The Annual Vente de Vins Wine Auction
at Hospice de Beaune
When it comes to the pampered grapes of French wine, arguably it is the fruit grown in the UNESCO-protected vineyards of Burgundy which inspire the most passion among wine snobs and casual imbibers alike.
On the third Sunday of every November, Francophiles and oenophiles from every corner of the globe celebrate a very important event in the world of Burgundian wine – The Annual Hospice de Beaune Wine Auction or Vente des Vins!
The charity wine auction dates back to 1859 and is part of Les Trois Glorieuses de Bourgogne, a spectacular three day festival celebrating the great abundance of food and wine in Burgundy.
The Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel Dieu in Beaune, France was built in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to Dukes of Burgundy. Founded as a hospital for the poor and needy, patients were medically treated there until the early 20th century! This famous landmark is a highlight of the daily cultural discovery offered on the barges cruising in Southern Burgundy, as well as being a favorite among the Barge Ladies.
Now a museum, the immaculately preserved hospice boasts the finest 15th century Burgundian-Flemish architecture in the world and represents both the history of Burgundy and the story of its wine.
This tradition of charity continues today. Since 2005, Christie’s, England’s iconic auction house, has organized the fundraising event, with well over 1.5 million Euros generated from wine sales each year. While a proportion of the money goes to various charities, every year the Hospices de Beaune spotlights the proceeds from one designated barrel of wine, called a pièce in French. Obviously this a very valuable barrel!
The sales from this special barrel, known as the “Pièce du Présidents”, is given to a charity designated by the President of that year’s auction. Historically, the Pièce du Présidents holds the top end of Burgundy’s exceptional elixirs; in recent years, for example, a 350 litres barrel of 2012 Corton Grand Cru – Cuvée Charlotte Dumay was offered. For fans of Pinot Noir from the Cote des Beaune, this vintage is akin to liquid gold!
An enormous amount of wine from the Hospice’s own vineyards, well over 500 barrels, is then auctioned to the public, with hundreds of eager participants bidding in person, by proxy, or by phone. The auction’s events are then augmented with hosted winetastings, gala dinners, and even a contest to crown the winner of the fastest uncorkings in all of Southern Burgundy!
Should you wish to sniff, swirl, and savor the best of Burgundy’s best, then the wine program on the 6-star, 8 guest barge Grand Cru is perfect for the sophisticated sipper’s palate.
For even more “Barge Lady Approved” insight into the wonderful world of French wine, enjoy our coverage of Beaujolais Day here.