Hospices de Beaune auction sets the scene for pricier Burgundy

This year’s sale seems to be representative of prospects for the 2021 vintage.

High prices paid at the Hospices de Beaune auction / Credit: BIVB/Joly M.
High prices paid at the Hospices de Beaune auction / Credit: BIVB/Joly M.

The annual charity auction of the latest vintage of wines produced by the 61ha Hospices de Beaune estate, is often viewed as an indicator of the prices that will be commanded by the region as a whole. This has not always been the case, particularly in years when the quality of the Hospices’ winemaking was questioned or when charitable exuberance failed to reflect the mood of the market generally.

This year’s sale, the 161st, which was conducted on 21 November, for the first time by Sotheby’s which took over from its rivals Christies, does, however, seem to be representative of prospects for the 2021 vintage. Crucially, it reflected a harvest with the lowest yields since 1981, with 362 barrels (including seven of spirits) compared to 638 in 2020. 

There was no debating the quality of the 2021 Hospices wines produced by the cellarmaster Ludivine Griveau. The first woman to be at the head of the estate since 1443 when Guigone de Salins founded it with her husband Nicolas Rolin, chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy. Griveau took over the role with the 2015 vintage. Her responsibility is to produce 50 different cuvées, often blending from vineyards within the same appellation. These range from the relatively humble Côte d’Or appellations of Pernand Vergelesses and Monthélie to Grands Crus such as Corton, Mazis Chambertin, and Bâtard-Montrachet. All of the vineyards are donations to the estate which was originally created to fund Beaune’s hospital.

If Griveau’s wines were well received, so were the ones produced by other estates and negociants, with tasters appreciating the ‘more classic’ character of reds and whites produced in cooler conditions than some other recent vintages.

This year, despite the smaller number of barrels, the sale realised €12.6m just short of last year’s €14.3m. The average price was €34,980, compared to 2020’s €21,667, a leap of over 60 percent. The whites – of which there are far fewer lots – rose in price even more dramatically, with a hike of 115 percent. 

Buyers of Burgundies from other producers may not see quite as dramatic a jump in prices as at the charity auction, but the limited volumes available guarantee that the 2021 vintage will be eagerly fought over by enthusiasts. No one who has seen the results of the Hospices de Beaune auction can say they weren’t warned.

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