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Château Lafite-Rothschild enjoys an exceptional location close to the Gironde estuary. With a surface area of 112 hectares divided into three main zones, the vineyards of this benchmark among the great wines of Pauillac stretch from the slopes surrounding the château to the Carruades plateau to the west, as well as a parcel in the neighbouring commune of Saint-Estèphe. Classified Premier Crus Classé in 1855, it produces some of the best wines in Pauillac.

 

The History of the estate:
Known as a wine producer in the 13th century, the history of the estate began in the 17th century under the impetus of Jacques de Ségur, who launched the planting of the Château Lafite vineyard in the 1670s and early 1680s. In 1784, Alexandre de Ségur, son of Jacques, was forced to sell the estate. One of his relatives, Nicolas Pierre de Pichard, then First President of the Bordeaux Parliament, bought the estate. The property remained in the de Segur family until 1794, when Nicolas Pierre de Pichard was executed during the French Revolution.
Château Lafite was acquired on 8 August 1868 by Baron James de Rothschild. Following his death 3 months later, the estate, which then comprised 74 hectares of vines, was run by his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave and Edmond.
Within the years, the DBR Lafite family has expanded with new châteaux in the region. The family acquired the Plateau des Carruades in 1845. Initially known as Moulin des Carruades, it was not until 1980 that the name was changed to Carruade de Lafite. A neighbouring property of Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Duhart-Milon was acquired by Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite in 1962. The 1855 classification made Château Duhart-Milon the only 4th Grand Cru Classé in the commune of Pauillac. Over the last sixty years, the DBR Lafite family has grown with new châteaux in the region, a wine in the Corbières valley, a collection of Bordeaux wines, and has expanded around the world to Chile, Argentina and China.

 

 

The terroir of Lafite-Rothschild:

Situated close to the Gironde estuary, Château Lafite-Rothschild watches over an exceptional 112-hectare vineyard within the Pauillac appellation. This exceptional vineyard is planted on deep, fine gravel soils. Although sand is predominant on the surface, the limestone subsoil ensures optimum drainage. Because of its geographical position, the Pauillac appellation enjoys a temperate oceanic climate, characterised by mild, wet winters and relatively cool summers. The Château Lafite-Rothschild vineyards are on average forty years old, the grapes from the young vines, which are around 10 years old, are not included in the Grand Vin blend.

 

Since 1962, a joint team has been dedicated to the vineyards of Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Duhart-Milon. Duhart-Milon lies to the west of Lafite, on the Milon hillside and its 76 hectares are planted with 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot. Made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the vineyards are run in the traditional way, limiting chemical inputs and favouring low yields.

Carruades de Lafite also has its own personality, linked to the higher proportion of Merlot in its composition and to plots that are now clearly identified as producing Carruades. The grape varieties used in the wine are 50-70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30-50% Merlot and a variation of 0-5% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. In order to bring out the identity and expression of each terroir, the grapes are harvested and vinified on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

 

The wines:

Lafite-Rothschild:

With its freshness, aromatic richness and density, Château Lafite-Rothschild elegantly expresses the identity of the greatest terroirs on Bordeaux’s Left Bank. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, depending on the vintage, this great Pauillac wine is matured for 18 to 20 months exclusively in new oak barrels.

 

 

Carruades de Lafite:

Carruades de Lafite is a wine of seductive aromatic purity and delicacy. This second wine is matured for 16 to 20 months, 80% in barrels (10% new). On tasting, it has a very supple, round attack. Carruades de Lafite then displays youthful, lively tannins of fine quality, which time will reveal to perfection. A harmonious, complex nectar, a worthy successor to the Grand Vin.

Duhart-Milon:
Château Duhart-Milon is known for its structured, classic wines, but above all for their ageing potential. The vines, next door to the prestigious Lafite-Rothschild Premier Cru, are tended by the same teams. The critics have hailed the revival of Duhart-Milon over the last ten years. The wine is aged in an average of 50% new, French oak barrels for 14 to 16 months, depending on the vintage.

Pontet-Canet is one of the most iconic estates of Bordeaux. It is one of the pioneers of environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture in Bordeaux. A philosophy that advocates the free expression of the terroir and the transcription of its character to the wines. It is a 5th Grand Crus Classé, representing 81 hectares of some of the best terroir in AOC Pauillac. The vineyard is planted with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot.

History of the Estate

In 1757, Jean-François De Pontet, Governor of the Médoc, acquired land in Pauillac and in the area known as Canet. As was customary, he gave his name to the Château: Château Pontet-Canet. Henri Herman Cruse, an established wine merchant in Bordeaux, bought the estate in 1865. He revolutionised the château and built up the reputation of its wines. In 1975, the estate was bought by Guy Tesseron, a Cognac winemaker and merchant who also owned Château Lafon Rochet in Saint-Estephe. His son, Alfred Tesseron, took over in 1994. Straight away, in 1995, the first steps were taken towards organic farming and a rethink of production methods.

