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What is the Hospices de Beaune? – ask Decanter

What happens at the Hospices de Beaune auction....?

What is the Hospices de Beaune? – ask Decanter

The Hospices de Beaune is perhaps the most famous of all charity wine auctions. Its story starts in 1443, when the iconic polychromatic-tiled Hôtel-Dieu in central Beaune was built to tend the sick.

Over the years, the charitable cause was given vineyards among other donations.

The annual auction ritual as we know it today began in 1859 and forms the centrepiece of boisterous celebrations in Burgundy over the third weekend of November.

The proceeds benefit the hospital (now a modern facility on the outskirts of Beaune) and other good causes. There is a famous saying that ‘Beaune is the best place in the world to be ill’.

The new vintage

The Hospices is an important marker in the evolution of the new vintage.

The auction features multiple barrels of 45 cuvées, blended from sites spanning 60ha, principally in the Côte de Beaune, the majority premier and grand cru.

Anyone can buy – today’s market is truly global – and the wines are matured by local merchants, who help with their knowledge of the vintage.

In 2016, the 156th auction raised €8.4m overall, including 596 barrels of wine, which achieved an average of €13,833 per 228-litre barrel.

Though still the second highest total ever, this was 25% down on the ‘exceptional’ 2015 sale – an anomaly, as the Paris attacks happened the day before, spurring charity-minded buyers to spend at unprecedented levels.

Nevertheless, there were suggestions that this softening of prices at the November 2016 sale also reflected ‘caution’ over the 2016 vintage and the uncertain political climate.

Peter Richards MW is a widely published wine writer, broadcaster, author and consultant.

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