9. Château Lafite-Rothschild
Rank in 2011: 1
Total score: 182
Liv-ex trade: 14.39%
Critics’ score: 96.52
Average price: £6,380 (9l case)
Price change: -31.76%
Production: 17,500 cases
Weighted production: £111,643,000
Lafite has slipped from its position as the world’s most powerful fine wine brand in 2011 (as well as 2010 and 2009) to ninth place in 2012.
Although still the highest scoring first growth on average, Lafite’s change in fortunes stems from a sense the château has become too costly in proportion to its peers, precipitating a significant price drop on the secondary market last year.
Above all, its must-have status in Asia has suffered – China has been responsible both for the brand’s rapid price appreciation from 2009 to 2011, and last year’s 30% decline.
And just as Lafite’s rise to prominence in Asia was clouded by speculation, there’s no single reason for its fall from favour.
Simon Staples at Berry’s Bros & Rudd says his customers are put off by tales of fake Lafite on the Mainland, while others blame economic and political uncertainty in the run-up to the five-yearly Chinese National Party Congress.
A further possible reason is the reduction of excessive spending by government officials on luxury goods, a significant source of sales for fine wine and super-premium spirits.
Fashion is also a factor. “The Asian market works on trends – what’s hot and what’s not,” states Justin Gibbs at Liv-ex.
Lafite was en vogue, but interest his since broadened into other Bordeaux superbrands, while Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has the become vinous icon in China, although other Burgundian growers are growing in prominence, particularly particularly Ponsot, Rousseau, Roumier and Comte Vogüé.
However, Lafite has fallen, it’s felt, as far as it can. As Liv-ex researcher Jack Hibberd points out: “You are now seeing an off-vintage first growth at £250 a bottle, and at that price you wouldn’t feel guilty drinking it… My guess is that we are a long way down the road of the first growth correction.”
Certainly Lucas Robertson from Korean-owned Wine Networks, one of the largest buyers of Bordeaux worldwide, when asked for the focus of demand for his customers, tipped the first growths. “There is a definite resurgence in demand of the first growths in lesser vintages and for Lafite in all vintages.”
In short, a sense the price declines have now been stemmed and confidence is creeping back into the trade can only mean one thing: it’s a buyer’s market, even for Lafite.
A few facts:
- Lafite own one of the largest vineyards in the Médoc, with 107 hectares planted to vines in Pauillac.
- A total 35,000 cases annual average production is split between Château Lafite and second wine Carruades de Lafite.
- Lafite has been managed by Eric de Rothshild since 1974.
- The name Lafite comes from the Gascon word “la hite” which means “small hill”.