In 2004, Château Pontet-Canet made a long-term commitment to convert its entire vineyard to biodynamic viticulture – the first of the Médoc Grand Cru Classé.

A few years later, in 2010, the Château’s wines were certified organic and biodynamic. Becoming the first Grand Cru Classé in the Médoc to obtain double certification for its entire vineyard.

The Terroir

The heart of the Pontet-Canet terroir, the ‘Plateau’, is a ridge of Günz gravel from the Garonne (dating from the first ice age of the Quaternary era between -1.3 and -1.1 million years ago), resting on a limestone bedrock. This fine, well-draining soil is reputed to suit the character of the great Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which account for over 60% of the grand vin.

The other part of the vineyard is located near the river, not far from the village of Pouyalet, an area that is clearly more chalky. In some plots, the limestone is more present, while in others the clay rises to the surface.

These cooler, richer soils are ideal for Merlot, producing more structured, fleshy wines. To reconnect with the past, four plots on the edge of the vineyard have been planted with Petit Verdot, which brings spicy aromas to the great wine of Pontet-Canet.

The Vineyard

In order to avoid the soil being compacted by heavy tractors and to preserve the old vines, the estate decided to use draught horses in 2008. Today, a dozen or so Percheron horses work half the vineyard‘95% of our work takes place in the vineyards.’ – Mathieu Bessonnet, Technical Director

In keeping with the desire to regulate the soil naturally and remain true to the essence of the terroir, a room has been set up to produce all the biodynamic preparations, herbal teas, decoctions, washes and sulphur- and copper-based sprays.

The Wine

Vinification takes place in the Château’s three vats: the historic wooden vat dating back to the 19th century, the concrete vats inaugurated in 2005 and the latest amphora vats, which was completed in 2017 and is the only one of its kind, designed without electricity.

Around half the production is matured in new barrels, 10-15% in ‘one-wine’ barrels and, since 2012, 30-40% in Dolia (concrete amphorae). The ageing period varies from 16 to 18 months, depending on the type of wine.

Some much needed positive news for wine enthusiasts and investors alike, the Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index rose by 0.4% in March, marking its first positive movement since March 2023. This uptick signals a potential reversal of the downward trend that has plagued the market over the past year.

While the broader Liv-ex Fine Wine 1000 index experienced a slight decline of 0.6%, it was a significantly milder drop compared to the previous month, hinting at a potential stabilisation of prices.

Despite some fluctuations, individual wines showcased notable resilience. Among the top performers were two Napa Valley wines, Promontory 2018 and Dominus 2019, both experiencing substantial price increases. Additionally, wines like Sassicaia from various vintages continued to demonstrate strong performance, underscoring enduring demand for quality labels.

The positive momentum extended beyond price movements. March witnessed an increase in exposure on the Liv-ex exchange, indicating growing interest and activity within the market. While there was a slight decrease in the number of brands and individual wines traded compared to February, the uptick in exposure suggests renewed confidence among traders and collectors.

It’s not just about prices and trading volumes; the wine market’s resilience is also reflected in the stories behind the bottles. Iconic producers like Paul Jaboulet Aine and Chateau Rayas saw impressive price rises, showcasing the enduring allure of timeless classics.

Despite challenges such as the Champagne 50 index experiencing a notable decline driven by big brands trading below release prices, the overall narrative suggests a market poised for recovery. Even amidst declines over the past year, the long-term trajectory of Liv-ex indices remains a testament to the enduring value and appeal of fine wines.

Economic Overview

The year 2023 has proven to be challenging not only for the fine wine market but also for global financial markets and consumers. The IMF’s projections indicate a slowing world economic growth trajectory, impacted by the lingering effects of the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and conflicts in Israel and Palestine. While inflation is gradually receding from the peaks of 2022, core inflation remains high, leading to multiple interest rate hikes globally.

In the UK, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) showed a 4.6% rise in the 12 months to October 2023, reflecting a decrease from previous months. However, energy prices, though lower than their peaks, still contribute to the overall higher cost of living.

On a global scale, emerging and developing economies demonstrate more resilience, except for China, where economic growth forecasts for 2023 have been lowered to 5%, primarily due to challenges in the real estate sector.

The overall economic landscape translates into reduced consumer spending power, increased costs, and a slow recovery, likely peaking in 2024. This has a direct impact on the fine wine market, with buyers becoming more cautious and unwilling to spend as much as in previous years.

Fine Wine Market

The fine wine market in 2023 faced continued challenges, contrasting sharply with the two halves of 2022, where rapid growth in the first half gave way to a downturn. Major Liv-ex indices, including the Fine Wine 100, Fine Wine 50, and Fine Wine 1000*, retraced most of the gains from the previous two years, with declines ranging from 13.0% to 13.4% year-to-date.

