Hong Kong buyers pay four times retail for Lafite 2009

Last week, Sotheby’s held an auction of wines from Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Hong Kong that broke many records.

As has been covered elsewhere, one Asian telephone bidder snapped up three bottles of 1869 Lafite for $232,000 each–a new per bottle record. Other rarities appeared in the sale of 2,000 bottles spanning 139 years.

But one aspect of the sale that struck me was the premium paid over retail prices. Decanter.com has a helpful rundown on the spreads, many of which are justifiable given the provenance of the wines (they were coming directly from Lafite’s cellars in the Medoc.) Most notable for me were the 2009s and 2008s which are still only available on a futures basis–the wine has not even been put in the bottle, much less left the property yet. In other words, whether you buy it in New York, LA, Hong Kong or London, the wine has yet to be shipped so you’d think the prices would harmonize (with the exception of duties). Yet Decanter reports the prices paid for 2008 futures were 102% over retail and the 2009s were almost 300% over retail. Similarly, Hong Kong hammer prices frequently fetch higher prices than the same wines in New York of London.

I called Jamie Ritchie, Head of Wine at Sotheby’s New York office, to ask why. He described the scene last week in Hong Kong as “the best you can get” as an auctioneer: the room was full to capacity, with a lot of excitement, and a lot of bidding in the room and on the telephone. As to the premium for the 2008s, he said they announced the new Chinese character on the bottle and there was “a lot of appreciation for that gesture.” And why pay $70,000 a case for the 2009s (that sell for $17,000 a case in New York)? “Sheer unbridled enthusiasm,” he said.

How much does it cost to physically ship a case of wine to Hong Kong from either New York or Bordeaux to Hong Kong? Depending on volume, Ritchie said about $15 to $40 a case. There are no duties.

Sotheby’s next auction in Hong Kong will be January 22 and 23.

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12 Responses to “Hong Kong buyers pay four times retail for Lafite 2009”

  1. I smell a business opportunity: Arbitrage! Buy futures in NYC for $17K, undercut the auctioneers and sell in HK for, say $50K. A bargain for HK buyers, no? It’s win-win!

  2. I wish I had some backing capital, Mark, I’d be all over this one.

  3. These are not Hong Kong people. Hong Kongers would never pay over the odds for anything. These are Chinese mainlanders and this probably has little to do with wine and is more about showing off, showing one’s wealth,being the big guy in the room, and often a way of getting rid of corrupt money. Most of this stuff is gifted, I suspect rarely drunk, unless the occasion is another opportunity for showing off. I am reminded of that Jewish joke about the guy who bought a stockpile of canned sardines, sold on from another Jewish dealer. The buyer opened a can and found they were horrible quality. When he returned to the seller he was told, “Isaac, these sardines are not for eatin, these are for sellin”. At least Lafite will still taste good regardless of the number of times it changes hands.

  4. With sheer unbridled enthusiasm accompanied by unlimited amounts of money one could do anything.

  5. Anyone want to guess how many wines will feature lucky Chinese symbols on their bottles in the future?

  6. Insanity!

  7. People may think prices of these wines are crazy, but Lafite only make around 20,000 cases of wine a year, not nearly enough to supply global demand. I started to invest in Bordeaux wines back in 2008. I wanted an alternative investment without the volatility of the stock market, its been my best performing investment since.

    I found a good website for advice, and you can also win a case of 2003 Lafite.


  8. […] more sizzle After recent successes in Hong Kong, auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s graced New York with sales this past weekend. […]

  9. […] a mere 100%!? Given that Lafite 2009 futures were just snapped up at four times retail it will be interesting to see what premium the collection achieves in January in Hong Kong. It may […]

  10. […] do decide to auction off liquor licenses, they should consider doing so in Hong Kong to get four times the going rate stateside.) Also, they could consider scaling license fees as a percentage of revenue to make it more […]

  11. […] entertains China’s president Hu Jintao. But what’s in the glass? They can’t serve Lafite, after all, since the White House only pours domestic wins and this menu is set to be […]

  12. […] Hong Kong buyers paying on aver 48% more for DRC than in New York. As a reminder, shipping a case shipping a case of wine from NY to HK costs less than $50. window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", status: true, cookie: true, xfbml: […]


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