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Hospices auction raises 5.05 million

Published:  23 July, 2008

By Rebecca Gibb
The 146th Hospices de Beaune auction raised 5.05 million (3.5 million) - almost identical to last year's sales figures, yet the 2006 vintage is not regarded as highly as that of 2005.

The auction took place last Sunday with 680 barrels on offer, compared with 789 barrels in 2005. The total raised represents a 15% increase in the average barrel price, which had not been anticipated. At the start of the auction, David Ellwood, international director at Christie's admitted: This year there are only six to eight really good reds but the whites are going to fly.'

The highest-priced cuve was Btard-Montrachet, with two barrels fetching 82,404 each (including premium), compared with 65,923 in 2005.

Each year the Hospices supports a charity by donating the profit of one barrel known as the President's barrel and this year it raised a record 200,000.

This is only the second year that Christie's, the London auction house, has run the event. After the 2005 auction, Christie's was criticised by members of the French press and some locals who felt sales should have been higher - despite an 11% rise in the average barrel price - and that international exposure could have been better. Harpers asked Anthony Hanson MW, a senior consultant at Christie's, to respond to these claims: Last year we learned on 10 September that we were running the auction. We had two months to organise it and we worked 15-hour days to make it a success. I absolutely don't accept that criticism.'

Speaking to local and international buyers at the Hospices weekend, the attitude towards Christie's was positive. Bruno Pepin, export director at Bouchard Pere et Fils, said: Christie's has given the auction great international exposure and Anthony Hanson's reputation is good for the region's image.'

Christie's now faces the challenge of bringing the auction into the 21st century, including improving online bidding. Bids can be made prior to the auction but not during the sale. Harpers asked why this should be the case.

The system isn't compatible with going online at the moment because of the way the auction is run,' said Richard Brierley of Christie's New York. You can buy one barrel successfully then opt to take two to 10 more from that tranche and we haven't worked out a format for it yet. It's still all about written and telephone bids and being at the auction.'