Record prices paid at Hospices de Beaune

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  • Monday 22 November 2010

The annual Hospices de Beaune barrel auction saw record prices paid as Burgundy merchants spoke of confidence returning to the market.

Although the total raised at the charity event was marginally down on 2009’s record haul, the average price paid per lot was significantly higher.

The sale totaled €5,132,075, compared to last year’s €5.4m. There were 543 barrels auctioned, 156 fewer than in 2009, due to the smaller 2010 vintage.

The average price for whites wines – where yields were substantially reduced in 2010 – rose by 15.7%, and for reds by 12.5%.

The final figure was inflated by an astonishing bid of €400,000 for the ‘president’s lot’ – a 500-litre tonneau of Beaune premier cru – bought by Jacques Boisseaux, owner of the negociant house Patriarche Père & Fils.

The event organisers spoke beforehand of their keenness to target the Chinese market, where Burgundy wines have yet to become establised.

The policy showed signs of paying off, with Asia overtaking the US in terms of the number of registered bidders and becoming the second most significant region, after Europe, by the value of wines acquired. Asian buyers accounted for 12.5% of total sales.

‘We are happy with the results,’ said Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau, Christie’s business director and the head auctioneer. ‘Asia is becoming the second most important market for great wines, ahead of North America, giving new opportunities for the Hospices’ widening reputation.’

‘There was terrific enthusiasm for the top wines, and many wines set record prices for the last ten years, beating the 2005 and 2009 vintages.’ added Anthony Hanson MW, senior consultant of Christie’s International Wine Department.

Despite such enthusiasm, commentators warned against reading too much into the results as a barometer of the 2010 vintage.

There was universal agreement that the vintage was not of the uniform quality of the much-heralded 2009, with the reds in particular far more varied in quality.

Louis-Fabrice Latour of the eponymous negociant house and president of the Union of Burgundy Wine Merchants, said: ‘Let’s not delude ourselves. The quality will not be as good as in 2009. [But] there is now a bit of a disconnect between the Hospice prices and those commanded by the estates themselves.’

Hanson himself acknowledged that since Christie’s had started running the sale in 2005, the increase in private and overseas buyers had lessened the role of local merchants.

‘It’s become decoupled from normal Burgundy trading,’ he said. ‘So from that perspective, it’s no longer a barometer of the vintage – it’s more a barometer of the buoyancy of the market.’

Latour urged caution on behalf of negociants when it came to pricing the 2010s next year: ‘The market isn’t ready for big increases.

There was optimism surrounding the likely market for the soon-to-be-released 2009s, however.

Jasper Morris of UK merchant Berry Bros said he would have ‘no trouble’ selling his stock.


 




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