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Lafite auction blasts prices skyward

The recent Sotheby’s sale of 2000 bottles of Lafite in Hong Kong saw the largest prices ever achieved at a wine auction.

The Lafite collection – all bottles released direct from the estate’s own cellars – played no small part in driving the auction’s pre-sale estimate of HK$20 million to the staggering heights of $65.5m.

Three bottles of Lafite 1869 became the most expensive bottles ever sold at auction with each realising $1,815,000. Their high estimate was a mere $65,000.

Other bottles that reached over $1m apiece included two bottles of 1870, a Jeroboam of 1959, two bottles of 1899, an imperial of 1982 and two cases of the same vintage.

The very first lot, a case of 2009 en primeur, was sold for £43,000, four times its average price in London.

Doug Rusman, managing director of Bordeaux Index in Hong Kong said he had “never seen anything like it.”

The auction was sold 100% by lot, the tenth consecutive 100%-sold auction that Sotheby’s has presided over in the region in the last 18 months.

Baron Eric de Rothschild, owner of Château Lafite, said: “I am delighted that this unique auction brought Lafite to so many true connoisseurs and wine lovers. Our aim was to open our cellar doors to the friends of Château Lafite in Asia so that they could enjoy fabulous vintages in the best possible condition.

“We are very happy that Sotheby’s took Lafite to new heights with this sale and we toast all those followers of Lafite who appreciate the passion with which we make it.”

The ripple effect this auction may have on global Lafite prices is now a matter of intense speculation.

Stephen Williams, founder of the Antique Wine Company, has already commented on the impact such a sale could have his company’s own upcoming sale of 19th century Lafite.

"The record sales achieved at Sotheby’s Château Lafite Rothschild auction in Hong Kong pays tribute to the ever escalating prices Château Lafite can command. We expected the 19th century bottles to achieve bids of approximately HK$100,000 but to exceed the auctioneer’s high estimate tenfold and make $1million is astonishing.

“These wines are of impeccable provenance, and it makes me highly confident that the equally precious items we are about to put on the market, such as our imperial of the 1899, will be snapped up by an Asian buyer,” he said.

“The Chinese market continues to be driven by some rather unconventional factors. For example the price of Château Lafite Rothschild 2008 rocketed by 20% overnight this week when it was announced that the bottles would be etched with the Chinese figure eight, with this vintage boasting a staggering 500% rise in value compared to 18 months ago. What other investment can provide returns like this?”

Rupert Millar, 04.11.2010

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