Wine: the Beaune auctions, a meeting place for luxury and charity

Wine lovers take part in the Hospices de Beaune sale, eastern France, December 13, 2020 (AFP/Archives/PHILIPPE DESMAZES)

Grands crus sold for up to 35,000 euros per barrel, but for the benefit of good works: annual meeting of luxury and charity, the Hospices de Beaune wine sale opens on Sunday in the presence of the greatest buyers in the world .

More than 800 bidders from Europe, America and increasingly from Asia will once again meet on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the “capital” of Burgundy wines, Beaune (Côte d’Or), in the hope of getting our hands on a prestigious Pommard, Corton or other Meursault.

The revenue generated is intended for the conservation of heritage such as the medieval Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune, but also for the modernization of the equipment of the four hospitals and six nursing homes that the Hospices have, or a thousand beds.

A “piece”, as a barrel is called in Burgundy, costs more and more: from 2018 to 2022, the average price has more than doubled, going from 16,849 to 35,980 euros for the equivalent of 288 75 cl bottles. And yet what is sold is only an early wine, which has just come out of the harvest.

An auctioneer supervises the sale of Hospices de Beaune wines, November 20, 2022, in eastern France

An auctioneer supervises the sale of Hospices de Beaune wines, November 20, 2022, in eastern France (AFP/Archives/JEFF PACHOUD)

To the awarded price, we must add not only the auction commissions but also the cost of aging in barrels, for one to two years, then bottling.

This does not slow down an ever-increasing demand: in 2022, the sale had garnered nearly 29 million euros, more than double the 2018 record (14 million).

A new high seems difficult this year because the 2023 vintage provided fewer barrels than in 2022: 753 compared to 817.

“The harvest in bunches was abundant” but many grapes had to be thrown away due to rot due to storms, or wilting due to periods of heatwave, explained Ludivine Griveau, manager of the Hospices wine estate, which covers 60 hectares.

The smaller number of lots could, however, further push the average price of the piece, under the keen enthusiasm of enthusiasts, all the more difficult to curb as it is a good cause.

– 2,800 euros per bottle –

The institute does not in fact receive any state aid for these expenses, entirely financed by the vines entrusted as legacies and donations to the establishment since its founding in 1443.

“Like the vast majority of public hospitals, we are faced with a lack of medical and nursing staff, the dilapidation of equipment and buildings…”, lists Guillaume Koch, director of Hospices.

In addition, and like every year, the oldest charitable wine auctions in the world, initiated in 1859, reserved the largest lot for a cause other than the Hospices.

Wine barrels before the Hospices de Beaune sale on November 20, 2022

Wine barrels before the Hospices de Beaune sale on November 20, 2022 (AFP/Archives/JEFF PACHOUD)

For this 163rd edition, it is to “aging well” that the benefit of an exceptional barrel will accrue, both in terms of the content (a Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru) and the container: the “piece” has been shaped in a 220-year-old oak tree used in the reconstruction of the spire of Notre-Dame de Paris.

“15.5 meters of this oak were used for the arrow and the rest, around 4 meters, was just what was needed for a barrel,” Antoine de Thoury, president of the Cadus cooperage, explained to AFP. who shaped the barrel.

The proceeds from this sale will be donated to two associations: the Foundation for Medical Research (FRM) and the Healthy Longevity Research Initiative (IRLB).

The sale of this barrel, called a “charity coin” or “presidents’ coin”, traditionally represents the high point of the auction.

Reserved for sick children last year, it was sold for 810,000 euros, or more than 2,800 euros per bottle.

To boost this auction, it will be hosted by Thierry Lhermitte, the actor from the favorite film “Le Père Noël est une ordure” or “Bronzés”, as well as Michel Cymes, doctor and host of health programs on the small screen. The first is the sponsor of the FRM, the second of the IRLB.

© 2023 AFP

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