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Record sales at the Hospices de Beaune

Published:  19 November, 2018

The 158th Hospices de Beaune wine auction enjoyed a record sale of €14,18 million (£12.6 million), according to auction organiser Christie’s.

Some 828 barrels were sold at the auction on 18 November (631 barrels of red wine and 197 of white wine) – the highest number since 2009, and 41 more than last year.

Another record was broken for the highest priced barrel ever sold at the auction: a Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru for €135,000 (£120,000).

“We are delighted with these very good results”, said Ludivine Griveau, vineyard-manager and winemaker at the 60-hectare Hospice de Beaune domain.

Less delighted may be wine consumers because the auction often acts as a barometer for Burgundy wine prices.

The average price per barrel sold in the auction was €16,850 euros, which is a 19% increase as compared to 2017 (€14,161 in 2017 and €13,041 in 2016), continuing an upward pricing trend for wines sold.

At a press conference before the auction, industry representatives would not speculate on how the sales would influence general Burgundy prices, but noted French wine writer Bernard Burtschy stressed in a tweet after the sale that lovers of Burgundy wines “should prepare themselves for difficult times” given the higher prices sold per barrel.

This year, 69% of the barrels were acquired by the négociants and 31% by private buyers (by value), with bidders coming from Europe (38,3%), Asia (55%), and the United States of America (6,7%).

Auction organisers stress that the sale was for charity, and in that sense, it was a disappointment. The special charity barrel, or the Pièce des Présidents (this year’s auction included two such charity barrels, a Corton and a Mersault) which raises money for guests charities rather than the Hospice itself – yielded a disappointing €230,000: nearly €200,000 less than last year.

Anima Vinum (Brazil) and Alberic Bichot with a Canadian client purchased the Corton Grand-Cru Clos du Roi and Meursault Premier Cru Les Genevrières to benefit three charities featured at the auction.

Despite French cinema stars egging on auctioneers to bid higher, Jasper Morris MW, wine consultant for Christie’s said that communications for the Pièce des Président should be improved or “rethought” to bring about a better result in future.

Proceeds from the charity barrels went to three associations: the Institute Pasteur; Asmae-Sister Emmanuelle Association; and the Association BAB.

The Institute Pasteur is a health research organization and was represented at the auction by French actress Nathalie Baye and writer Erik Orsenna. The Asmae Sister Emmanuelle Association helps vulnerable children and was represented by actress Alice Baglioni and actor and director Pascal Elbé. Finally, actress Emmanuel Beart represented the third charity, the Association BAB, which helps children affected by leukaemia.

Brexit worries

After the United States, Burgundy’s number two market by volume and revenue in the first eights months of 2018 has been the UK – with 14% of total revenue and 16% of total volume. But Brexit has created a “backdrop of uncertainty” according to a new report published by the Burgundy Wine Council or BIVB.

Burgundy exports to the UK slipped 7.6% by volume in the first eight months of this year, and revenue by nearly one per cent.

Given uncertainties over customs in future, the president of the Union des Maisons de Vins de Grande Bourgogne Frédéric Drouhin, advises producers to send extra shipments of wine to the UK, to avoid being short, should customs clearance get too complicated.