Fierce bidding between Asian buyers pushed the price of a case of 1978 Romanée-Conti to an unprecedented high at a Christie's Hong Kong sale over the weekend. The 12-bottle case fetched a new world record of 3.67 million Hong Kong dollars or US$476,280.
The strength of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s monopole vineyard bottling was underlined further during the sale: six of the top 10 most expensive lots were Romanée-Conti. The results suggest that collectors are currently willing to pay more for 12 bottles of Romanée-Conti than 105 bottles of Château Latour or 61 magnums of Mouton Rothschild, making Romanée-Conti the new Lafite Rothschild.
The high prices paid for older vintages, including 1978 and 1985, further underline the estate's status as Burgundy's most-wanted domaine.
A closer look at DRC's performance
Wine-Searcher analyzed the aggregated performance of DRC’s six grand cru vineyards on the Côte de Nuits – Echézeaux, Grands Echézeaux, La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée-Conti and Romanée-Saint-Vivant. The graph below shows that prices across the 10 most recent vintages have risen by almost 50 percent since 2008.
A closer inspection of DRC's individual vineyards show they are relatively volatile (see chart below). La Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Grands Echézeaux have seen the highest increases in relative terms (up by more than 50 percent) since 2008. However, in dollar terms, Romanée-Conti outpaces its stablemates: the average price of a bottle of Romanée-Conti sits at more than $13,000*, while La Tâche retails for $2,840 and Grands Echézeaux for $1,060.
Richebourg has seen the lowest price increase in relative terms, rising by less than 25 percent in the five-year period. However, it is still the third most-expensive wine in the DRC stable, priced at $1,750 per bottle.
“Growth in DRC prices is evident in the early part of 2008, led by La Tâche, the domaine’s other monopole,” said Wine-Searcher data analyst Anthony Brown. “However, as the global financial crisis continued to make its impact felt, prices plunged and then remained largely static until 2011."
At that point, "a combination of factors, such as recovering investment markets and growing demand from China, once again resulted in a peak forming in 2012," he added.
Our data shows that prices flattened in late 2012 and early 2013, suggesting that DRC might have plateaued. One factor was the introduction of government austerity measures in China that put the brakes on luxury wine purchases.
However, this weekend’s auction results suggest that Romanée-Conti may still have a head of steam.
* All prices were correct on November 25, 2013, and are subject to change.
Prices worldwide on Wine-Searcher (US$, ex-tax, per 750-ml bottle, all vintages):