Hospices total up 19% despite shrunk vintage


Yohan Castaing writes:

Because of the challenges of the growing season, 2013 will be a vintage that will be remembered. Very low quantities, a difficult vintage with millerandage, and late flowering and rain resulted in significant delays in maturity. Because of all this, the annual sale of Hospices de Beaune began with some concerns.

Firstly the quantity, which amounted to only 443 barrels (333 red and 110 white, from 43 cuvées), the smallest since 1981. For example, in 1981 the Hospices produced 419 barrels, 761 in 2011 and 518 barrels in 2012 and each was considered a tiny vintage. Because of this, it was thought that it would be difficult to beat the 2012 record sale total of €5.2 million, but rumours before the auction were that the prices would rise.

Secondly, the quality: 'The 2013 vintage will be rare and valuable. The changing weather has decimated many vineyards in the Côte de Beaune. The late harvest in early October has created tension in the wines, tannic reds and wines with great freshness, finesse and elegance', said Roland Masse, Hospices winemaker and manager. 'This is a traditional vintage with late maturity'. After tasting the cuvées, I think this point of view is a 'seller's appreciation' and some wines will be fresh, crunchy, but lacking in flesh. Certainly they have nice acidity that will allow interesting ageing potential. But the most interesting fact is Roland Masse's developing winemaking philosophy: a new sorting strategy with a new sorting table to optimise the quality of the beautiful climats owned by the Hospices.

A good 85% of the 60 hectares of Hospices vineyards are classified as premier cru and grand cru (22 vine growers work for the Hospices). The Hospices de Beaune auction is a crucial time of the year in Burgundy because it helps set the tone of the future market for the 2013 vintage and can pique the interest of international buyers for the vintage.

So yesterday, Sunday 18 November 2013, Christie's were able to announce that the sales total, €6.3 million, had increased by approximately 19% compared with 2012, an extraordinary result in view of the tiny quantities involved (the sales total includes the spirits auctioned). Red wine prices were up 28% on last year, whites 20%.

Only the famous Pièce des Présidents caused concern. This year, Clotilde Coureau, actress and Princesse de Savoie, was the special guest charged with auctioning this much-touted cuvée, the proceeds of which will benefit a charitable association (Petits Princes and Papillons Blancs in 2013). The cuvée changes every year and in 2013 it is a white wine, Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières, Cuvée Philippe Le Bon.

This year's Pièce des Présidents was sold for €131,000 to Yan Hong Cao, a Chinese businesswoman (she owns jade mines, luxury chain stores, and a tea plantation). Last year, the Pièce des Président was sold for €270,000 (Corton Grand Cru – Charlotte Dumay) and for €400 000 in 2010. 'Are you really interested in the Pièce des Présidents?', Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the Burgundian négociants, asked Christie's after the sale. 'Give us a great wine for sale, not a premier cru, to convince the special high-level buyers to be interested. Christie's manage to sell them Bacon without difficulty, so then a great wine... '

Anthony Hanson MW, Christie's senior consultant, responded by saying, '
Christie’s are delighted to sell whichever wine the Hospices de Beaune chooses as their President’s barrel.  We were very pleased to have contributed to encouraging a Chinese lady, who is a Burgundy lover, to acquire this year’s barrel, the superb First Growth Meursault-Genevrières, Cuvée Philippe Le Bon 2013.'