Over the past few weeks, numerous comparisons have been made between the 2010 ex-negociant release prices of the five First Growths, both with each other and with previous vintages. In most cases, however, commentators have only considered first-tranche prices, despite the fact that first-tranche volumes were extremely thin this year and subsequent tranches were significantly more expensive. Indeed, Decanter reported that the First Growths held back two-thirds of their stock in their first releases. With this in mind, we have collated the first, second and third-tranche prices of the Premiers Crus to paint a more accurate picture of 2010 pricing.
As you can see from the chart above, the first tranche of Lafite was released at €600 per bottle (ex-negociant) this year. If we were to ignore the prices of ensuing tranches, we might conclude that the wine was nine per cent cheaper than Haut Brion (released at €660) and priced on a par with Mouton and Margaux (both of which were released at €600). In reality, however, first-tranche volumes of Lafite were tiny and most merchants paid a great deal more for the majority of their stock.
Similarly, despite what first-tranche prices might suggest, Latour was not the most expensive of the First Growths this year, though the chateau seems to have released the least amount of stock. This is a complicating factor as we do not know exactly how much wine has been released, nor at what prices the chateaux will drip more stock into the market in future. Nonetheless, if we use the average price across all tranches as our benchmark for each wine's 2010 release price, Lafite clearly carried the highest premium, with the vintage costing merchants an average of €900 (assuming that the volume of each tranche was equal), compared with €780 for Latour.
Given the vast price differences between the tranches, first-tranche prices are, at best, misleading. At worst, they are irrelevant.