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Hospices de Beaune 2016 bidders cut spending

Hospices de Beaune 2016 auction bidders have failed to reach the dizzying heights of 2015 but still drove the annual, Christie's-hosted sale to its second highest total on record.

With €8,399,951 (£7,355,090) in sales, fees included, the famous Burgundy charity auction reached its second best total ever – but was nearly 25% lower than last year’s record-breaking result.

‘2015 was so exceptional that it is not comparable,’ said Christie’s representative Beverly Bueninck.

Jasper Morris MW, Christie’s wine consultant, said that vintages tend to be associated with just one headline. ‘In spite of the high quality, 2016 became associated with the catastrophic headline of the April frosts, whereas 2015 had the headline of ‘great vintage’ that stuck to it.’

The auction floor had less excitement as compared to last year. ‘I hope we wake up,’ said Georgian concert pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, one of four celebrities invited to encourage bids for the charity’s presidents’ barrel.

Buniatishvili, who represented the foundation Coeur et Recherche, which researches cardiovascular diseases, offered a free private concert to the winning bidder. French movie producer Claude Lelouche offered 150 free tickets to his next film on behalf of the other beneficiary the ARC Foundation, which funds cancer research. French actresses Virginie Ledoyen and Valerie Bonneton also sponsored the foundations at the auction.

The 228-litre presidents’ barrel of Corton Bressandes Grand Cru went under the hammer for €200,000 (£172,572) – far less than the record sale last year of €480,000 (£339,713). It was bought by French hotel owner Jean-Claude Bernard and Chinese tea plantation and jade mine owner Ms. Yan-Hong Cao, who also had purchased the presidents’ barrel in the 2013 auction.

Bueninck added that people bid up last year’s presidents’ barrel to such a high figure because proceeds went to victims of the Paris terror attacks that had happened within a day of the auction.

This year’s Hospices de Beaune auction included 470 barrels of red wine (12 more than last year) and 126 of white (9 more than last year) and – indeed – the average price per barrel of €13,833 resembled the 2014 sales result, which had itself broken records until last year (€18,880 average in 2015, €13,658 in 2014).

This year, negociants bought 80% of the barrels and private buyers the rest, with 77% of registered bids from Europe, 20% from Asia and only 3% from the US.

The auction is sometimes interpreted as a barometer for pricing, and Morris said that an uncertain political climate could have contributed to lower sales this year as well.

‘First we had Brexit, then Trump, and so people are slightly nervous about what is going on,’ he said.

Just before the end of the sale, however, American private buyer Mike Palmer of Minnesota said that Trump’s low tax policy plans will encourage wealthy wine buyers to increase purchasing. ‘And the stronger [US] dollar will help as well.’

The sale began with a minute of silence in memory of Hospices director Antoine Jacquet, who had died the month before of a heart attack at age 64, after having worked 28 years to modernise the hospital and to supervise the winemaking domain, the historical museum and medical activities associated with the Hospices.

Read about past Hospices de Beaune auctions:

Hiding from the Nazis in the Hospices de Beaune

Looking ahead to the 156th Hospices de Beaune wine auction, winemaker Véronique Drouhin tells how her grandfather hid from the

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