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Wilkinson unleashes first growth bonanza

London-based Wilkinson Vintners are selling over 700 cases of first growths with vintages stretching back to a 1945 Château Haut Brion.

Paul Bowker
Paul Bowker

The wines come from the firm’s own stocks, and highlights include 10 bottles of Pétrus 1981 (£48,000), a double magnum of Lafite 1982 (£11,000) and, most expensive of all, six magnums of Latour 1961 (£75,000). Wilkinson’s director, Paul Bowker, told the drinks business about the sale.

Why now?

“We’re always sitting on a huge amount of stock and Patrick [Wilkinson] just did a selection of all our First Growths – it wasn’t a fire sale or anything like that. We tend to put out things targeting what people are looking for – and we feel there’s been a slight upturn in demand for First Growths recently.”

So, is Bordeaux back on track?

“It has declined a little bit from 2011 onwards, but when we say ‘decline’, it’s not in volume, it’s just that prices have slipped back a bit. People are much more conscious of what they’re willing to pay for wines. Bordeaux is probably 80% of what we do, and if you look at the Asian market there’s still quite strong demand for weaker vintages like the ’01, ’02, ’04 and ’06.”

Where are you expecting most interest for this sale?

The States is picking up a bit, but a big area of demand for us is still Asia, with a lot going to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. People are very quick to write off Asia, but actually we find it’s still pretty strong.”

Though presumably not when it comes to en primeur?

“We don’t do it, but I think there’s a resistance to buying en primeur and that can only benefit us because it means people are looking for physical, older stock. Overall I think we’re seeing a much healthier market. The days when Lafite was selling at three times the price of Mouton and Latour have gone, which makes sense.”

One of the highlights - Magnum of Ch. Latour '61
One of the highlights – Magnum of Ch. Latour ’61

You’ve got some bigger bottles in the sale – how’s the market for them?

“I’ve always thought that big bottles should command a premium because they’re fun, the wine matures better in them, and they’re a bit scarcer. But whenever we’re buying double magnums, Jeroboams or imperials, we always discount them to the standard case price because they are harder to sell. A lot of it’s because the market is so Asian-centric and the demand for big bottles is nothing like it is for standard bottles.”

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