Economic woes dampen demand at Burgundy auction

Sun Nov 20, 2011 3:30pm EST
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By Marcel Michelson

BEAUNE, France (Reuters) - A sale of Burgundy wine at the world's biggest charity auction Sunday drew lower bids than in previous years as economic jitters hit home.

The sale of the so-called President's Lot is a highlight of the annual "Hospices de Beaune" auction, at which rich wine enthusiasts bid for fine Burgundy wines in a yearly sale whose proceeds are donated entirely to charity.

But economic worries crimped enthusiasm at Sunday's sale. Most auctioned bottles drew less than their expected bids, while the President's Lot -- a 460-liter barrel -- raised 110,000 euros, a steep drop from the 400,000 euros it raised last year.

"This year's auction takes place in a difficult financial and economic context," said Alain Suguenot, chairman of the hospices and mayor of Beaune, home to a striking medieval-era hospice in the midst of wine-growing country.

The auction is a meeting place for jet-setting millionaires and wine trades set on obtaining quality wines and funding charitable organizations.

Fashion figure Ines de la Fressange and comic film actor Christian Clavier presided over the sale of the special lot according to the traditional candle-flame method -- where bidding continues until the flame dies.

The revenue goes to the French Alzheimer's disease research association and a charity that funds cardiac surgery in France for children from poor countries.

The wines are from the 2011 harvest and will need to mature for a few years before they are ready for drinking.   Continued...