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Lafite Sets Auction Wine Record at $230,000 a Bottle
Three bottles of Chateau Lafite’s 1869 vintage each sold for a record price of HK$1.8 million ($230,000) at a sale in Hong Kong last night, underlining Asia’s dominance of the auction market for trophy label wines.
All three were bought by the same Asian telephone bidder, said Sotheby’s, which offered almost 2,000 bottles of Lafite shipped directly from the cellars of the chateau in Pauillac, near Bordeaux. The 1869s -- the oldest bottles in a range of vintages that spanned 139 years -- were each estimated to sell for between HK$40,000 and HK$60,000, said Sotheby’s.
Lafite had also held the previous auction record for a single bottle of wine. Malcolm Forbes, the U.S. publisher, paid 105,000 pounds ($168,000) for a 1787 vintage engraved with the initials of President Thomas Jefferson at Christie’s International in London in 1985.
“This was a perfect storm,” Serena Sutcliffe, Sotheby’s international head of wine, said in a telephone interview after the sale. “Lafite is Bordeaux’s most starry name, the provenance gave buyers extra confidence and the timing was right.”
The auction raised HK$65.5 million with fees, against a high estimate of HK$19.5 million at hammer prices. Every one of the 284 lots found buyers.
Bottles of 1869 vintage Lafite sold for a record $HK 1.8 million each at Sotheby's Oct.
All eight of the wine sales Sotheby’s has held in Hong Kong this year achieved 100 percent selling rates, the New York-based company said. As the Asian buyer had acquired three bottles of Lafite 1869, there was a likelihood that at least one of them may be opened and drunk, dealers said.
Wines produced before the phylloxera epidemic devastated France’s vineyards in the 1870s rarely appear on the market, Sutcliffe said.
“There will be a huge curiosity to try a great pre- phylloxera vintage,” Sutcliffe said. “There’s a lot of speculation about why the Chinese like Lafite so much. People say it’s because the name is easy to pronounce in Mandarin. Actually, they like the taste, otherwise they wouldn’t pay such high prices for these wines.”
All 10 of the auction’s most expensive lots fell to Asian private collectors. A single bottle of Lafite 1870 sold for HK$1.3 million, and a 12-bottle case of the chateau’s 1982 vintage for HK$1 million, against low estimates of HK$80,000 and HK$280,000 respectively.
Lafite came top of the first official quality-based classification of Medoc wines in 1855. The chateau was bought by Baron James de Rothschild in 1868, and bottles have since been labeled Lafite-Rothschild.
By Scott Reyburn Oct 29, 2010
The Château Lafite estate run by the Rothschilds is, with its 100 hectares of cultivated land, the largest of the main Pauillac vineyards.
It is located in the highest part of the area and the view from its château, with its conical towers that appear on the label, takes in the banks of the River Gironde, which flows nearby. The wines are a blend of four different varieties of grape – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Lafite matures slightly earlier than other Premier Cru wines in the region on account of the generous amounts of Merlot used, and it is this that also makes the wine more delicate and subtle than those wines which are completely dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Lafite has a soul, a beautiful, generous, kindly soul. Lafite turns bare earth into heaven. Lafite is harmony, a harmony between man and nature, because without our magnificent winegrowers, nothing would be accomplished.”
Baron Eric de Rothschild
Of the five Premier Cru wines in the region, Château Lafite to my mind has managed to produce the year’s best wine in many of the top years in 1900th centrury. The times I have spent in the company of a 1934, 1953, 1959, 1982 and 1986 have been unforgettable. And it was then that I always remembered how many wine critics fondly describe Lafite as ‘the perfection of elegance’.
Vineyard soil: fine gravel mixed with aeolien sands on a bedrock of tertiary limestone
Production area: 103 ha
Grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (71%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (1%)
Average age of vines: 30 years
Harvest method: hand picked
Winemaking: the vinification is nowadays done with all the sophisticated instruments which modern oenology has created. Fermentation takes place in large oak vats in which the musts remain for 18 to 25 days.
Ageing: the wines are aged entirely in new barrels for 18 to 24 months. During this time,the wine is racked 7 times and is fined with the whites of 6 eggs per barrel. Only certain vats are selected to make the Grand Vin, Lafite. The others are used to make the second wine of Lafite, the “Carruades de Lafite”.
2010/ Cabernet Sauvignon 87 %, Merlot 13 %
The vineyard cycle began with a cold, relatively wet winter, resulting in a slightly later bud-break than in 2009, in mid-April. Growth was then boosted by dry, sunny weather in April. May and June were characterized by alternating periods of rain and sunshine. June began with a cold spell that complicated the flowering of the Merlot, resulting in flower abortion and uneven grape size.
Fortunately, July was very dry (less than 20 mm of rain) with relatively high temperatures, which helped the vines to catch up from the delays caused during flowering. August and September were very dry, with beautiful daytime temperatures and cool nights creating ideal conditions for the grapes to slowly reach optimum ripeness.
Drought and cool temperatures contribute to optimal ripeness
The sum of summer temperatures in 2010 was close to that of summer 2009 (962°C compared to 982°C), but decidedly chillier than those of 2005, which totalled 1052°C. These cool temperatures had a substantial influence on the balance of our wines, preserving a good level of acidity and attractive aromatic freshness.
Very little rainfall (only 267 mm) from March to August 2010 generating a drought of similar intensity to that of 2005, when only 227mm of rain fell.
Another feature of the 2010 vintage is the low temperatures above all in the first three weeks of August, which made for the preservation of good levels of acidity in the grapes while also maintaining attractive aromatic freshness.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
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