The world’s oldest charity wine auction, held every year in France for the Hospices de Beaune, last night raised a hammer total of 5 million euros ($7.5 million) with fees, the second-highest in its 150-year history. Demand was boosted for the new vintage when a record 802 barrels were offered from vineyards belonging to the hospital, founded in 1443, said Christie’s International.
The auction, organized for the fifth year by the Burgundy- based hospital network in collaboration with Christie’s, was held in the medieval Halles de Beaune. All the barrels found buyers. Prices for the 654 lots of red wine were 31.1 percent higher than last year; whites, contributing 145 lots, were down 2.8 percent on 2008, Christie’s said in an e-mailed statement.
“Fierce bidding resulted from nearly 500 private and professional participants from all parts of the world,” said auctioneer Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau. He said 40 percent of them were bought from afar by telephone, Internet and faxed bids. Fifty-seven percent of the buyers were from France, 11 percent from the U.K. and 9 percent from the U.S.
The record for the sale was the hammer total of 5.2 million euros achieved from 727 barrels in 2000. Prices were driven up by bidders’ desire to own wine made in the millennium year, said Christie’s.
Winemakers in Burgundy, as in Bordeaux, are optimistic that 2009 will be a high-quality vintage, particularly for reds.
“What a winegrower can dream of before the harvest is to pick healthy, perfectly ripe, tasty grapes,” Roland Masse, director of the Hospices de Beaune’s wine domain, said in an e- mailed statement. “This dream has become a reality this year.”
The region’s reds are made from the notoriously fickle Pinot Noir grape, while the whites are made from Chardonnay.
Most expensive of the auction’s individual lots comprised two “President’s Barrels” filled with the red Corton Grand Cru Cuvee Charlotte Dumay and the white Meursault-Charmes Premiere Cru Cuvee Albert Grivault. These attracted a hammer price of 90,000 euros from a group of Burgundy wine producers, including well-known labels such as Drouhin, Faiveley and Jadot.
A European private bidder paid 57,750 euros for a barrel of the Grand Cru white, Batard-Montrachet Cuvee Dames de Flandres.
Charities supporting victims of cerebral palsy in France and health centers in Rwanda were among the other organizations benefiting from the sale.