Romanée-Conti: China’s Next Lafite?

Burgundy Has Benefited From Relative Decline In Popularity Of Top-Tier Bordeauxs This Year

A bottle of 2007 Romanee-Conti currently costs around 110,390 yuan (US$17,370) in China

A bottle of 2007 Romanee-Conti currently costs around 110,390 yuan (US$17,370) in China

One of the more interesting shifts in the China high-end wine market this year has been the growing popularity of reds from Burgundy and relative decline of Bordeaux in first-tier cities. With prices for well-known Bordeaux, such as Château Lafite and Château Latour, exploding at auction over the past two years, many of China’s more seasoned wine aficionados have turned to vintages from other regions of France or to “New World” wineries from Australia, the US or Chile. Though demand for popular Bordeaux remains high in second- and third-tier cities, this week Hexun (Chinese) posits that the celebrated Burgundy Romanée-Conti, long considered one of the world’s best red wines, could become “China’s Next Lafite.”

Via Hexun (translation by Jing Daily team):

What connection is there between Romanée-Conti and Château Lafite? The two belong to different wine producing areas and normally have no connection whatsoever. However, Château Lafite is much more popular in China than Romanée-Conti. It is the China factor which has seen prices for Lafite rise year after year, gradually making it synonymous with high-end wine in the minds of [Chinese] consumers.

However, China’s enthusiasm for Lafite is starting to change. Since June of this year, the price of Lafite in China has began to dip. “This year, the main consumers of Château Lafite will be in second- and third-tier cities,” one industry insider said this week, adding that he has been astonished at the speed of change among wine drinkers in top-tier cities. “In top-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai, people might be laughed at for drinking Lafite, which shows the extent of this shifting trend. In top-tier cities, a bottle of rare Romanée-Conti is now considered more high-end.”

As Jing Daily wrote earlier this year, the relative scarcity of top Burgundy wines may make them a prime target for increasingly savvy buyers at auction, particularly in Hong Kong. While we take the quote that Lafite drinkers in Beijing or Shanghai would be “laughed at” with a grain of salt, the much larger production of Lafite (15,000 to 20,000 cases annually) compared to Romanée-Conti (450 cases annually, on average) means it’s entirely believable that wealthy collectors and drinkers would start to gravitate towards wines like Romanée-Conti. As the London-based wine merchants the Bordeaux Index said in a statement earlier this year, “Consumption of DRC (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) has always been linked to the good times, and almost half the DRC wines Bordeaux Index have sold in the last three or four months have been to Singapore casinos and to private clients in Asia.” According to the wine industry website CN Yangjiu, as of this July, prices for a bottle of Romanée-Conti in China range from 110,390 yuan (US$17,370) for the 2007 vintage to 265,867 yuan (US$42,000) for the 1990 vintage.

Jamie Ritchie of Sotheby's: Burgundy lovers should start hoarding to hedge against potentially booming Chinese demand

Jamie Ritchie of Sotheby’s: Burgundy lovers should start hoarding to hedge against potentially booming Chinese demand

As the FT wrote earlier this month, the shift away from Lafite has been both incredibly rapid and somewhat unexpected. At Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, 228 bottles of Château Lafite failed to sell at its October 2 auction, following 17 straight sell-out auctions in the city.

[T]he top four money spinners in Sunday’s auctions [in Hong Kong] were all Domaine de la Romanée Conti – the Lafite of Burgundy. The top lot – a 12-bottle case of 1988 Romanée Conti – went for HK$907,500 (US$116,525), above the estimate of of HK$750,000 – HK$900,000.

If high-end Burgundy does indeed respond to growing Chinese demand with higher prices and greater scarcity, Jamie Ritchie, North American head of wine at Sotheby’s, told the Wall Street Journal this spring that wine collectors should start “hoarding” Burgundy before the Chinese do:

“In my opinion, if Asia acquires a thirst for [Domaine de la Romanée-Conti], then over the long term prices can only increase. The question is, with such great quality and such small production, how high do prices go? It could become prohibitively high,” [Ritchie] wrote.

His advice? Hoard. Now. ”I think that if you want to drink great Burgundy, now or in the future, it might be a good idea to start laying it down in the cellar,” he said.

 

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