October 20 2010
Sotheby’s Château Lafite sale at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong on the evening of October 29 promises to be one of the highlights of the Fine and Rare fall auction season. Certainly, anyone looking to bid will need deep pockets, because what’s on offer is the most extraordinary set of Lafite vintages ever put under the hammer by Baron Eric de Rothschild. The collection spans 139 years, with the oldest wine dating back to 1869. Moreover, all 2,000 bottles come in pristine condition with cast-iron provenance, having never left the château until now. And all bottles featured in the sale will have a back label with the Sotheby’s designation. They will also be laser engraved “Hong Kong 2010” at the bottom.
Lafite, perfect provenance and über-wealthy Chinese buyers are a potent mix when it comes to price and premium. This is one reason why auction records will almost inevitably be sent tumbling. Another is that there has never been a Lafite sale like it. According to Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby’s international wine department, “This unique opportunity to buy its greatest bottles, direct from its cellars will not come again. This auction represents Château Lafite in all its glory and those who acquire these wines can feel they have walked into the legendary cellars and found paradise.”
Sotheby’s expects the sale to fetch between $1.5 and $2.5m, but it could go higher given the age and rarity of single-bottle lots such as the 1869 ($5,000-$8,000) and the 1870 ($10,000-$20,000). Other highlights include a jeroboam of the 1959 ($30,000-$50,000) and three double-magnum lots of the ’82 ($40,000-$70,000). In addition to more recent Lafite vintages, there are other “must-have” liquid assets from the Lafite Rothschild stable, including its massively sought-after second wine, Carruades de Lafite. There are also various lots of Château Rieussec (Sauternes) and Château L’Evangile (Pomerol).
Even though there are plenty of other major wine sales in Hong Kong around the same time, and most Chinese are not necessarily sold on older vintages or large formats, perhaps the Lafite label can once again work its magic in prising out some stellar winning bids. It promises to be quite a night.