Christie’s auction house has been running the sale since 2005 alongside the Hospices de Beaune, bringing the international scope the event deserves. In addition to being an auction, the weekend is also a cultural occasion since Bourgogne wine is a primordial part of French culture. Over the space of a few days, the spotlight will shine on a very small winegrowing region (accounting for just 0.4% of world production), yet one with a global reputation.
The Hospices de Beaune was founded during the Middle Ages by Nicolas Rolin (1380-1462), Chancellor for the Duke of Bourgogne, Philip the Good, and its vineyards bequeathed to the institution over time. All the wines produced by the estate are auctioned each year, and this year, a cuvée of Puligny-Montrachet will be on offer for the first time following a donation by Bernard Clerc, winegrower in Puligny-Montrachet, of just under 0.19 hectares in the Climat of Les Reuchaux, to the north of the appellation.
The funds raised by the sale, which takes place on the Sunday afternoon, are used by the Hospices de Beaune for charitable purposes such as upgrading medical equipment and infrastructure at the hospital, as well as for the preservation of historical monuments such as the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune. Moreover, since 1945, the Hospices has also supported one or more charities, represented by various personalities. These organizations receive the profits from the sale of a particular barrel (or barrels depending on the year) of wine, called the “Pièce des Présidents”. The sale of this wine is often the highpoint of the auction.
Buying a barrel of wine from the Hospices de Beaune means acquiring a tiny piece of exceptional terroir and the négociants of the Bourgogne winegrowing region play the role of mediators. They invite the buyers for whom they will age the wines until they are ready to go into bottles, usually around 18 months after the sale.
Other major events that are held around the same weekend include the Chapter of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin at the Clos de Vougeot on the Saturday night, and the no-less legendary Paulée de Meursault on the Monday. Together, with the “Diner aux Chandelle”, that concludes the Auction day, they form Les Trois Glorieuses, or “The Glorious Three Days” which, for more than 150 years, have celebrated the conclusion of the winegrowing year in the Bourgogne region.
In parallel to the “official” celebrations, the general public can practice their wine-tasting skills at the 145th Fête des Grands Vins de Bourgogne at the Palais des Congrès, or head off to discover the wine houses and estates that open their doors during the weekend.