Château d’Yquem.
In other words, the subscription is also a speculation: you bet that the wine will increase in value until it is delivered. You basically enter into a commodity futures contract. The subscription to wine is primarily found in Bordeaux wines, there are only a few wineries in other areas that use the same procedure.
A special feature is the subscription sale via a list of buyers. This process has become known at a winery in Burgundy: those interested register on a list. Only the top hundreds of places are on this list for purchase, the place holders must pay for the wine after allocation at the price unilaterally determined by the winery. Those who do not pay fall off the list and are unlikely to have a chance to get the wine directly for many years to come. Because there are thousands waiting to be allowed to buy: at the Domaine Romanée-Conti. The domain informs every several years which position an interested party has advanced to.