Bordeaux 2016: first tranche of Lafite not the deepest

The en primeur week has got off to a flying start with Château Lafite Rothschild joining the early morning releases of Beychevelle and Langoa Barton.

The first tranche of the Pauillac first growth was released at €455 a bottle ex-négociant, an 8.3% increase on the 2015 (€420p/b).

The estate’s second label, Carruades de Lafite, was released last week at €135 p/b, which was sure to appeal to followers of the label.

Lafite clearly returned to winning ways with the 2016 vintage, after a few years of occasionally so-so scores and the odd disappointing wine (the 2013 being a case in point).

It was granted a straight, no questions asked, 100-points by James Suckling in his report and a solid 96-98 by Neal Martin in The Wine Advocate. Liv-ex’s international members meanwhile voted it the wine of the vintage.

This release would put a case at £5,500 but as another tranche linked to Rieussec is expected as well, that price is liable to change.

Liv-ex, using its fair value method, has said that at this first price the 2016 represents a good buy if one is looking purely at how the price correlates with scores.

In markets such as Asia however where the brand is the driving factor, not the vintage’s quality and attendant score, then the 2016 might be looked over.

As Liv-ex concluded: “The success of this release is therefore likely to be determined by its ability to entice quality-conscious buyers. A final price is yet to be set. It will depend on the pricing of the next tranche, and the link with Rieussec. With both unknown, there is still much to play – and wait – for.”

It is also worth noting the size of the release, which was apparently 50% less than the first tranche last year; an offering which will no doubt cause many négociants to wait a little longer for the second tranche before their offer goes out. As with Montrose, it will no doubt be a source of some contention that a big name wine has been released at a workable price but without the stock to allow merchants to make a proper go of it.

Another leading label out today was Beychevelle. It too was rated 96-98 by Martin which is the best WA score it has ever received. Jancis Robinson MW though merely called it, “compotent”.

At €56.4 a bottle ex-négoce (up 11.9% on its 2015) it is being offered for £678 a case in London which is reasonably punchy for the estate although it has been aiming higher with its release prices in recent years.

Normally Beychevelle releases at a price below those on the secondary market but as it en primeur prices have risen that pattern has been a little thrown off course.

Nonetheless, despite its price, the 2016 is at a discount to a great many back vintages (2005-2012) and with its score being superior to all others it may prove a tempting buy.

Also out today were Langoa Barton at €36.40 a bottle, which was a 14.4% rise on the 2015 release price. With a 91-93 score from Martin it’s among the best of the last 10 years although the 2014 with 93 points is looking a bit under appreciated and is available at a 26% discount. At £420 a case though it is within the ‘best value’ limit set by Liv-ex as part of its members’ survey.

Croix de Beaucaillou and Sociando Mallet were also out this morning at respective prices of €34.8 and €26.4 a bottle ex-négoce which represented price rises of 15.9% and 18.9% respectively.

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