Before the market began to move in 2005, Lafite Rothschild’s price premium over the other First Growths hovered at around 7.5%. This was largely due to its high Parker scores and laissez faire approach to distribution, allowing almost every merchant globally to access and push the brand.
As the market began to gain momentum, Lafite led the charge. By mid-2007 its prices had surged above those of the other First Growths, and by the end of 2010 the brand was trading at a 130% premium to the other first growths. When the market fell in mid-2011, Lafite also saw the greatest drop. As shown in the chart below, prices fell 37% between June 2011 and June 2012 compared to 28% for the other First Growths.
Since mid-2012 the market has slowed down, and decline has been more gradual for all First Growths. From June to August this year the Liv-ex 50 appeared to have bottomed out. On the 6th August 2014 the index closed at 262.79: its lowest level since December 2009. Since then it has risen 1.1% and seems to be holding steady. But the performances of the First Growths have not been universal. Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild – currently trading at the lowest prices – are the strongest performers. Latour and Magaux are holding steady. It is Lafite, still, that is the weakest performer.
But if we look at average prices and scores, below, perhaps this is justified. Following price falls, Lafite is now on a par with Latour, which has a very slightly higher average score. The former still has the higher POP score, just. But for those seeking First Growth value, Haut Brion comes out on top. With the lowest POP score, its quality is on a par with Margaux but it remains the cheapest of all the Firsts. The recent outperformance would seem to be justified.
All prices are in GBP and are for 12x75cl cases. Scores are from www.erobertparker.com
A wine’s POP score is its price-over-points ratio, our loose measure of value. It is calculated by dividing the price of a nine-litre case of wine by a shortened 20-point score. We have calculated this 20-point score by simply subtracting 80 from the official rating from Robert Parker (for barrel-score spreads we use the mid-point of the score), on the basis that any wine under 80 points is unlikely to attract a secondary market. In theory, the lower the POP score the better value a wine is.