The chance to get your hands on plenty of grand cru and premier cru wine from Burgundy is enough to gladden many. Today, however, hearts will beat a little faster, as the annual Hospices de Beaune charity wine auction begins.
Over three days – known as les trois glorieuses – wine professionals and keen amateurs will enjoy a food and wine festival in the town of Beaune.
The auction has taken place each year since 1851. The wines under the hammer come from vineyards the hospice has inherited over the years.
The charity now owns over 60 hectares of some of the best vineyards in Burgundy. The money raised at the auction on Sunday is used to support the charity’s modern hospital facilities.
Buyers bid for wine in barrels, each yielding 24 cases of wine, and prices often exceed the actual value of the wines in them. The barrels continue to be looked after by the hospice for a year or two after the sale, until the wine is ready to be bottled.
“I bought some wine in Beaune that day – though, sadly, nothing like as much as buyers will secure this weekend”
In a sign of the entente cordiale in action, Britain’s Christie’s auction house now runs the event. When they took it over in 2005, they abandoned the older practice of bidding à la bougie. This saw bids made only during a very limited period defined by the lighting and snuffing out of a candle.
I went to Beaune a few years ago. The visit was a highlight of a wine-tasting holiday I took in Burgundy. I bought some good wine in Beaune that day – though, sadly, nothing like as much as buyers will secure this weekend.