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March 30, 2017

Le Clarence de Haut Brion 2015

The second wines of the First Growths are extremely investible. They are produced from the same vineyards as the Grand Vin, often from the same parcels and vines. It is easy to understand therefore that for many years the second wines of the First Growths have outperformed their elder siblings for investment. The comparative value of the of the second wines to the Grand Vins has resultantly closed. Liv-ex recently reported that in 2007 it was possible to buy 6.6 bottles of the second wines for the price of one bottle of the Grand Vin. This has now halved to 3.3. There are material reasons for this change. Firstly, the First Growths have been bringing down the production of their Grand Vin, focusing on quality to ensure excellence. In parallel they have exponentially increased the work they do on the second wines in the vineyard and the winery. They stopped viewing them as second wines, but great wines in their own right. The quality therefore soared. Secondly, the brand value of the Chateau began to trickle down to the second wines. When First Growth prices began to climb, US and European buyers moved to the obvious substitute brand, the second wines. In 2008 China drove this dynamic further, with its brand focus over qualitative importance. It has now transpired that during en primeur the second wines are more highly allocated than the First wines, such is their global demand.

We have been analysing the second wines of the First Growths and have identified that Clarence Haut Brion is extremely undervalued. Carraudes de Lafite, Petit Mouton and Pavillon Rouge trade at a 136%, 100% and 58% increase respectively to Clarence Haut Brion taken from 2005 to 2015. Moreover, the Price Over Points comparison is even more telling, the same wines trade at a 159%, 102% and 62.5% POP (Price over Points ratio) increase to Clarence during that same period.

Chateau WA  Av Release Price Av Market Price Perf % POP
Carruades de Lafite 89.2  £1,088 £2,095 93% 228
Petit Mouton 90.0  £732 £1,780 143% 178
Pavillon Rouge 89.8  £749 £1,402 87% 143
Clarence Haut Brion 90.1  £639 £886 39% 88

*Latour has been removed due to their en primeur strategy and lack of vintage

Despite the fact that Clarence has the highest average score of 90.1 and therefore represents the best value for money, the price increase is currently lagging behind. As such, we looked at the performance of the First Growth Grand Vin to shed light on this. It is extremely interesting that since 2013 Haut Brion has moved to number two on the liv-ex Power 100, pipped only by Mouton Rothschild. Haut Brion has outperformed all other First Growths in the last 12 months, returning on average 31% across 2005 to 2015, compared to Mouton Rothschild 16%, Margaux 20% and Lafite Rothschild 21%.

Chateau WA Mar-17 Apr-16 Release Price 12M Perf
Haut Brion 97 £4,370 £3,336 £3,396 31%
Lafite Rothschild 95 £5,841 £4,822 £5,072 21%
Margaux 95 £4,545 £3,795 £3,942 20%
Mouton Rothschild 95 £4,375 £3,777 £3,629 16%

This therefore suggests that the market is responding to the obvious fact that Haut Brion has been leading the pack in terms of critic scores and quality, with its price catching up to its ever-increasing global cachet. However, this has not trickled down to Clarence Haut Brion. Historically, where the Grand Vin lead, the second wine traditionally follow and we can surmise therefore that Clarence Haut Brion is due a strong correction on the global market place. It is also noteworthy that Clarence Haut Brion changed its name from Bahans Haut Brion from the 2006 vintage onwards. This is another reason that for several years’ the global brand of Clarence lagged behind. Today, the label is almost identical to Haut Brion, further cementing their close brand association.

Today we are therefore delighted to be able to offer a parcel of Clarence Haut Brion 2015, which is potentially its highest ever scoring vintage with 91-93 points from the Wine Advocate and 93-94 from James Suckling. The 2010 vintage was awarded 93 points and today trades at £1,150, while the 2015 is available today for £900. As such, it stands to benefit from the obvious vintage premium and potential score increase. However, more importantly, it is set to benefit from the brand drag of Haut Brion and the realisation that Clarence Haut Brion, like Haut Brion offers the best relative value. This opinion is cemented by the table below:

Chateau Vintage WA Mar -17 Release Price Perf% POP
Clarence Haut Brion 2015 91-93 £950 £900 6% 79
Pavillon Rouge 2015 92-94 £1,300 £1,140 14% 100
Carruades de Lafite 2015 89-91 £1,500 £1,260 19% 150
Petit Mouton 2015 91-93 £1,600 £1,140 40% 133

Either for drinking or investment everything points to Clarence Haut Brion being incorrectly priced by the market. Since the release of the 2015 vintage the euro has strengthened 10% against the pound. The upshot is that the UK cannot replace stock at the original release price, which we can offer in limited quantity today at £900 per case of 12.

Le Clarence de Haut Brion 2015, 12×75, £900 – 93-94 Pts 

Neal Martin, 91-93 Points
The 2015 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is a blend of 57% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 42% Cabernet Sauvignon picked between 8 September and 5 October. Compared directly with the La Chapelle Mission Haut-Brion, I find that this does not quite possess the same delineation at the moment. This is broodier and more introspective in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with grippy tannin, layers of dark berry fruit tinged with tobacco and cedar, gaining weight towards the finish that fans out with a sense of conviction. This should turn out to be an authoritative deuxième vin that will probably be consumed in its youth, but clearly possesses the substance to repay ageing. Those with wise heads will afford it 5-6 years in bottle.

James Suckling, 93-94 Points
Racy and refined second wine with polished and pretty tannins. Full body. Pretty. 

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