|The charity auction raised 3-million euros from the sale of 699 barrels, but the total was down almost 30 percent from last year.|
Négociants showed lukewarm interest in the 2004 Burgundies offered for sale by the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune on Nov. 21. The charity auction raised 3-million euros from the sale of 699 barrels (each is 228 liters) of red and white Burgundies. That averages out to nearly 4,292 euros per barrel compared with 6,114 euros per barrel for the wines from the warm-weather 2003 vintage--almost a 30 percent drop.
The nonprofit Domaine des Hospices de Beaune sells its new crop each November on the third weekend of the month to raise funds for Beaune's hospital. Only négociants, or shippers, may bid at the charity auction, where they buy for clients such as restaurants, importers and collectors from all over the world.
Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the Syndicat des Négociants, Burgundy's leading shippers' organization, said the price decline reflected market realities and that this year couldn't match 2003's heights.
At last year's sale, prices for the 2003 wines had increased an average of 21.4 percent over those from the potentially classic 2002 vintage, in part, winemakers said, because '03 produced such a small crop. It is "logical" that the 2004 wines should come down to a price level similar to that of the 2002s, Latour said.
The 556 barrels of '04 Pinot Noirs sold for an average of 3,832 euros per barrel, down more than 33 percent compared with the 2003s. The 143 barrels of '04 Chardonnays sold for 6,256 euros, down about 21 percent.
At a press conference before the auction, Burgundy wine officials criticized France's Ministry of Health for launching an anti-alcohol campaign last week that appears to be aimed largely against wine, though it's also directed at beer and spirits. Its main theme is, "Day after day, your body is damaged by each glass you drink," and it includes the image of a glass of wine and a red droplet.
French vintners are struggling to sell their wines in foreign markets and in France, where consumers are turning increasingly to water and soft drinks. Burgundy vintners said they were "scandalized" and "deeply hurt" by the anti-alcohol campaign.
"Under the cover of moderation," said a statement from the trade organization Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, "the government is participating in a prohibitionist campaign that aims at totally discrediting a cultural product in the eyes of the consumers."
The campaign has generated so much anger in wine regions that various trade organizations are considering suing the government for misleading advertising. According to French news reports today, a group of Bordeaux winemakers were preparing to file a lawsuit. Burgundy might join the Bordelais in such a legal confrontation, according to shipper Bertrand Devillard of Maison Antonin Rodet and other négociants.
--Photos by Jon Wyand
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