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Bordeaux 2010: Massive price rise for Smith Haut Lafitte fails to impress

Smith Haut Lafitte has become the latest victim of buyer fatigue with this week's release of Bordeaux prices – but owner Florence Cathiard has fiercely defended her decision.

Smith Haut Lafitte: hubris?

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story we said that Smith Haut Lafitte’s 2010 was nearly 50% more expensive than the release price of the 2009. This is incorrect:
the price of the wine ex-negociant is €77, compared to €62 in 2009, a rise of 24.1%. We apologise for any confusion.

Chateaux Lagrange, Grand Puy Lacoste, Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Smith Haut Lafitte have now all released their prices on the 2010 vintage.

Some are considerably higher than last year: Pessac-Leognan stalwart Smith has come out at €77, 24.1% more than 2009.

To some merchants this is not a good idea: at Bordeaux Index Gary Boom emailed Decanter.com, ‘It’s not selling. The 2009 (way better) is still available £100 cheaper. Last year we sold 284 cases – this year 19.’

At Berry Brothers, Simon Staples would have been happy to sell 19 cases.

He said they had sold 1400 cases of Grand Puy Lacoste in an hour, 500 Leoville Barton at the same time – ‘and one Smith Haut Lafitte – to a Mr Smith.’

Simon Davies at Fine & Rare echoed the thoughts of many when he said, ‘Lovely wine, shocking price, some sales but not exactly flying out the door.’

The problem for Smith – a property much admired – is twofold. In the first place it simply does not have the robust following of a Leoville Barton.

Second, with so many wines coming out at once, it is a victim of ‘congestion’, which Staples said is a bigger problem than price.

‘Customers don’t want to be bombarded with an offer every 20 minutes. You can’t focus yourself so how can you expect customers to?’

As Staples – and other merchants – have shown, other properties, even those with substantial price rises, have fared much better.

Grand Puy Lacoste at €57 ex-negociant was 20% more than 2009 and 25% more than 2005.

Chateau Lagrange came out at €39.6 ex-negociant, 6.4% up on 09.

La Lagune came out at €38.8 ex-negociant, 21% up on 09.

And Leoville Barton – which came out 15% up on last year: the 2010 is now retailing at €100 a bottle – may have dented its reputation for being one of the most reasonable of the top properties.

Boom suggested even with its strong following it had not sold as fast as he would have liked.

But it is Smith Haut Lafitte which is suffering. Comments on Twitter have been robust. One simply said of its price, ‘I find this funny’. Another said, ‘There is an element of hubris here’.

At Smith, owner Florence Cathiard robustly defended her pricing decision.

‘It is a much better wine than 2009, which is why I have made it more expensive,’ she told Decanter.com. ‘I have never made such a precise and long wine.’

‘I am really sorry it should not be selling well in the UK. I have already had orders for 230 more cases, which is not as good as last year – by this time I had orders for an extra 400 – but it is not bad.’

Cathiard did say the timing was regrettable. ‘When I released today I didn’t know there was going to be an avalanche.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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