Concerns over credit, cash flow and demand are threatening to seriously deplete the value of the Bordeaux wine industry's annual 'en primeur' wine futures sale.

Bordeaux's en primeur system relies on buyers paying in advance for wines not yet ready for drinking. Despite continuing demand for high-end, bottled Bordeaux, merchants say futures sales will be tricky unless economic conditions change.

"It will be difficult to think of a normal campaign," said Hubert de Boüard, Bordeaux merchant and owner of Château Angelus.

Another Bordeaux merchant, Jean-Luc Thunevin, said next year's campaign may only run for the top 30 wines, instead of the normal 100 to 140. "We dream of first growths like Lafite and Mouton at less than EUR100," he said.

Some producers say that skipping the event and waiting until the wine is ready for sale in bottles may be a more lucrative option.

Prices for top Bordeaux wines have slipped significantly in the last few months, according to Simon Staples, fine wine director at UK merchant Berry Bros & Rudd.

Calling next year a "pivotal vintage" for the en primeur concept, he told just-drinks this week that the quality predictions for Bordeaux 2008 "do not look very good at all".

This, he said, will put even greater pressure on prices and may lead to all but the top chateaux pulling out.