Bordeaux 2016: Lafite at last

The long-awaited second tranche of Lafite has finally been released and with a scattering of Right Bank names also out, the 2016 campaign has, finally, come to an end.

Having released its tiny first tranche almost a month ago, the second, now near-mythic, tranche of Château Lafite has finally emerged.

By way of a refresher, the first tranche of the Pauillac first growth came out on 22 May at €455 a bottle ex-négociant.

This would have made a case around £5,500, which given the wine’s excellent scores and general rating as ‘wine of the vintage’, seemed a good, even ‘fair’ price.

Unfortunately, Lafite released just 50% of the stock it had put out last year and so négociants – for the most part – held on to their allocations knowing another tranche would be incoming and they could average out the prices when they had enough to sell.

Buyers of course caught wind that Lafite was out but were no doubt disappointed when offers failed to materialise and then the wait began.

The second slice of 2016 Lafite has then been kept waiting as the pace of the campaign picked up and every morning more big names – including the other firsts, Cheval Blanc, Pichon Baron etc – took the day’s top billings.

In the end the second tranche was released late yesterday afternoon to little fanfare, in the wake of some pretty overpriced Figeac and La Conseillante.

With an average price €490 ex-négoce now, it is £500 a bottle and £6,000 a case.

To be truthful, the price is still ‘fair’. It is below the 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages – even slightly cheaper than the Asia-driven 2007.

There seems to be a feeling it will sell, stocks are low after all and Lafite is always a label that is enthusiastically followed especially in good years such as 2016.

On the other hand there’s clearly a slight lack of enthusiasm after the long wait and at the end of a long and frustratingly meandering campaign energy levels are low.

Will Hargrove at Corney & Barrow reports that while it will sell through, it was a “pretty incoherent” release and, “customers find it hard to understand why it was done that way and it is hard to justify it.”

Simon Larkin MW, managing director of Atlas Fine Wines meanwhile dealing with different averages and offers from various négociants felt that the whole thing was, “a bit more complicated than it ought to have been.”

It could, arguably, should have been a release to light the spark on this campaign. It’s the best wine of the vintage in the eyes of many, Lafite has a loyal following and incredible brand power; instead there was prevarication, a bewildering lack of appreciable stock to sell and in the end – who cares?

It’s a terrible shame.

Also out yesterday and today were the last big Right Bank names of Figeac, La Conseillante and Vieux Château Certan.

What more needs to be said than that they are clearly superb wines, some with their best scores ever, yet they have cut volumes and raised prices by over 30% between them – Figeac went for a 47.1% increase on the 2015’s release.

Petus, Le Pin and Yquem will release in their own time later this year but for now the 2016 campaign is over.

A full review of the campaign with merchant commentary on its occasional successes and clear failings will appear soon online.

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