Fast and Furious 2009 First-Growths
The Rothschild first-growths—Lafite and Mouton—came out at an ex-cellar price of more than $550 per bottle of 2009 Bordeaux to wine merchants, who quickly added their margin and sold them on to customers around the world. Consumers are now expected to buy 2009 Lafite at about $1,200 a bottle, and there are plenty of buyers.
The 2009 Bordeaux futures market is at full speed at the moment, with key wine merchants around the world wrestling to supply enough wine to their key customers. The top wines such as the first-growths are among the most expensive young wines ever to be offered to the world.
"It's crazy," said Stephen Browett, owner of Farr Vintners of London, one of the biggest traders in Bordeaux futures in the world. "We had very little of the top wines to offer until Friday, and now all of them are coming out!"
The most expensive Bordeaux work with a complex tranche system whereby a château such as Lafite may only release a percentage of its annual production at first offering and then sell more later at a higher price. For example, Lafite reportedly sold only 45 percent of its en premier offerings at $550 ex-cellar. More offerings at higher prices are expected later.
Some say this is a manipulation of the market, but most wine merchants will wait for a couple of tranches and then average a price to their customers. Top wine merchants I have spoken to have said they have more demand than supply with the best of 2009.
Will wine drinkers really pay these prices? People historically have been willing to pay a premium for a new top vintage from France's premier wine region. In the end, nothing surprises me with great vintages of Bordeaux. I saw it with 1982, 1989, 1995, 2000 and 2005. And now here we are with 2009.
Two questions come to mind. Just who is buying these ultra-expensive wines? And are they buying to drink, or for investment?