“Following their love affairs with Château Lafite Rothschild then Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) — it appears that they’re investing ever more into perennial status symbol Château Pétrus. While DRC — with its limited production and prohibitive price-tag — arguably remains “king” in the Hong Kong wine market, accounting for half of the top 10 lots sold in June at the “Fine and Rare Wines: Featuring an Important European Cellar” auction at Christie’s Hong Kong, Pétrus made up three spots, besting Lafite and Château Latour. This indicates that, to Chinese wine investors at least, Bordeaux monolith Lafite may be finally giving way to Pétrus.
Hit by rampant counterfeiting in mainland China, rising ubiquity, and a perhaps unfair perception as a wine for the country’s newly wealthy, Lafite’s reputation has taken a tumble in the Greater China region over the past year, leading many regional buyers to seek out other “big name” wines to fill out their collections.
These trends, while ever-changing, are highly important to the global wine auction market. Down 11.4 percent by the end of last year, the health of the Hong Kong and mainland China wine auction markets weighs heavily on the US$4 billion global industry, with an effect on the price of wine around the world. Speaking on some of the recent dynamics of the wine auction market in Asia, Anthony Hanson MW of Christie’s recently confirmed the rising stature of Pétrus and tossed in his two cents to a crowd at the Fine and Rare Wine Specialist course at Vienna’s Palais Coburg.
We’ll have to wait until this fall’s wine auction series in Hong Kong to see whether Chinese collectors truly are moving towards Pétrus and away from Lafite in a major way. If so, it will validate Christie’s view that Pétrus is the one to watch among the “big ten” Bordeaux wines: Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, Pétrus, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Le Pin and Lafleur.”
Pétrus is already the ‘next big thing’ in China however unfortunately ‘big’ isn’t a word that can be applied to Pétrus (unless in the context of ‘status’ and resulting price tag) – the estate is only 30 acres and at most only 2,500 cases of wine are produced. Chateau Lafite on the other hand has one of the largest vineyards in the Medoc at 264 acres and produces between 15 – 25,000 cases of the Grand Vin. Despite its scarcity – and perhaps because of it – Pétrus is one of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world, acquiring a mystique and a cult following.
Chinese wine enthusiasts are learning quickly and we should expect cult wines to become sought after in the East, and not just those from Bordeaux. Perhaps we will see a resurgence of interest in small production, garage / garagiste / micro cuvee wines as Chinese wine knowledge catches up with that of the West. Don’t forget that back in 2000 garage wines were selling for more than Pétrus – and being scored higher . . .