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Lafite Leads in 2011

The rumours about an early campaign this year have turned out to be true. OK, they weren’t really ‘mere’ rumours, as even the first growths themselves said during the primeurs tastings that they would be coming out early this year, with price cuts. Christophe Salin, commercial director at Lafite, was candid with his comments on pricing and his release strategy. Nevertheless, when all seemed to remain reticently silent last week (aside from a few minor châteaux there were no releases – I think the biggest name to come out was Angludet) I think we all began to doubt the words that we ourselves had heard.

But this morning’s news that Lafite is out, with a release price reported as €350 per bottle ex-château, €450 per bottle ex-négoce (it will be even more at retail), shows that Salin at least is true to his word. This is early. I must say I am greatly surprised, as I was still wondering whether they would hold on for Parker’s scores. My main reason for thinking this was how so many of the châteaux were burned with the 2008 releases – they came out early and low, and after Parker’s scores were released prices climbed. It was the same old story for the Bordelais – they watched while somebody else made money on their wine (all complicated by tranches and other facets of en primeur – it’s never simple, is it?). But there is one important (and obvious difference) here – the release price.

The 2008 was released by the négoce at €130 (as was Latour, by the way), and so we’re looking at a release price for the 2011 that is nearly three times that for the 2008 (to be precise €450 is a 246% increase on €130). I think many will be shocked at that, but when you look at the market prices for recent vintages of Lafite back to 2001, it is 2008 that was under-priced, rather than soley 2011 being over-priced. Looking at 2011 against 2010 (perhaps a more commonly made comparison) the reduction is only 25% (2010 was €600 ex-négoce), against pre-release calls for reductions of 40-50% to stimulate the market. Lafite might just sell at this price – stated with the caveat we have yet to see what effect the various margins will have on the price presented to the consumer, of course. It could be quite close to some prices for currently available older vintages. Update: this has translated through as an offer of £5,500 per case on Liv-Ex for the first release from the château. This – importantly – brings it in below the current prices for other comparable vintages, particularly 2008. But that’s still a lot of money – especially (with my UK hat on) once you add duty and tax.

12 Responses to “Lafite Leads in 2011”

  1. It will sell at this price but the bar has been set very high for others to follow. Difficult to generalise as Lafite is still an exception to the rule but the red vintage will not represent good value if similar price cuts are applied across the board. Lower prices are needed to appeal to traditional markets.

    Sauternes, of course, is different and I would not begrudge the Sauternais reward for producing a superb vintage. I fear, however, that they might have to reduce prices to attract the attention the wines deserve.

  2. Agreed Steve – Lafite is not an example we should generalise from – there are forces that have pushed up prices of Lafite – in vintages good and poor – in recent years that do not apply to other châteaux.

    Let’s see how the real wines are priced!

  3. 25% reduction just won’t cut it for me.

    If this is price “cut” Bordeaux thinks will spark interest this year, then they are sadly mistaken.

    I had a lovely Douro this weekend for £11 that simply knocked the spots of virtually every Bordeaux I’ve tried for less than £30.

    Rick

  4. Thanks Rick. Let’s see what the non-first growths do.

    Quick correction to my post (I’ve amended the text as well): price from the négoce seems to be coming out as €420 rather than €450. Still only a 30% drop though.

  5. I believe Andgludet was only 15% off from their 2010, so there will be no bargains here or probably anywhere else this EP.

    This from Farr Vintners:

    “Château Lafite have released their 2011 vintage at half of last year’s average price which means that we will be able to sell it to our customers at considerably (around 20%) less than the price of any other vintage of this wine.

    This is great news for Bordeaux buyers and, we sincerely hope, that it sets a trend for other Châteaux to follow. This is a decent, not great, vintage that we need to be able to offer to our customers en primeur at a lower price than they can currently purchase physically available vintages such as 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2001.”

    A DECENT VINTAGE and 20% price drop is GREAT NEWS for BDX buyers, give me a break.

  6. I agree with Richards sentiments, we are still spoilt for excellent quality choices of red from many other wine producing countries without ever having to play the snobbery game at the expense of our wallets. Good on the chateaux if they can flog their product at the right price for them but its just becoming a game fewer are playing and I am staying the course with Sauternes for now which represent much better value.

  7. Hi Gary. No I don’t think there are many bargains in Bordeaux any more, no matter the price drops. I haven’t examined the two Angludet prices as closely as you, and find it difficult to comment as I didn’t have time to taste Angludet. I think there are smaller châteaux where prices have not climbed in the way they have for Pontet-Canet, Cos, Ducru, the firsts, etc, that shouldn’t slash by 50%. But agree the price of Angludet still looks high.

    Don’t know why Farr’s are promulgating the 50% ‘story’. It was €600 in 2010, and €420-450 (depending on your source – Liv-Ex published €450 but others have stated €420) in 2011. All prices are ex-négoce. That’s a 25-30% cut.

    Agree with your final statement. Too much focus on cutting prices, not the intrinsic value of the wine. They are merchants – they’re trying to sell the stuff. I think we can safely say you’re not fooled!! :-)

  8. Alan, good points. Can’t wait to write up the Sauternes – thinking about condensing some of my other regional reports so I can publish sooner. All this writing takes so much time! :-)

  9. Dear Chris,
    please do not condense the reports, they are great and fun to read.

  10. OK Giuseppe, if you say so! :-)

    I’ve kept to a three-page split for my St Julien update and will do the same for Margaux tomorrow. I didn’t taste widely in Margaux….but I still have plenty to say there.

    Glad you enjoy the reports, do please spread the word, no point me writing them if people don’t read them!

  11. Another keen reader here also! I’ve been enjoying your Bdx reports as well as your other writings for a good while now and I feel like our palates are similar enough for me to almost blindly buy wines that you consider good. Since good free content is hard to find I often refer to your site on my blog. I hope that has gained you some new Finnish fans :)

  12. Ilbe, thanks for those comments, just good to know you find them useful. Thanks for linking through to my site.