Lafite auction redefines prices across the globe

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  • Monday 1 November 2010

The extraordinary Sotheby’s ex-cellar Lafite auction on Friday has ‘redefined’ prices – for all the first growths, observers reckon.

Lafite Rothschild

The sale raised HK$65.5m (£5.2m). A parcel of three bottles of Lafite 1869 set the world record for any wine at auction, fetching HK$5,445,000, or £437,900.

On average, vintages 2000-2009 changed hands at two-and-a-half times the price that the wines last traded at on Liv-ex.

Lafite 2009, for example, which is currently offered on Liv-ex at £11,200 per case, realised £43,120. The 2000 at £45,000 and the 1982 at £84,300 per case were both more than double the wine's market value.

This is already having a wider effect.

Oliver Hartley at Corney and Barrow said they had increased their list price of Lafite – although not of the other First Growths.

Over the weekend, according the Alan Rayne at Magnum Fine Wines, several UK traders took Lafite off their websites to see what will happen to the market over the next few days.

The prices achieved on Friday were ‘astonishing’ Hartley told Decanter.com, speaking from Hong Kong. ‘And it was probably not a one-off. I don’t think many of these wines stayed in Hong Kong, but have gone into mainland China, or to Hong Kong brokers who will take them into China.

Hartley wondered at what point auction buyers would discover the same wines are available for somewhat less through the wine trade: ‘Or will the wine trade adjust their prices to meet them?’

Rayne believes the latter will be true. ‘This sale redefines prices. If you look at the differential between Hong Kong and London prices, you see wines for around 30-50% less in London, especially with the devaluation of sterling against most countries worldwide. It seems likely that there will be some readjustment. The other First Growths, especially Mouton and Margaux, are also going to benefit from this auction.’

Another result of the auction, according to sources in London, Bordeaux and Hong Kong, is to highlight the primary importance of provenance.

Michael Egan, formerly of Sotheby’s Wine Department and now director of Bordeaux Wine Bank, a negociant company that is beginning to work with Sotheby’s on provenance-assured auctions, said, ‘It was interesting that there were no large format pre-1949 Lafites in this sale. I have seen dubious Lafite 1945 in jeroboam and also dubious 19th century double magnums bought by private collectors from other sources.’

‘The fact that these wines came direct from the Lafite cellars clearly gave these wines an extra kudos for the wine collectors,’ said Hartley. ‘And with more fake Lafite coming out of China every day, this is only going to get more important.’


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