Burgundy’s Hospices de Beaune auction has seen sales top €8m, a record total for the third year in a row, but negociants warned the result was 'troubling' for the market.

Those leading the auction included former Slovak fashion model Adriana Karembeu. Image: Christie’s

The 154th Hospices de Beaune auction, held over the weekend, fetched €8.08m, its highest total since the annual sale began in 1859 and around €2m more than last year’s total. All wines in the sale are bought in barrel and are from the most recent vintage.

Some 125 buyers from 17 countries helped to achieve the near 30% increase in overall sales compared to last year, said Anthony Hanson MW, a senior consultant for Christie’s, which hosted the auction.

‘The Clos de la Roche – Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron realised an absolute record for any barrel sold at the Hospices de Beaune auction, selling for €74,900,’ Hanson said. The sale of the white grand cru Batard-Montrachet Dames de Flandres reached €70,620, another record for that particular barrel lot.

Total sales of reds rose by 3.4% compared to 2013, while the whites rose by 14.6%. Even though there were more barrels to sell this year – 534 versus 448 last year – the average price per barrel rose by 5.7% to €13,750.

The Piece des Presidents, a barrel of Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru, was bought for €220,000 by Maison Albert Bichot and Canadian friends. Proceeds of the sale went to benefit Toutes à l’école, a foundation that helps children go to school and the Imagine Foundation, a healthcare charity.

The result reflects ‘the high standards of the Hospices de Beaune vignerons, and winery teams’, Hanson said.

But, not everyone was especially happy with the high sales total.

Frederic Drouhin, president of the Burgundy negociant union, UMVB, said he was concerned about the auction’s message to the marketplace. Higher prices for red wines, in particular, is ‘troubling for our clients’, he said.

At a pre-auction press conference, Drouhin said he hoped for a 10 to 20% decrease in auction sales for the reds to ‘send a message to the market’. He is worried that customers in key Burgundy export markets, such as the US, have reached a ‘psychological threshold’ with regard to increasing Burgundy prices.

During a lull in bidding, former Slovak fashion model Adriana Karembeu – who presided over the sale of the Piece des Presidents – drew the most attention when she offered to give her diamond-studded glasses to any buyer who reached €200,000 on the lot. Amidst much applause, Karembeu walked to the seated participants to put her eyeglasses on Alberic Bichot.

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Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Beaune