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Latour release: Forts sells but ’06 struggles

Last month’s release from Château Latour was predictably a little flat but rather more interest in the newly-released 2012 Forts de Latour and apparent interest from Asia hints that the future of the château’s strategy may eventually bear fruit.

On 21 March the Pauillac first growth released the first of its annual ex-cellar releases, the 2006 grand vin and 2012 second wine, Les Forts de Latour. The estate released 4,000 cases of the 2006 for €450 per bottle a dozen ex-Bordeaux (négociant), making it some £5,250 in London as well as 7,000 cases of the Forts de Latour at €145 a bottle ex-Bordeaux so offered in London for around £1,700 per case.

Considering both the prices, inevitable premium on the grand vin and the fact that the Forts had never been released before but was close to the price of others already on the market, it seemed at face value that the Forts was the better buy.

In the event, reports from merchants largely confirmed these initial impressions.

As usual, the timing of the releases was good – comfortably ahead of the en primeur campaign and without too many other releases at this time of year to distract merchants, although Berry Bros & Rudd’s fine wine buying director, Max Lalondrelle, thought that a release of this sort was possibly “a bit too much for the UK at the moment,” which possibly fed into the rather slow sales on the day.

That said, once again there was frustration with the estate’s apparent insistence that its ex-cellar releases of wines already in the marketplace need, for some reason, a hefty premium. While 15% might be expected, when it begins to go above that, and especially for a vintage such as 2006, the grumbles begin.

As such, the 2006 grand vin does not appear to have been terribly successful.

“We sold a little bit to Latour lovers,” noted Goedhuis’s chief executive, Tom Stopford Sackville, who clearly found a few of the aforesaid collectors in need of the odd case, but it was clear it was not much.

On the other hand, the newly released 2012 Forts did a much better trade. Stopford Sackville continued: “For us the Forts worked. It was roughly the same price as the 2011, and we sold five times as much Forts as we did the Latour.

“We thought the price was right from both a drinking perspective and an investment one.”

More could have been sold, he added, but likely seeing that Forts was moving rather better than the grand vin, négociants apparently began tying cases of Forts with one of Latour, but with sales of the 2006 proving “sluggish… our Forts pipe got turned off”.

Berry Bros & Rudd, Farr Vintners and Corney & Barrow also reported better sales of the Forts though none seemed to have shifted large volumes.

At BBR, Lalondrelle said that, anecdotally, talking to négoce it seemed quite a lot of the stock had ended up in Asia, which is unsurprising, given that market’s appetite for aged, ready-to-drink fine wine.

“Proportionally, I don’t think the UK was a big part of it,” said Lalondrelle but, nevertheless, judging by the overall reaction to the 2012 Forts, future releases of previously unreleased stock especially the grand vin from vintages such as 2014-2016 may very much be able to generate the sort of anticipation and buzz that has been lacking in all the previous releases.

For now, however, perhaps buyers are saving their powder for the coming en primeur campaign, which could very well be short, sharp and furious (or simply infuriating) due to the somewhat more limited quantities of wine that will be available form certain estates.

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