Asian wine lovers have been surprisingly quick to develop fine palates. Some attribute this to their strong food culture of enjoying delicious food that wine quality is very quickly appreciated. So it’s not surprising that “Asian wine market is what is driving the world market right now and Asian buyers account for about 60% of Sotheby’s world-wide wine sales; at auction last spring in Hong Kong, 30% of sales went to mainland Chinese buyers,” according to Robert Sleigh, head of wines for Sotheby’s Asia.
There is no bottle that captures the Chinese like Château Lafite Rothschild, a Bordeaux that has become the most coveted wine in Asia.
Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold its first-ever auction of a collection from the Lafite estate of nearly 2,000 bottles dating from 1869 to 2008 which have never left the Château’s private cellars until now. The October 29th auction is expected to garner between HK$12 million and HK$20 million (US$1.5 and $2.5 million).
Prices of Lafite have been rising over the years from US$4,000 to US$5,000 a case ten years ago to the current US$60,000 a case, a 12-fold increase.
Mainland Chinese buy just four brands: Château Lafite, Château Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild and Le Pin (Le Pin is considered the most expensive wine in the world). All these are renowned first-growths from Bordeaux.
Of these, the Chinese love Lafite.
Why Lafite? Among the reasons, its easy pronunciation, volume, classic brand, and legendary vintages, Sotheby’s Sleigh opined.
Perhaps, the Chinese covet Lafite not just for its quality, but for its amazing ability to convey wealth and status. According to Asia’s consumer expert Radha Chadha, “What Louis Vuitton is to bags, or Mercedes is to cars, Lafite has become to fine wines in China—an easily recognizable symbol that speaks money. Place a bottle of it on the table while entertaining important clients and it gives an instant high to your image. You are drinking money, a significant sum in each sip, and that’s what counts.”
photo credit: sotheby