Prices of red wine at the annual Hospices de Beaune auctions fell by one third for red wine.

Prices of red Burgundy at the charity auction this weekend (20/21 November) were 33% less than last year. This is in contrast to the 2003 price, which showed a 21% increase on 2002. The price of white wines fell by 21%.

The total figure raised this year, for red and white wines, eaux de vie and fine de Bourgogne, was €3,036,990. Last year’s figure was €3.41m.

Despite a somewhat depressed atmosphere (one French newspaper described it as ‘une ambience morose’), Burgundy professionals were not unduly surprised by the results.

‘There’s no need to worry,’ Louis Fabrice Latour, president of the Syndicat des Negociants said. ‘There was a huge rise in prices in 2003, and now we are just getting nearer to normal levels.’ Latour had predicted a drop in prices.

Negociant Pierre-Henri Gagey said, ‘It’s a classic market reaction after the two great years of 2002 and 2003. But it doesn’t mean that all of Burgundy is going to go down by 20 or 25%.’

Prices at the Hospices showed a steady increase year on year from 1994 to 2000, after which they began to fall. 2003 bucked a downward trend: 2001 and 2002 showed a drop in prices, as does this year’s auction.

Exports of Burgundy are on a downward trend, except to Japan. Sales to the USA during the last year did not reach the 2002 level. Exports to Britain fell by 5%, and to Germany by 27%. The French domestic market is relatively stable.

In contrast, exports to Japan rose by 25% in volume and by 32% in value.

The Domaine des Hospices de Beaune is a non-profit organisation which owns around 55ha of vineyard land in Burgundy. Every year in November it sells its new crop at the Hospices auction, which has become a general indicator of expected prices for the rest of the region.

Written by Adam Lechmere, and Antony le Ray-Cook