Three bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild 1869 became the most expensive wine ever to be sold at auction when they fetched HK $1,815,000 ($232,692) per bottle in Hong Kong on Saturday night, three times the high presale estimate of HK $65,000. All three bottles were sold by phone to a single Asian bidder whose coup was the highlight of the all-Lafite sale by Sotheby's at which every one of the 284 lots was sold. The auction brought in an extraordinary total of HK $65.5 million ($8.4 million), tripling the high estimate of HK $20 million, and confirming Asia's status as the up-and-comer of the global fine wine market. The sale also confirmed the almost hypnotic power of the Lafite name in the Chinese market, a phenomenon that nobody is quite able to explain. Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby's international wine department, thinks it may be because the Chateau's name is easy to pronounce in Mandarin. Others say the craze started with the wildly popular 2006 Hong Kong gangster movie "Exiled," in which the anti-hero rejects a glass of wine, snarling that anything less than Chateau Lafite is "garbage." Supporters of this theory say that soon after the release of the movie, fake bottles of Lafite began to flood the Chinese market.
Buyers at the Sotheby's sale had no fears about provenance as the wine was consigned directly from the cellars of Château Lafite Rothschild in Pauillac and the auction at Hong Kong’s opulent Mandarin Oriental hotel was conducted under the gaze of Baron Eric de Rothschild himself, who had flown in especially for the event.