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Latour '61 Leads Historic Wines at $1.6 Million Sotheby’s Sale

Chateau Latour 1961
Bottles and magnums of Chateau Latour 1961. The wine is part of two lots comprising 12 bottles and four magnums, included in a Sotheby's auction in London, July 14. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

Chateau Latour wines spanning more than four decades back to the Bordeaux producer’s historic 1961 vintage get top billing at a Sotheby’s auction in London this week that may fetch as much as $1.6 million.

The sale today features vintages such as 1995, 1996 and 2005, as well as 1982 wines from rival first-growths Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Margaux and a rare 1976 Romanee Conti Burgundy.

Premium wines have been recovering from a slump that started in the fourth quarter of 2008, when the banking crisis cut investors’ wealth and reduced demand. The Liv-ex 100 Fine Wine Index rose 2.8 percent in June, boosting the London market benchmark 27 percent since the start of this year and taking it to a record high.

“Demand from Asia has continued unabated,” said Miles Davis, partner at Wine Asset Managers LLP in London, which has $25 million under management. “That’s leading to sharper price rises than expected.”

The most expensive of the Latour lots in the London sale comprises four magnums of the 1961 vintage, estimated to sell for as much as 18,000 pounds ($27,300). A case of 12 bottles may fetch 11,000 pounds and three half-cases 6,000 pounds each.

Robert Parker, who publishes the Monkton, Maryland-based Wine Advocate, gives the Latour 1961 his maximum 100 points, placing it among the chateau’s top four vintages of the past 50 years. The critic describes it on his website as “unquestionably one of the Bordeaux legends of the century,” which should drink well for another 15 years.

Hong Kong

The Sotheby’s estimates are below prices for Latour 1961 fetched at an Acker Merrall & Condit auction in Hong Kong in May, where the highest bid for one of four cases was HK$463,600 ($59,600), including a buyer’s premium of 22 percent, more than double the amount Sotheby’s expects.

Part of the difference may relate to damaged labels in the U.K. sale on bottles that have been kept in a European country house since being bought from the chateau.

“They’ve been stored in a cellar for a long time,” said Stephen Mould, senior director of Sotheby’s international wine department in London, adding Latour ‘61 prices have been boosted by its scarcity. “There’s not that much of it about. The labels are fragile or torn, and we’ve taken that into account.”

Marquis de Segur

Latour, owned by Francois Pinault’s holding company Groupe Artemis, has its top vineyards extending over 47 hectares and a tradition of fine wine-making that it traces back almost three centuries to the development of its estate by Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre de Segur from 1718 on. The 1961 vintage was almost the last produced by his descendants before they sold the estate in 1963.

Six cases of the Latour 1996 are on offer at a top estimate of 5,500 pounds each and three double magnums of the 1995 at up to 4,600 pounds. A single magnum of the 2005, which according to the chateau’s website won’t reach maturity for another 15 years, is offered at as much as 1,000 pounds.

Lafite Rothschild, the largest of Bordeaux’s first-growth wine estates, is well represented in the sale, with five cases of the landmark 1982 vintage slated to fetch top estimates of between 26,000 pounds and 32,000 pounds, depending on condition. Three cases of Lafite ‘96 and two cases of the 2003 vintage may sell for 10,000 pounds each, while three cases of Chateau Margaux 1982 are offered at top estimates of up to 7,000 pounds.

The most expensive Bordeaux right-bank wine in the auction is a case of Le Pin 1990 Pomerol, which is estimated to fetch as much as 28,000 pounds, reflecting its rarity.

Romanee Conti

The top Burgundy in the sale is a bottle of Romanee Conti Domaine de la Romanee Conti 1976, a Grand Cru estimated to fetch up to 5,000 pounds, making it potentially the most expensive wine in the auction on a per-bottle basis. Romanee Conti is a 500-year-old vineyard around the village of Vosne-Romanee which makes the most expensive wines in the Cote de Nuits.

Two bottles of Romanee Conti 1996 DRC are on offer at up to 9,200 pounds, as are three bottles of the 1998 for up to 13,500 pounds and five bottles of La Tache 1995 for 5,000 pounds.

The oldest wine in the auction is a single bottle of Chateau Beychevelle 1945, a fourth-growth Saint-Julien which is paired in a lot with a bottle of Chateau Coutet 1953 Barsac dessert wine for up to 240 pounds.

For collectors of top Italian and Spanish reds, a sequence of 18 magnums of Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia and Vega Sicilia Unico from the years between 1962 and 1998 are on sale in separate lots for a combined high estimate of 10,390 pounds.

On June 16, Sotheby’s raised 688,000 pounds at a London sale that included Lafite-Rothschild from the past 30 years and Burgundy from La Tache.

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