Chateau Lafite Rothschild, with bottles from 1914, 1949 and 1982.
Collectors who are accustomed to buying Bordeaux directly from the manufacturer, just "a prize", or as futures, before they get out into the market, fear the chance to buy aged bottles that never left the castle's basement.
Château Lafite Rothschild, perhaps the most famous Bordeaux first growth producer, offers this opportunity in an extensive living auction of 692 many, all directly from the Lafite basement and other properties owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). New York Wine Dealer and Auction House Zachys conducts sales on March 30 at Le Bernardin Privé in New York.
The auction star, honored by Baron James Mayer de Rothschild's acquisition of the famous property in France 150 years ago, is a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild 1868, produced the same year. The offer, which includes a dinner for four at the castle, is estimated at between $ 13,000 and US $ 20,000. The wine was produced just over a decade after the classification system ranks Bordeaux's castle from first to fifth growth.
The final buyer of 1868 will acquire "an exceptional story," says Jean-Guillaume Prats, President Lafite and CEO. "You buy the only machine that goes back in time."
That's because the 1868 vintage, of which Lafite only has five bottles, was among the great vintages of Bordeaux. At Lafite, these wines, which are clearly old, complex and velvety, "taste like a pretty young wine," says Prats-almost as though it was still 1868.
Sales also include Château Lafite Rothschild 1870, also considered an exceptional vintage, which is estimated to sell for between US $ 12,000 and US $ 18,000, as well as nine other 19th-century bottles. There are also wines sold directly from the basement to other Lafite properties, including the Château Duhart-Milon, considered "Lafite's younger brother", which is popular in Europe, and the Château L 'esangile, a small estate on the right bank of Bordeaux. It is popular with North American collectors, says Prats.
More than 500 large format bottles will be offered too, including several imperials (equal in volume to eight bottles), signed by Baron Eric de Rothschild and his daughter, Saskia de Rothschild, who has been head of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) since last year.
All bottles were marked for the auction before being placed in custom made wooden boxes.
Lafite sold basement bottles 10 years ago at a Sotheby auction in Hong Kong. This auction, although available to bidders globally, is deliberately centered in the United States because "we wanted to send a strong signal to the market that we will not forget about the American wine collectors," Prats says.
Burgundy today dominates fine wine marketing in price, especially with the sale of a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, or DRC, from the cellar Robert Drouhin at Sotheby in New York. For Prats, it makes sense, given the quality of Burgundy and the small production levels of the French appellation. But Burgundy requires a special collector, one who is willing to be educated about the region's producers, many of whom make wine from the same large vineyards.
"Bordeaux has a significant advantage," Prats says. "The wines are not only great and amazing, but they are produced in much larger quantities, and they are easily accessible because of the volumes and how the wines have been sold.
" Château Lafite has the same mysterious reputation as Romanée-Conti and some others, but it remains significantly cheaper than these wines, he says.
Despite the awards for a couple of bottles of Burgundy, Bordeaux remains the cornerstone of the fine wine market, says Charles Antin, a senior international specialist at Zachys, and auctioneer for Lafite sales. But what's important is not that Lafite is from Burgundy or Bordeaux, or Italy's Piedmont for that matter.
"This is artwork," he says. "This is an opportunity to buy 1870 Lafite, widely regarded as the best Bordeaux all the time. My experience is whether it is art or jewelry or wine, that kind of ancestry and rarity surpasses the market, especially at the global level."