December 2023 Auction Report: Price Readjustment for Petrus and Burgundy Grand Crus

3 bottle of Petrus following price readjustment

The final auctions of the year are traditionally those that harbour the finest bottles destined for people’s festive events and tables. In December, wine enthusiasts studied the auction catalogues diligently, but it was more in search of good deals than to obtain coveted lots no matter the price. This resulted in a price adjustment that has continued for Burgundy grand crus, mainly affecting the domains that saw their prices soar in 2022. The same thing has happened for Petrus, the iconic Bordeaux estate. Even if some stars such as Rayas and Clos Rougeard have seen their prices calm, demand remains strong for other regions, but this mainly comes from private individuals. Professionals tended to take a “wait and see” approach, searching for specific bottles that would satisfy precise demands. The settled market will allow 2024 to start with corrected prices following the records seen in the first half of 2022. We’ll now take a look at some stand-out auctions in more detail.

Price readjustment for Petrus

You don’t usually see an abrupt slowdown for Petrus’ outstanding vintages. The Pomerol icon is, in fact, one of the safe bets from the Bordeaux region. The prices for the finest vintages, all of which are collectable wines, has fallen below the €4,000 mark. It’s certainly a new record but these beautiful bottles will find their wings again over the medium term. The exception is a bottle from 2018, selling for €4,006 in December.

Last month, brilliant vintages of Petrus saw a clear decrease in value: 2009 sold for €2,781 (-8%), 2010 for €3,756 (‑21%), 1989 for €2,629 (-14%) and 1998 for €3,042 (-10%). For some of these great vintages, the price they sold at was the same as the starting price, showing that buyers are no longer willing to fight over these wines, but are looking for opportunities instead.

Mature vintages, often bought to mark a birthday or other anniversary, are still doing well with a bottle from 1972 going under the hammer for €1,690 (+9%), one from 1984 selling at the same price (+13%) and one from 1980 also recording a hammer price of €1,690 (+2%). A bottle from 1981 was bought for €1,628, an increase of 4%. Then, there’s a bottle that was produced more recently, in 2013 to be exact, that saw a price increase of 7%, going under the hammer for €2,754.

Mouton Rothschild, a vertical auction

Bottles produced by Château Mouton Rothschild since 1945 are not only sought-after because of their prestige, which shines through in this Pauillac premier cru classé, but also because of its labels which are designed each year by a different artist. Due to this, some wine enthusiasts create “vertical” collections by grouping together all the vintages produced since the end of the Second World War. One such collection was put up for auction in December, giving other collectors the chance to complete their series. Some fine vintages registered new records. A bottle from 1945 went under the hammer for €11,205 (+53%), one from 1953 sold for €2,103 (+197%), and one from 1961 for €1,502 (+5%). Because these bottles are collectable, some vintage of average quality, even mediocre ones, also saw remarkable prices, for example a bottle from 1954 sold for €1,239 and one from 1946 for €1,948.

Decreases for Burgundy grand crus,  a contrasting situation for the whites

Burgundy has long been protected by the rarity of its wines, with strong demand from Asian buyers. Up until the final quarter of 2022, prices for the greatest estates saw record after record with the backdrop of a favourable economic situation (a weak Euro and low interest rates, inciting buyers to see grand crus as investment options). Today, demand is more selective and the interest rates have gone back up. In fact, the market in the region has seen a distinct decrease even if the price of wines remains elevated and has generally gone back to the figures seen at the end of 2021.

At Domaine de la Romanée Conti, its eponymous wine saw its value change direction by 25% to 30%, which goes for both mature vintages (€5,008 for a bottle from 1970 and €5,228 for one from 1973) and more recent ones (€16,902 for a bottle from 2017). The price for the La Tâche grand cru decreased by 10% to 15% with a bottle from 1999 going under the hammer for €6,761 (-15%). The downturn is more limited for the domain’s Corton-Charlemagne. A rare 2020 was bought for €7,512 (-9%). Elsewhere, fondness of Burgundy’s finest Chardonnays remains stable, like those produced by Arnaud Ente, for example. A double magnum of his Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Referts 2009 obtained €4,382 in December (+32%), while his Meursault La sève du clos 2007, in the same format, sold for €4,132 (+9%). Bottles crafted by Lalou-Bize Leroy saw mixed fortunes at auction with some prices remaining stable. Examples include her Corton-Charlemagne 2001 (€4,507) and Meursault Les Narvaux 2000 (€3,390). On the other hand, the value of more recent vintages has readjusted significantly, even if the prices remain high. For example, her Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignères 2015 settled at €4,257, a decrease of nearly 50%. Wines from Domaine Coche-Dury have recorded a contraction of about 10%. For example, Meursault Perrières 2013 went under the hammer for €1,753 (-12%) and Meursault Genevrières 2008 sold for €1,753 (-10%).

The market has balanced itself out in the Rhône Valley

In the Rhône Valley, the price calming affecting Rayas is slowing down. Even if some vintages are still witnessing a drop in price such as the iconic 1990 (with a hammer price of €2254, -18%) and the 1999 (€877, -12%), the market has become balanced again and most lots were sold at practically stable prices. The LA-LA-LA trilogy from Guigal maintains its attractiveness. The same can be said for Cornas wines with large formats produced by Thierry Allemand (a magnum of Reynards 1997 was sold for €751, +4%) and Hirotake Ooka (a jeroboam 2015 sold for €689) finding their forever homes.

After a period of readjustment which lasted for several months, the market seems prepared to start 2024 on healthier ground. The key thing to remember, with an eagle eye, you can find some wonderful opportunities.

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