The overall value of red and white burgundies sold at this year’s Hospice de Beaune auction in Burgundy was up 27% on last year, at a total of 4.49 million euro, with reds showing a 38% increase in value. The sale, which started in 1859, is the oldest charity wine sale in the world.
“The spectacular increase in prices for the reds is due to a number of things,” says Anthony Hanson, wine consultant for Christie’s Auction House, which has run the auction since 2004. “There’s an increase in demand in the UK, Asia, the U.S. and France, which are all realizing these are really wonderful wines, [and] not at stratospheric prices. Plus the fact that a lot of sorting was done this year so there is a scarcity value, and the wines are of a very high quality.”
The amount of sorting required was due to weather-related problems during the 2007 harvest which led to mildew and rot, and ultimately to a loss of up to 30% of the harvest. “Only the best berries got used this year so the wines are cleaner and denser,” says Hanson.
The Hospice auction sells Burgundy by the barrel from vineyards owned by the local charity hospital, and the bulk of proceeds go towards the hospitals maintenance and expansion. Each barrel, locally known as a “pièce”, holds 228 liters or 288 bottles of wine.
A total of 607 barrels were sold this year, compared to last year’s 680 barrels, which went for 3.8 million euro.
Buyers were able to bid over the internet for the first time this year, and Hanson said there was “sustained interest from the Web” throughout the sale.