Burgundy's Hospices de Beaune charity wine auction returned to the spotlight Nov. 19, raising $16 million in its 157th year, eclipsing last year’s $8.9 million and the previous high of $11.7 million, achieved in 2015. Managed by Christie’s auction house, the sale offered 787 barrels—630 reds and 157 whites—and bids poured in from 18 countries on four continents.
Heading into the auction, observers believed the 2017 vintage would draw healthy bidding—the year delivered both promising quality and increased yields. As an added draw, French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour attended the event, representing one of the beneficiaries, the Foundation for Alzheimer Research. By the end, prices had increased by 8.6 percent compared to last year, an uptick of approximately 29.7 percent for whites and 3.2 percent for reds.
The traditional Pièces des Présidents, or “President’s Barrel,” sold for $495,600, the second-highest price ever recorded for the annual lot. Négociant house Maison Albert Bichot partnered with an anonymous Chinese investor to purchase the lot: two 228-liter barrels of grand cru Corton Clos du Roi. Proceeds from the lot benefited foundations working with Alzheimer's disease, brain research and environmental awareness.
“The Hospices auction is very significant to all of us in Burgundy, and also something special for me. We have strong family connections with this hospital,” Albert Bichot told Wine Spectator via email. "Some of our family ancestors gave some vines more than 100 years ago that are now part of the Hospices estate. It is a family tradition dating back to 1876. It is really part of our family history.”
Hospices de Beaune began auctioning wines in 1859; the hospital was established in the 15th century by Nicolas Rolin, who was chancellor to the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, and his wife, Guigone de Salins. Today, the Hospices de Beaune's holdings include 146 acres' worth of vine parcels spread out across some of Burgundies most prestigious premiers and grands crus.