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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

World’s Most Famous Wine Auction

    Hospice de Beaune in Burgundy

The third Sunday in November is often the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving in the U.S.  However, in the international wine scene, November’s third Sunday is almost sacred--- it’s the date of the world’s most famous wine auction.  This grand charity gala, known as the Hospice de Beaune, takes place in one of Burgundy’s most illustrious architectural buildings…the former 15th hospital in Beaune.  The hoopla of the auction, its dramatic setting, and the medieval cobblestoned city of Beaune all come together to create a magical experience.

For days prior to the actual auction, Beaune is a hive of activity with oeonophiles from around the globe celebrating…from black tie dinners in the city’s best restaurants to sophisticated affairs at chateaux in the surrounding countryside.  The final grand dinner at Chateau Clos Voegoet is pure theatre with more tuxedos and ball gowns than a New Years Eve at the Ritz in Paris.  Although it is not widely known, many of the events, including the auction, are surprisingly open to the public. It’s a fabulous chance to hob-nob with the world’s most prominent wine writers, the owners of Burgundy’s most famed wineries, celebrity wine lovers and Europe’s political movers and shakers.

Over the last 100 years, some of Burgundy’s greatest vineyards have been donated to the Hospital.  Currently, the charity owns nearly 150 acres of exceptional Premier and Gran Cru estates.  The venerable Christie’s auction house conducts the event which is now in its 153rd year.  The auction is important on two fronts.  First, proceeds go to charity.  Considering that last week’s auction raised $7.5 million bucks, that’s an impressive chunk of contributions for the local humanitarian coffers.  Second, prices during this auction have enormous influence in setting prices for all of Burgundy’s wine the year following the auction.  

France’s former first lady, Carla Bruni, was the guest auctioneer at the recent 2012 Hospice de Beaune auction.  For an extra $250,000 she offered to personally deliver the wine to bidders; or for an extra $300,000 her husband, Nicolas Sarkozy, would join her in bringing the wine. (Carla, who is an Italian also offered to throw in some pizzas if the bidder added another $1,000).  A Ukranian businessman took Bruni and Sarkozy up on the offer by bidding nearly $350,000.

Coming with us to Burgundy in September 2013?  We’ll be staying in the charming town of Beaune and we'll be touring the Hospice de Beaune!

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