Lafite to release early and low

Christophe Salin, director of Domaines Barons de Rothschild, has revealed Lafite is to release its 2011 price early and with a significant price drop to 2010.

“We want to release early this year, possibly even as early as the end of April. All the wines will have been tasted in the next three weeks, so there’s no need to wait,” he told the drinks business.

Commenting on the rumour that the château is to release early and low in order to restore faith in the market, Salin told db: “I’ve heard that rumour too, because it’s based on something I said.”

“With Lafite we have the luxury of being able to sell at a high price, but we want to play by the rules and listen to the market. We don’t want to be individualists – Bordeaux is a collective work; we have power and duties so we need to play as a team,” he added.

Salin stressed a need for modesty this year. “2011 will be the vintage that restores Bordeaux’s image, as last year we were very expensive and people lost faith,” he said.

Lafite is busy planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah at its new vineyard site in Penglai in China’s Shandong province.

“Cabernet alone is too tannic for the Asian palate, so the Syrah will be used to soften the blend,” Salin told db, though a 100% Syrah is not on the cards: “Syrah without Cabernet is like a beautiful woman without brains,” Salin quipped.

Meanwhile, Jean-Guillaume Prats, president of Château Cos d’Estournel, told db that reports of hail problems at the property have been exaggerated.

“We suffered at the hands of one intense hail storm but it had more effect on phenolic ripeness than anything else – our yields are actually up on last year as the grapes weren’t hit,” he insisted.

In terms of pricing, Prats agrees with Salin that they must come out quickly: “The Bordelais showed an enormous amount of incompetence and arrogance by waiting too long to release last year and lost a lot of good will in the process.

“We’ve learnt our lesson and want a quick campaign this year in time for Vinexpo Hong Kong,” he said.

Despite being only one tier down in the 1855 Bordeaux classification system, Prats views the first growths as inhabiting a world of their own.

“We’re in a different league to them. Whatever they do has very little influence on our decision making process,” he told db.

Prats also voiced his dislike of the tranche system in Bordeaux, describing it as an artificial way to work out what the price should be.

“I don’t believe in tranches. We release everything en primeur and about 75% of our stock in the first tranche,” he revealed.

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