When I was growing up, I had many milestones during the year:
– September meant the start of a new school year, but it was also harvesting time.
– Autumn was associated with the beautiful yellow and red colours of the leaves in the vineyards. That’s also why we call Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits ‘Cote d’Or’, because it looks like gold during autumn and it’s just stunning!
– Autumn was also special for me because I knew that the 3rd week of November would bring festive moments, for 2 reasons:
o The launch of the Beaujolais Nouveau (I will tell you more about this in another blog post) on Wednesday night in the 3rd week of November.
o In that same week, from Thursday onwards, we would have clients and friends coming to the office and to our house, to taste the new vintage of the Hospices de Beaune and potentially buy barrels there. I remember speaking with so many people from different countries (Belgian, American, Japanese, Australian…). During those three intensive days, there was non-stop eating and drinking. It was joyful, but at the same time, very professional as the aim of that weekend was to portray the best of what Burgundy can offer.
Today, my parents still continue this tradition of welcoming clients and friends. It’s such a pleasure to be there and enjoy this festive time with everyone!
The Hospices de Beaune and Hospices de Nuits auctions are the only times when clients can buy Burgundy wine appellations ‘Primeur’ (= buy wine appellations which were harvested in August/September of the same year). Indeed, apart from these two special occasions, you can’t buy ‘Primeur” wines in Burgundy. This is also the foremost difference with Bordeaux wines because, in Bordeaux, the wines are sold mainly ‘En Primeur”.
The Hospices de Beaune is a non-profit organisation owned by the French State but governed locally. All the profits from the auction go towards helping the city of Beaune finance local projects (infrastructure, promotion of the region, etc.). The Hospices de Beaune owns vineyards that were donated to it through previous years. Currently, the Domaine of Hospices de Beaune has more than 60 hectares, with around 50 different wine appellations mainly located in Côte de Beaune. For the past 5 years, Ludivine Griveau has been managing the Domaine.
The auction, which always takes place on the 3rd Sunday in November, is where you can buy wine appellations for the Domaine of Hospices de Beaune.
If you come to buy, or just to enjoy this auction weekend, you will need to book a hotel at the centre of Beaune to avoid driving and arrive on Thursday night, as it starts very early on Friday morning. Indeed, there is a wine tasting for professionals, which starts at 8.30AM on Friday at the Hospices de Beaune’s premises. There, you can taste more than 50 wines (mainly red wines) for 2 hours. This tasting is rather “difficult”, given the fact that wines are very young/immature, but you can already start recognising the ones which have the potential to become great. The atmosphere in the cellar is very professional but the people who attend are also friendly and joyful.
At the end of this wine tasting, there will be a debrief around an aperitif and a typical Burgundy lunch. We will discuss if clients should buy and the maximum bid per barrel. On Friday afternoon, we will organise one or two tastings at the wine producers’ sites to enjoy other winemaking processes and older vintages.
Saturday is a more relaxed day where you will have the opportunity to visit or explore well-known monuments like the Hospices de Beaune, the city of Beaune, vineyards…and of course, have a nice lunch with everyone. Winemakers are also invited here to promote their work with our clients and friends.
Sunday is the “Day”. The auction starts at 2.30PM. You will be seated next to my dad as he is the only one who can bid for clients. He will raise his hands to buy the selected barrels on behalf of clients and will not exceed the clients’ bidding price. The auction can go on till 9PM depending on the number of barrels and the speed of the commissioner. At the end of the auction, clients will know if they were lucky to acquire the barrels they wanted at their prices.
The Hospices de Beaune wine auction in Burgundy is really fascinating because you will see Burgundy wine lovers from all over the world coming especially for this event. And you will be part of this historical event, and leave with great memories and a piece of history.
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