Burgundy auctions casks of wine for good causes

Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:36am EST
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By Marcel Michelson

BEAUNE, France (Reuters) - Celebrities, business people and the wealthy bid for casks of fine wine in the world's biggest annual charity auction at the Hospices de Beaune this weekend in an annual ritual for Burgundy winemakers that stretches back more than one-and-a-half centuries.

The total value of the sale, at 5.8 million euros ($7.8 mln), broke the 2009 record of 5.5 million on face value and was more than the 5.1 million euros of 2010.

There were, however, more lots for sale and average prices were down on last year by 6.2 percent for reds and 12.9 percent for the whites as the financial crisis and economic worries hurt even the steadiest asset values in the global wine trade.

The main item, the special President's lot of 460 liters of red Corton Clos du Roi, Cuvee Baronne du Bay, was auctioned by actor Christian Clavier and fashion model and designer Ines de la Fressange. It raised 110,000 euro for two charities and the buyer was Stephen Williams of the Antique Wine Company.

"This year's auction takes place in a difficult financial and economic context," said Alain Suguenot, chairman of the hospices and mayor of Beaune.

The second-highest buy was a 228-liter barrel of white Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru Cuvee Dames de Flandres at 56,710 euros by an anonymous 'Asian amateur' according to auctioneers Christie's.

Prospective buyers were given tastings and dinners by top wine merchants such as Albert Bichot while three-star Michelin chef Michel Troisgros of Roanne made some signature dishes.

The sale was of the most recent vintage, that of 2011, and the wines need to be 'tended' for up to 24 months in Beaune and then stored for several more years before they can be drunk. After a freak climate in 2011, the harvest started early on August 29 and lasted 10 days.   Continued...