Monday, 16 April 2012

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2011, early price release

The 'Primeur' campaign has certainly come to life this year. With the news that Chateau Latour will not be offering their wines via the traditional negociant distribution at the end of last week, today we had the release of the first tranche for Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Premier Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac.
This is a bold and ballsy move from the Chateau. There were strong rumours from Monsieur Christophe Salin, the managing director of Domaine Baron de Rothschild's estates during the Primeur tastings two weeks ago that they would release low and early. I am pleased that they have had the courage of their convictions.

The price released ex Chateau is €350 per bottle and this will be sold ex negociant at €450 to the international wine buyers. Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2011 is now being traded at £5500 per case in London.

This price is in fact a reduction of 25% from the 2010 price (€600), but it is a 246% increase from the 2008 release price (€130). Many people tasted the Chateau Lafite at the Chateau and comparisons were made to the 2008, 2004 and 2001 vintage.
It is interesting to see how these vintages are currently being traded on the market:

2011= £5500 per 12 bottles
2008= £7200
2004= £6000
2001= £6000

So the release of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2011 is in fact a true reflection of where the current fine wine market is trading for other comparable vintages. The Chateau have gained significantly by increasing the price to a new level (from the 2008 price), for what is perceived as a similar quality. Rather than let middle men, investors, speculators cream off the 200% price difference the Chateau have closed the gap. It will be very interesting to see where the 2011 is trading in comparison to 2008, 2004 and 2001 in 6 months time. On the basis that 2011 is a good vintage this is definitely a BUY in comparison to wines on the market.
I personally thought that Chateau Lafite Rothschild produced a magnificent wine in 2011. I know they had issues with the growing season and they suffered partial hailstorms in the vineyards just before picking on September 1st. But the wine has a great deep spicy bramble core. It is real cassis classy Cabernet Sauvignon, with an elegant polished layer of complexity.

I applaud Chateau Lafite Rothschild for getting their price out early and in many ways setting the tone for others to follow. We do not know how much stock was allocated in this first tranche release. They might have been simply testing the water. Let's see who follows later this week.
On a personal note I really did like the 2011 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, but I felt Chateau Pontet Canet, Lynch Bages and Pichon Baron as equal wines......and let's hope at a fraction of the price.

The other key factor that may influence prices are the notes from Robert Parker, which will be released in a few weeks. Sometimes Chateaux prefer to wait for Parker's pronouncement and then set their price. This might positively or negatively effect the pricing and positioning of traded wines.

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