Comparing 2022, when fine wine outperformed other financial indices, to 2023, a shift is evident. Equities markets like the S&P 500 and gold have rebounded, while fine wine indices exhibit less buoyancy but remain at comparable levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite a unique En Primeur 2022 campaign where release prices were considerably higher than previous years, Bordeaux remains a safe haven for collectors. In contrast, Burgundy’s share declines due to increased risk aversion, impacting prices and trade numbers for newer, less-established brands.

The overall assessment by The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index paints a more optimistic picture of the market and its trends in the past year. It indicates that challenges in the luxury market were primarily influenced by the underperformance of Burgundy and the substantial impact of high inflation. These factors might influence the pricing strategy for next year’s releases, with producers potentially needing to offer discounts to encourage consumers to opt for their products instead of holding cash.

While wearable investments like watches and jewelry showed satisfactory performance, the luxury market exhibited mixed results. Notably, whisky, often compared to wine, faced a decline despite its strong performance over the last decade.

Overview

In the current fine wine market downturn, there’s a noticeable shift toward safer assets like older Bordeaux vintages, reflecting a broader trend favouring quality and established brands. However, brands that surged in 2021/2022, like Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux and Château Lafite, are now seeing significant declines.

Anticipations of upcoming high-yielding vintages raise concerns about the market’s capacity for expensive wines. Campaigns like Burgundy and Bordeaux En Primeur in 2024 become crucial, requiring strategic pricing. The fine wine market is in a familiar standoff observed in bear markets, where buyers resist current prices, sellers hesitate to lower them, and accumulating stock poses challenges. Until there’s an improvement in the macroeconomic landscape and a decline in interest rates, finding a compromise between buyers and sellers remains essential.

The Market Going Forwards

Whilst nobody possesses a crystal ball, gaining insights into the future often involves reflecting on the past. Drawing parallels with history, the closest economic analogy to our current situation lies in the 2008/09 financial crisis. Although the circumstances differ, the end result mirrors an economic downturn. During that period, the price of wine dipped as consumer demand for fine wine waned—an inevitable consequence of basic supply and demand dynamics.

For present-day investors, there’s solace in the fact that the market experienced a highly profitable period from 2009 to 2011. However, the current ongoing price correction has yet to reignite buyer interest, indicating that prices may continue to face downward pressure in the short term. The suspense now hinges on whether the market will rebound in 2024, echoing the recovery witnessed in 2009.

All statistical information is from Liv-Ex

What are the Liv-Ex Indices?

  • The Liv-Ex Fine Wine 100 index is the industry leading benchmark. It represents the price movement of 100 of the most sought-after fine wines.
  • The Liv-Ex Fine Wine 1000 is the broadest index. It represents the price movement of 1000 of the most sought-after fine wines.
  • The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index tracks the price movements of the Bordeaux First Growths. It includes the ten most recent vintages of Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Haut Brion and Latour.

 

By Edward Stevens

Edward.Stevens@WaudWines.com

A big release from Pomerol today in the form of Château La Conseillante. It is being offered by the international trade for £2,652 per 12×75, up 40.8% on the 2021’s opening price (£1,884 per 12×75). Although the 40.8% price increase is a lot, this wine still offers fantastic value compared to previous (lower scored) vintages of this wine on the secondary market. This is a testament to how it performs as an investment year on year. We have taken our full allocation here.

Neal Martin (Vinous) gave the wine a barrel score of 97-99 points. He mentions in his tasting note that ‘Marielle Cazaux has crafted one of the most intellectual La Conseillante wines in recent years’.

William Kelley (Wine Advocate) awarded the wine a barrel range of 97-100 points. He said that ‘the 2022 La Conseillante is a remarkable wine that has the potential to emerge as one of the wines of the vintage’. He went on to say ‘congratulations to winemaker Marielle Cazaux, consulting oenologist Thomas Duclos, the Nicolas family led by Jean-Valmy, and all the team at La Conseillante who have firmly established this estate at the very top of Pomerol’s qualitative hierarchy in recent vintages’.

James Suckling agreed that ‘this is sensational’ and commented on its ‘silky, silky, silky. Creamy texture’. He awarded it 98-99 points.

 

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Next up is Vieux Château Certan. It is being offered by the international trade for £3,300 per 12×75, up 20.6% on the 2021s opening price (£2,736 per 12×75). Some older vintages of this wine have started to increase in value more recently according to Liv-Ex data, this could suggest that this could be a wine to hold on to.

 

Neal Martin (Vinous) gave the wine a barrel range of 97-99 points, calling it ‘very expressive this year’. He mentions that ‘while it is a real Left Bank/Right Bank hybrid’ it is ‘quintessentially Pomerol’.

