The east is red
FINE Bordeaux used to be the world’s poshest wine. But in the past 18 months the price of leading labels has plunged. David Elswood of Christie’s, an auctioneer in London, says a case of Lafite Rothschild 1982 that cost £70,000 ($110,000) two years ago now goes for £30,000.
The reason is changing appetites among Chinese buyers. In past years they stoked the boom (prices rose by 35% in 2006). They then moved on to buying wineries (around 20 Bordeaux producers are now Chinese-owned). But such vineyards commonly produce 300,000 bottles a year each. In search of more exclusive labels, Chinese buyers are tiring of Bordeaux wines and turning to Burgundy, where wineries rarely make more than 3,000 bottles annually. A case of Domaine Dominique Gallois La Combe 1985, an exclusive Burgundy, now costs £114,000.
In August Château de Gevrey-Chambertin became the first Burgundy vineyard to go to a Chinese buyer. Christie’s Burgundy sales in Hong Kong are up threefold this year; much goes on to the mainland. A jeroboam (equivalent to four bottles) went for £47,000 at an auction there in 2011.
The switch is bad news for the wine trade: Bordeaux accounts for 85% of the fine-wine market, so a drop in Chinese interest hits hard. But Max Lalondrelle, of Berry Brothers and Rudd, a London merchant, says lower prices let him “reconnect with the drinkers”, rather than focusing on collectors and prestige buyers.