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Hospices de Beaune: after Bordeaux 09, Burgundy a bargain to Chinese

As the biggest weekend in the Burgundy calendar approaches, one expert suggested the Chinese would find great Burgundy affordable compared to top Bordeaux.

Chinese film star Liu Ye will co-host the 150th Hospices de Beaune auction next month – evidence of the supreme importance of China in the minds of western wine producers

Liu, star of Chinese blockbuster Curse of the Golden Flower, will introduce the auction in Burgundy on 21 November, alongside French actor Fabrice Luchini.

For the first time the Hospices de Beaune team – including Christie’s Burgundy consultant Anthony Hanson and Hospices president Alain Suguenot – held tastings of the Hospices wines in mainland China, in Beijing and Shanghai last month, in addition to the Hong Kong and Taiwan tastings.

The auction catalogue – in French, English and Chinese – draws a link between the Chinese appreciation of subtly different teas, with that of Burgundian climats and terroir.

Hanson made clear Christie’s was not trying to repeat the success of the Lafite auction in Hong Kong last week, run by their competitor Sotheby’s. He added that, given the high prices of Bordeaux 2009, Burgundy might indeed seem a bargain compared.

‘Since the 2009 Bordeaux en primeur campaign, many people have realised what exceptional value the great Burgundies offer,’ he told Decanter.com.

‘And many of those who find it dismaying what has happened to Bordeaux prices are finding Burgundy ever more appealing, as it is less influenced by outside commercial interests.’

Hong Kong-based wine merchants agree that the most informed Chinese consumers are increasingly interested in Burgundy.

Doug Cook of Bordeaux Index in Hong Kong said, ‘The clever Chinese buyers have been buying Burgundy for a while, with interest widening out slightly from Domaine de la Romanee Conti, to Domaine Armand Rousseau, Domaine Georges Roumier and a few others.

‘Some of the great collectors in Hong Kong do enormous amounts of business in China, and when they entertain there, they often open great Burgundies, so appreciation is spreading on the mainland.’

But, he said, Burgundy would be a difficult market to sustain in China because of its ‘fragmented’ nature.

So although the Lafite auction ‘will not have a direct effect on the Hospices de Beaune, I do think it has buoyed the fine wine market as a whole.’

Christie’s has run the Hospices de Beaune auction since 2005.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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