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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Nicholas Faith

As expected, prices of the wines offered at the traditional sale at the Hospices de Beaune on 18 November fell sharply, on average by 23.8%. The fall wiped out all of the gains made since 1996 and was only marginally less than the falls seen in 1990 and 1991. But this year, the average fall marked an enormous divergence in the prices paid for wines from different appellations. They reflected a vintage in which, in general, the whites are greatly superior to the reds and in which the results varied wildly from vineyard to vineyard. Worst hit were the red wines, down by 26%, with those from Beaune and Volnay hardest hit - some fell by over 40%. The whites were far less badly affected and the average fall of 17.3% marked some exceptional achievements, notably among the best wines from Meursault, where the drop' ranged from 15% down to a mere 2% for the Genevrires Philippe Le Bon. Even more extraordinary was the 2% fall in the outstanding red wine of the sale, the Mazis Chambertin Madeleine Collignon, whose price fell by only 4%. Overall, this year quality really did pay. In a sale in which it took nearly five hours to sell 125 lots, there was one break in tradition: for the first time in the sale's 150-year history, prices were quoted in Euros.