Paying 420,000 euros for two wine barrels- of 228 liters each one- to sell 600 bottles of wine can be considered an excess. But, in Burgundy, if it is from Corton Clos du Roi, Baronne du Bay, and for a good cause, things may change. The two “pièces des présidents” of the auction of the wines of “les Hospices de Beaune”, were acquired by the Domaine Albert Bichot that will age this wine for two years in the same barrel and bottling them by 2019.

The 157th Hospices de Beaune wine auction, held on Sunday 19 November in the town of Burgundy, amounted to 13,529,301 euros, a new record in the history of this charity sale.

In the last edition of 2016, sales were only 8.4 million; and it was in 2015 when an earlier maximum figure of 11.3 million euros was achieved. The prestigious auction house Christie’s moves from Paris to the heart of the Burgundy every year to celebrate an event that marks or guides the prices of the wines of the different appellations of controlled origin (AOC) of the Burgundy.

The two “pièces des présidents” that the Burgundy group acquired are an anecdote, however, the tendency of the rest of the auction marks the prices that the Burgundy wines of 2017 will have. The Domaine Hospices de Beaune brought out for sale, a total of 787 barrels, 630 Pinot Noir red wine; and another 157, of Chardonnay white wine. All these corresponded to 50 “cuvées”: 33 of different red wines and 17 of different white wines.
Leaving aside the figures, the great novelty of this year was the irruption in the environment and tension of the increases of different buyers from 18 countries on 4 continents, via telephone and internet.

The three entities that will receive the 420,000 euros from the presidential barrels are the Tara Expediciones Foundation, which was sponsored by the designer and the actress, Agnès b and Julie Depardieu, respectively; the Federation for Brain Research, with Marc-Oliver Fogiel as a supporter; and the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, represented by singer Charles Aznavour.

François Poher, recently appointed director of the Hospices de Beaune, commented after the first auction under his command saying: “A place and a moment of many contrasts: the noise of the room, the high tension of the environment, tradition and modernity of the auction process, the expectation of prices The auction room, as the central point of attention, supported by the open-air crowd, following the sale on a large screen, has stimulated us all. ”

Agathe de Saint Ceran, wine specialist at Christie’s Paris said: “The highest result that has been achieved this year with 13.5 million euros, is due to an extensive promotional tour, such as Paris, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Bordeaux and Beijing. This tour also manifested itself with a strong offer throughout the six-hour auction of private collectors and trade from 18 different countries.” While the wine consultant of the auction firm, Jasper Morris, pointed out that this record: “We owe a great deal of it to the work of Ludivine Griveau and his team to produce high quality wines like now.” It has been a pleasure to taste this type of excellence along 787 barrels that has been reflected in the international purchase that has been registered “.

85% FIRST AND GRAND CRUS
85% of Domaine Hospices de Beaune is composed of First Crus and Gran Crus. The vineyards are mainly located around Beaune (Auxey-Duresses, Beaune, Meursault, Monthelie, Pommard, Pernand-Vergelesses, Chassagne-Montrachet, Savigny-les-Beaune, Volnay, Saint Romain and now Santenay). Among the different crudes there are names as prestigious as Beaune Clos de Avaux Premier Cru, Corton Grand Cru, or Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru. The Hospices de Beaune also have vineyards on the Côte de Nuits with the Grands Crus Mazis-Chambertin and Clos de la Roche, or on the Mâconnais with the plots of Pouilly-Fuissé. The average age of the vineyards is about 35 years.

The production area managed by the Hospices is close to 60 hectares, of which 50 are used for Pinot Noir, the rest for Chardonnay. The cuvées are sometimes from unique vineyards, and sometimes the result of the harmonious assembly of grapes from different plots. This is a unique feature of the Domaine, which contributes to the uniqueness of the range of wines offered by the Hospices de Beaune.

The work in the vineyard is carried out by 23 farmers, who work under the direction of Ludivine Griveau, oenologist, manager, and as they say in Beaune “régisseur du domaine” since January 2015. Each winemaker is responsible for approximately 2.5 hectares of Earth. Respect their surroundings and limit the production of their vineyards to better express the typicality of the terroir of each plot.

Since 2008, almost all the grapes have been produced without the use of synthetic products, and in accordance with biological viticulture methods. The harvest is done by hand, the grapes are transported in small boxes to the new winery, where, since 1994, the wine has been produced.

In 2012, important maintenance tasks were carried out in the winery: modernized classification tables, temperature control system for fermentation tanks; and, since 2013, all the grapes are moved to the cellars by gravity, which allows the handling of the grapes with less handling, as well as improving their organoleptic characteristics and their potential in the winery for winemaking.

INSTITUTION SINCE 1443

The Hospices de Beaune are a charitable institution dating back to 1443 when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Burgundy, Nicolas Rolin and his wife, Guigonne de Salins, promoted the construction of a hospital in Beaune by the most disadvantaged. Elderly, sick and poor people, in general, enjoyed a hospital that was built with donations from different benefactors, properties and vineyards that throughout history have added up to make the Hospices de Beaune one of the largest “domaines” of the Burgundy.

At present, the historic hospital is a museum that attracts thousands of tourists every year. But the Hospices Civiles de Beaune also have modern health and hospital centers that are financed by the sale and auction, since 1859, of the winery’s wines. They are even supportive of other non-profit projects and, since 1945, famous people from the world of politics, the arts or the sciences sponsor the “pièces des présidents”, one or two barrels that are auctioned for the benefit of other entities other than Hospices. The auction of these pieces is usually the highest sales and those that generate more expectation.

Photographs © Hospices de Beaune, Christies