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Hospices de Beaune 2023 auction sales hit €23.3m

This year's auction focused on Burgundy's fledgling 2023 vintage and achieved the second highest sales total on record, although the price for the special charity barrel was considered a little disappointing by some of those present.

The 2023 Hospices de Beaune charity auction netted €23,279,800 (£20.4m), excluding buyer’s premium, according to Sotheby’s, which co-hosted the latest annual event in the heart of Burgundy yesterday (19 November).

This year marked the 163rd Hospices de Beaune auction and it saw the second highest sales total on record, following the total set last year of €29,788,500. 

At an average €30,839 (£27,000) per barrel, the money raised to upkeep the Hospices Civils de Beaune’s hospitals was ‘pretty solid’, said Burgundy wine author Jasper Morris MW, a consultant for the auction.

Bids were, however, lower per barrel than last year’s record result, when the average price per barrel sold for €35,974.

‘Everyone bidding wanted to stop a little short of last year, meaning that the signal for Burgundy is that prices should not keep going up,’ said Morris.

Proceeds from the Hospices de Beaune 2023 auction came from the sale of 753 barrels, divided into 574 red wine lots and 179 white, reflecting high yields in the 2023 vintage, yet short of the 802 lots auctioned last year and 828 barrels offered in 2018.

Fifty one cuvées, including village, premiers and grands crus, went under the hammer from the Hospices’ 6o hectares of vineyards, which are in their third and final year of organic conversion. 

Hospices 2023, piece des presidents

The Pièce des Présidents barrel, ‘Cuvée Madeleine Collignon’. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Despite a globally satisfactory result, the hammer price of this year’s Pièce des Présidents charity barrel of Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru was €350,000. This proved ‘disappointing’, remarked both Morris and Sylvain Naulin, director of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB).

The Pièce des Présidents barrel was made from a 200-year-old oak tree that also provided wood to restore the spire of the renovated Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was damaged by fire in 2019.

Proceeds from the sale benefit two entities researching ways to improve life expectancy and health: the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FRM) and the Initiative de Recherche pour une Longévité en Bonne Santé (IRLB).

French actor Thierry Lhermitte and doctor and television presenter Michal Cymes joined organisers to represent this year’s special charitable cause.

An early snapshot of Burgundy’s 2023 vintage

It’s very early days, but there were also signs that Burgundy’s 2023 vintage proved more challenging, following much buzz for the sunny, dry, and universally acclaimed 2022 crop.

‘Yields were very generous, but we had to eliminate lots of Pinot Noir grapes, both in the vineyard and on sorting tables,’ said Hospices winery director Ludivine Griveau.

Variable conditions in the months leading to the harvest, with mildew and oidium, proved problematic for Pinot Noir, and ripening was slow in August, she explained during a pre-auction tasting of the baby vintage, which had not yet undergone malolactic fermentation.

A September heatwave scorched some grapes, but it also helped others to reach optimal ripeness for the harvest,which began on 11 September for the Pinot Noirs, she said.

Burgundy expert Michael Apstein said the severe Pinot Noir selection in the vineyards appeared to have worked.

‘Not as easy to taste as the 2022 vintage, the 2023s showed more noticeable tannic structure, but most wines exuded lovely aromas, ripe fruit purity, and fleshy palates, too,’ he said. 

Griveau said 2023 was ‘easier’ for Chardonnay, with natural yields almost as high as last year and grape bunches proving less susceptible to mildew.

Low acidity for some cuvées was a concern for several pre-auction tasters, with suggestions that some village level wines appeared flabby. Morris acknowledged the low acidity, but said: ‘I do not think it is dangerously low, as the wines tasted balanced to me.’

Jasper Morris MW is stepping down as consultant to the annual sale after 2023, with Jeannie Cho Lee MW becoming a consultant in 2024, said Sotheby’s. 

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