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Chinese interest in lower-ranking chateaux increasing, say Bordeaux negociants

While the market for the very top end of Bordeaux is correcting itself in China, interest in the lower end is increasing, Bordeaux negociants say.

Pedesclaux: ‘increasing in price’

Both CVBG Grands Crus and Vintex have told Decanter.com they are seeing ‘very strong interest’ in the 5th growth and Cru Bourgeois wines retailing at around €20.

Philippe Larché, one of the partners in negociant Vintex, which does 15% of its business in China, said wines like 5th growths Croizet-Bages and Pedesclaux in Pauillac, or Cantemerle in Medoc, were selling well in China.

‘Pedesclaux for example is increasing in price. It’s now selling at €20, when it used to be €14. I expect it to be €25 in six months.’

At CVBG, managing director Mathieu Chadronnier said he was selling ‘significant volumes’ of the lower-ranking chateaux.

‘There is strong demand for Belgrave [owned by CVBG’s sister company Dourthe], for example. We have sold out of 2009 and 2010 en primeur and have no back vintages.’

He also namechecked Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois Cambon La Pelouse as a ‘very significant’ wine in the Chinese market.

Both Chadronnier and Larché were at pains to stress that the recent Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong, at which prime lots of Lafite failed to sell, was by no means a ‘collapse’ of the market but a correction.

‘Not at all. We have gone through a period of constant growth. Prices can’t go on increasing forever – this correction was needed.’ Chadronnier said.

He added, ‘It may be tempting to say there is no more demand for the super-top wines, and the Chinese are turning their interest to the cheaper wines, but it is not as clear and dramatic as that.’

Wine experts are divided as to whether the Sotheby’s sale, at which nine vintages of Chateau Lafite, including 1961, 1995, 2000 and 2005, along with wines from Latour, Mouton Rothschild and Margaux failed to sell, constituted the bubble bursting, or the market finding a balance.

Serena Sutcliffe MW, worldwide head of wine at Sotheby’s, described the situation as a ‘healthy stabilisation’

Christie’s head of wine for China, Simon Tam, said, ‘There is no bubble. What we are seeing is the market calming down. The first generation of wine lovers to discover Lafite now have long-lasting stock and they don’t need to accumulate more.’

Others were less sure. Under the headline ‘Pop goes the Lafite’, Financial Times writer Pan Kwan Yuk suggested the bubble, if not bursting, was ‘softening’.

In Bordeaux, however, they remain confident. Larché – who is about to supply China’s first wine investment fund with wines – said, ‘China now understands that we don’t have only first growths in Bordeaux. The market is maturing. But I am not anxious. I am very confident that the first growths will go up again in value.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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