It is one of the most hotly debated topics in the world of wine: is the Bordeaux bubble about to burst? The price of one of France's most celebrated wines has soared over the last 12 months as British buyers compete with an increasing number of Chinese oenophiles to snap up the all too precious cases of claret.
With the likes of Chris de Burgh and Sir David Frost recently selling their Bordeaux collections for six-figure sums, attention has focused on the top-tier wines such as Château Lafite, cases of which are going for as much as £15,000.
At the start of the year, Lord Lloyd-Webber sold off a large part of his cellar, including a 12-bottle lot of Château Pétrus 1982 for $77,564 (around £48,500).
Berry Brothers recently sold three cases of the same vintage for £58,000 a case. A dozen bottles of a typical second-tier Bordeaux was selling for around £600 a year ago, according to Berry Brothers, the wine merchants, but is now going for anything up to £2,000.
But experts say the demand for Bordeaux is now so great that even wines from less well known producers have seen prices rocket. A decision by the Hong Kong government to abolish wine and beer duties has fuelled the demand.
Berry Brothers estimates that last year, of the £110m of Bordeaux it sold “en primeur” — while still in the barrel — some £30m worth went through Hong Kong, compared with just £10m the year before. With en primeur sales of the 2010 vintage, which was apparently a fantastic year, soon to take place, the company is anticipating substantial demand from Chinese buyers. “We've got fewer than 100 customers in China, so you can imagine what happens if more Chinese people get a thirst for Bordeaux,” said Simon Staples, sales director at Berry Brothers.