that hospices sale…


 Base image courtesy Christie’s.

The 156th wine auction for the Hospices de Beaune started in a sombre mood, beginning with a minute of silence in honour of the 28-year veteran of the Hospices, its former director, Antoine Jacquet, who recently and unexpectedly died whilst travelling and promoting the sale.

Thereafter, in-line with the massive crowds in Beaune, the usual momentum took over. I was surprised to see that Ludivine Griveau had managed to coax more wine out the Hospice’s vineyards in 2016 than in 2015 – 596 barrels versus 575. I don’t like to taste wine pre-malo, but those with some experience suggest that the 16s looked quite good – despite their suits of oaken armour.

The bidding wasn’t quite up to the fever-pitch of 2015, yet it was still the second-highest sales result ever – amassing almost €8.4 million – though this ‘second best’ result fell way short of last year’s €11.35 million. There was a little less exuberance over the star ‘President’s Barrel’ this year, which was bid up to €200,000, but by an interesting combination of Jean-Claude Bernard (of Beaune’s Hotel Le Cep) and Ms Yan-Hong Cao from China – Ms Cao also bought the President’s barrel at the 2013 auction. Last year’s price was €480,000 for the barrel, but the proceeds of that purchase was slated for the victims of that year’s terrorist attacks in Paris – so with 2016 and 2015 we are most-likely not comparing apples with apples.

The average price for a barrel in 2016 was €13,833 versus €18,880 in 2015 and €13,658 in 2014.

So, despite the global marketing might of Christie’s, and Jasper Morris replacing the retired Anthony Hanson, this sale showed (modestly) less exuberance than last year but still higher prices than 2014. Will that have an effect on the pricing of 2016s? Well, despite the sale recording average reductions of -37% for the whites and -26% for the reds, I would say that given the combination of the short-volume, frosted 2016 vintage, when coupled with mainly empty cellars, this year’s sale is nothing more than a side-show in the great market for burgundy wine…

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