Celebrating its 156th year, Burgundy's annual Hospices de Beaune wine auction on Nov. 20 failed to top last year's record total, but organizers were happy considering it was the second-highest sum achieved by the charity auction.
“Given the current economic and political climate, we are expecting prices to decline a bit,” said Jasper Morris, senior consultant for Christie’s Hospices de Beaune Auction, before the action began. His prediction proved correct as the final results came to $8.9 million, a 26 percent drop compared to 2015's $11.7 million.
It would have been hard to top last year's event, which featured a special lot to support victims of the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. And the auction is almost always a barometer of expectations for Burgundy's latest vintage. While quality is reportedly high for the 2016s, it was a challenging year, marked by April frost and summer hailstorms.
“We were expecting prices to be a bit lower this year,” said Cecile Mathiaud, head of publicity for the Bourgogne Wine Board. “It would be difficult to top last year’s bidding with the exceptional 2015 vintage, as well as the emotional bidding to donate to the Paris terror attacks for the President’s Barrel.”
The Hospices de Beaune auction, held annually since 1859, features wines from the local charitable organization's 148 acres of vineyards. Every year, a flurry of tastings and festivities lead up to the third Sunday of November, when the Hospices auctions off barrels of the most recent vintage. The young wine (85 percent of which is sourced from premier cru or grand cru vineyards) is sold in barrel and buyers then pay a négociant to age it in local cellars.
This year, bidders had their choice of 470 barrels of red wine and 125 of white, a selection that altogether represented more than 30 Burgundy appellations. The dip in prices made some auction attendees cheerful. A large crowd of private buyers and négociants gathered in eager anticipation of a good deal.
The highest bid went for the special Pièce des Présidents, or "President's Barrel," of Corton Les Bressandes grand cru 2016 for $212,000. Designated proceeds went to the Foundation Couer & Recherche and the Arc Foundation for heart and cancer research.