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Hospices de Beaune nudges 2000 record

Yesterday’s Hospices de Beaune auction made the second-highest total ever – but buyers say it’s not another 2005.

The 149th Hospices de Beaune auction fetched €5.4m – the second highest figure ever, and ‘within a whisker’ of the 2000 record, according to Christie’s, which organised the auction.

Some 500 participants from around the world bought 799 barrels. Around 40% bought by telephone, internet or faxed bids.

In pre-auction tastings, potential buyers were impressed by high ripeness levels, but said they may lack the structure and density of the 2005 vintage. Some expressed concern that the whites lacked enough acidity.

Anthony Hanson (MW), senior consultant of Christie’s International Wine Department said in a press release, ‘The superb quality of the Hospices red wine cuvées in 2009 ensured that prices leapt upwards, and there were fierce battles for the greatest whites.

‘The star white was Bâtard Montrachet Cuvée Dames de Flandres [which sold for €57,750 per barrel]. Record prices were set for Corton-Charlemagne Cuvée François de Salins [€27.152 per barrel] and Clos de la Roche Cuvée Cyrot-Chaudron (€36,000 per barrel].’

He later told decanter.com it was ‘too early to make strong judgments,’ as the malolactic fermentation is not yet finished.

Around the tastings, buyers and winemakers were sounding notes of caution as to the greatness of the vintage.

Roland Masse, manager of the 60ha of the Domaine of the Hospices de Beaune, said the 100mm of rain that fell in the middle of July resulted in grapes ‘not quite as dense as in the more regular 2005 vintage,’ despite the exceptional weather afterwards.

Belgium-based negociant Agnès Lambrecht wondered if 2009 was going to be another 2003.

‘The reds were very fruit-forward, but we ask ourselves is this going to be a long-term vintage? Is it like 2003? We are not sure.’

Jean-Pierre Tournier of Domaine François Gaunoux, also present for the auction, described the whites as ‘correct but not a top vintage. The acidity was not exceptional.’

Bouchard Pere & Fils cellar master Philippe Prost said that 2009 is not as dense as 2005 but ‘not comparable’ to 2003, which he described as the ‘Atlas vintage, due to the weight of the sun on the vines. 2009 was not a victim of the sun.’

In a pre-auction press conference, Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the Burgundy negociant federation, urged producers to lower their prices in ‘a very difficult market.’

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Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Beaune

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