155th Hospices de Beaune | Vente des Vins
by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML
The mood was somber. Slated as the most eagerly anticipated auction in memory, the 2015 Hospices de Beaune Vente des Vins instead proved bittersweet.
Sweet as Hospices de Beaune’s first woman wine maker since 1443, Ludivine Griveau, offered her inaugural vintage for auction.
But bitter as the shadow of the Paris terrorist attacks loomed large, auction officials marking the mood with a moment of silence prior to auction commencement.
In the end, the charity auction broke all previous records, raking an impressive €11,347,609 including a staggering final bid of €480,000 for the Pièce des Président’s Barrel by an anonymous French donor.
Established in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, Hospices de Beaune serves as a charitable hospital for the poor. Today, it includes elder care and other social programs suited to modern society.
Until the Revolution, Hospices de Beaune thrived through religious and aristocratic patronage. This stopped after the Revolution, with confiscation of church and nobles’ wealth.
As a result, Hospices de Beaune devised an annual wine auction in 1859, now in its one hundred and fifty-fifth year. Held each November after harvest, Hospices de Beaune’s Vente de Vins present wines from the current year’s vintage harvested from its vineyards. Proceeds fund the operation of Hospices de Beaune.
Every year since 1978, the Hospices de Beaune earmarks one or more barrels, known as the Pièce des Présidents, for auction to benefit selected charities. And since 1945, an Honorary President presides over each wine.
This year, Claire Chazal represented the Institut Curie, which assists cancer research, and Christophe Lambert stood in for the Fondation pour la recherche sur les AVC. which aids stroke research. Proceeds from the sale of the 228-litre barrel of Corton-Renardes Grand Cru-Cuvée des Présidents benefit these two charities. The Honorary Presidents also designated one-third of the proceeds to families of the Paris terrorists attacks.
At the pre-auction tasting, the wines poured out supple, graceful, and elegant even in youth, sure to improve with age.
Meanwhile, offsides, a controversy emerges. At the Hospices de Beaune Vente des Vins press conference, certain members of the press opened the door to discussions about Burgundy and Beaujolais joining forces to market their wines.
While historically and administratively part of Burgundy, Beaujolais markets itself separately. As unpredictable weather continues to reek havoc upon Burgundy’s annual vintage yields, some wine authorities wonder if Burgundy will ever recognize the benefit of joining forces with bountiful Beaujolais to the south. Naysayers contend that such an alliance would dilute Burgundy’s aristocratic blood lines, and prices.
Time will tell. Thoughts?
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