Lafite Leads $1.5 Million Auction on Bordeaux Demand

A $1.5 million wine auction in London this week found buyers for 97 percent of its lots, signaling strengthening demand for investment-grade Bordeaux.

Older vintages of Bordeaux dominated at Christie’s International on Feb. 21. A top price of 34,500 pounds ($52,622) was paid by a French wine trader for a 12-bottle case of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1982. The price, slightly in excess of the upper estimate of 30,000 pounds, was marginally more than the 32,200 pounds paid for a case of Lafite ’82 at Sotheby’s in London last January.

The market for trophy clarets has rallied after buying from China declined in early-to-mid-2012. The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index, which tracks trading in the 10 most recent vintages of Bordeaux’s five first-growths, climbed to 316.32 on Feb. 22 after slumping to a two-and-a-half-year low of 296.77 in November.

“Demand is returning from China and there’s a shortage of stock among merchants,” Miles Davis, partner at Wine Asset Managers LLP, said in an interview. “The weakness of the pound against the euro encourages people to buy at London auctions.”

Christie’s sale of 408 lots raised 960,569 pounds with fees, beating an upper estimate of 904,110 pounds, based on hammer prices.

A Hong Kong private buyer paid 25,300 pounds for a case of Chateau Petrus 1989, and another case of Lafite ’82 -- with variable bottle levels -- raised 23,000 pounds, also to Hong Kong. Both prices were slightly more than their high estimates.

Vintage Magnums

Chateau Lafite remains Asia’s favorite Bordeaux label, and five magnums of the highly rated 1947 vintage soared to 20,700 pounds against a price guide of 3,000 pounds to 4,000 pounds.

The one high-value disappointment was a presentation case of six bottles of Moet & Chandon’s historic 1911 champagne, featured on the catalog front cover.

Ambitiously estimated at 30,000 pounds to 40,000 pounds, these failed to sell.

Christie’s total was 10.1 percent higher than the equivalent auction last year, when 293 lots were offered.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art and wine markets for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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