Jane Anson (Inside Bordeaux) awarded the wine a score of 96 points, noting the ‘exuberance of the vintage’ and mentioning that the wine ‘will no doubt increase with age’.

James Suckling gave the wine a barrel range of 98-99 points and noted the wines ‘excellent length’.

 

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The final first growth available to buy en primeur has been released. It is being offered by the international trade for £6,180 per 12×75, a 21.2% increase on the 2021’s opening price (£5,100 a case).

Neal Martin (Vinous) awarded it a barrel range of 96-98 points, praising its medium-bodied palate that is ‘blessed with unerring symmetry’. He noted the 2022 Haut-Brion’s ‘bewitching’ texture and a finish that is ‘almost pixelated’. In his words: ‘magnificent, but not necessarily the best wine that Delmas oversaw in this vintage’.

‘A classic, breath-taking expression of Haut-Brion’, noted Lisa Perrotti-Brown (Wine Independent) who rated it at 97-99+ points. After the first ten years in the bottle, she expects to ‘watch it soar’.

James Suckling scored the wine at 98-99 points, underscoring the ‘fascinating aromas’ of currants and cedar with sandalwood and peaches. He highlights the ‘interesting’ merlot majority in this year’s blend (53.6%), an anomaly for Haut-Brion.

 

Ducru-Beaucaillou was released this week. It is being offered by the international trade for £2,244 per 12×75, up 17.6% on the 2021’s opening price (£1,908 per 12×75). It has been a trend this campaign that prices have been up compared to the 2021 vintage. Ducru-Beaucaillou is a wine that performs well on the secondary market and one that we will be taking our allocation of.

Neal Martin (Vinous) awarded the wine a barrel range of 95-97 points, calling it ‘one of the most dense and muscular’ of the Château’s history. He added that the 2022 Ducru-Beaucaillou ‘threatens to overwhelm the senses’ while still young, noting that the bottle tasting will be particularly important.

William Kelley (Wine Advocate) assigned it a score of 94-96 points, deeming it a ‘punchy, modern Saint-Julien reminiscent of a hypothetical blend of the 2018 and 2020’.

James Suckling gave the wine a barrel range of 97-98 points, calling it ‘full-bodied with powerful tannins, yet fine and layered’.

 

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Château Mouton Rothschild was released this morning. It is being offered by the international trade for £6,216 per 12×75, a 21.9% increase on the 2021’s opening price (£5,100 a case). Another wine that we always take our full allocation of given it’s long history of success on the secondary market.

Neal Martin (Vinous) awarded the wine a barrel range of 96-98, calling it ‘a Mouton-Rothschild determined to make a statement’. He makes note of the ‘powerful, almost burly’ profile, saying it ‘feels a bit like tasting Thor’s hammer at the moment’. He is overall optimistic, though: ‘It is, perhaps, how the 1986 tasted in its youth’.

‘A legend in the making’, writes Lisa Perrotti-Brown (Wine Independent) who scored the wine at 98-100 points. She highlights its ‘explosive, intense’ flavours, adding that ‘it is amazing how classical this Mouton is.

Jane Anson (Inside Bordeaux) gave the wine a score of 98 points, recommending that the wine ‘needs a long time before approaching’, but is a ‘thoroughly enjoyable experience’.

‘In a word: magnificent’, says Antonio Galloni (Vinous) who rated it at a range of 96-98 points.

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Château Léoville-Las-Cases was released yesterday. It is being offered by the international trade for £2,772 per 12×75, a 42.2% increase on 2021’s opening price (£1,950 a case). Leoville Las Cases is often a top performer and received a possible 18 100-point scores (including Neal Martin) making it the best vintage for a long time.

This year’s Las-Cases has garnered immense praise from critics. According to Neal Martin of Vinous, the wine received a score of 98-100 points. In his tasting note, he described it as ‘lavish and audacious’ for a Saint-Julien, surpassing the trio of 2018-2020 vintages and being a ‘tour de force’.

James Suckling awarded the wine a range of 99-100 points. He noted that the tannins were seamlessly integrated, providing fantastic structure, while the texture remained fresh and vivid. Suckling found it to be ‘thought-provoking’ and ‘endless’.

Meanwhile, Jean-Marc Quarin awarded it a perfect 100-points. He commented that it is ‘the meatiest, most precise, deepest and most austere Léoville Las Cases I know’ and added ‘that’s wonderful!’

William Kelley (Wine Advocate) also scored the wine 98-100 points. He said it was ‘one of the wines of the vintage’ and ‘a monument in the making’. That being said, Kelley did caution that ‘it wouldn’t surprise me if it were to shut down after a few years in bottle’ as it ‘was surprisingly open for a young Las Cases’.

If you are interested in discussing your investment wine options – please follow this link and fill in the form