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Lafite 2013: buy Mouton instead

Lafite led the way among the first growths when it released yesterday as the cheapest vintage on the market but is Mouton a more reasonable offer?

Lafite released yesterday morning at €288 per bottle ex-négociant and hit the merchants’ list at £2,900 per 12 – so was offered to customers north of £3,000.

It was the first 2013 to trade on Liv-ex, a milestone director Justin Gibbs called “a small cheer”, for £3,006 which was at least above its release price as most offers so far for wines in this vintage have been for a lot less.

On the other hand, Gibbs told the drinks business, that price was unlikely to “push on” and, in fact, at time of going to press bids were slipping back to £2,800/£2,900 a case.

Liv-ex did its calculations and showed on its blog that the 2013 is the cheapest on the market, not by a huge amount but enough, 24% less than the 2011 for example (see chart below).

The 2013 has a decent score and even if it was voted one of the more disappointing wines in the Liv-ex survey, it is well made. Merchants were therefore generally positive about the price. Justerini & Brooks said it “looks very well-priced” in its email send out, while Matthew Tipping, fine wine sales director at Berry Bros & Rudd, told the drinks business: “I think it will sell, we’ve sent the offer out and orders are coming back in.”

source: Liv-ex

“There’s demand for Lafite,” said Will Hargrove, head of fine wine at Corney & Barrow, “people are looking to buy it.”

However, there are also problems. Hargrove said that some négociants (though by no means all) were “bundling” Lafite with other wines that they are sitting on – high levels of stock being one of the problems négociants now find themselves with following the badly priced, badly judged, 2011 and 2012 campaigns.

On the other hand, it makes creating an offer a little more difficult as, “there’s no sense in buying something that’s sensibly priced if you also have to buy something that might not be,” he said.

Tipping, meanwhile, mentioned that while Lafite looked good price-wise, past vintages of Lafite were still depreciating and, as has been previously pointed out, older vintages of Lafite are settling back to 2010 levels.

source: Liv-ex

Indeed, Lafite’s premium over its fellow firsts has plummeted from 129% to 45% since its peak in 2011. Last year, Liv-ex points out, Lafite was 40% more expensive than Mouton; this year it’s 33%.

“It’s been in steady decline and that direction, that trend, is still in play,” confirmed Gibbs.

Looking at today’s onslaught of releases – which carry grim overtones of 2012’s “Black Tuesday” – Mouton Rothschild stands out from the crowd.

“One day before Easter, there’s only one email you can send out, one call you can make. It has to be Mouton,” said Gibbs who added that Pavie, Angélus and Palmer, today’s other big name releases, were likely to suffer as a result.

“I suspect releasing on the same day as Mouton there’s only one winner,” he said. Then again, with the Right Bank “A’s” at €165 p/b each and Palmer stubbornly refusing to give an inch and remaining at €150 p/b, they probably wouldn’t sell anyway – and maybe they don’t care.

Mouton on the other hand (and its smaller satellites Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac etc) is out at €216 p/b. At £2,450 it’s the cheapest Mouton on the market as the 2012 is the next cheapest at £2,680, it was the second highest rated wine of the vintage by merchants in Liv-ex’s survey and it’s one of the best performing first growths at the moment.

“Mouton makes more sense than Lafite does I suspect,” decided Gibbs.

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