Edward Robert Brooks, Jr.
January 27th, 2023
In the first part of this treatise which focused on the Grand Cru wines from Corton, I commenced that monograph by stating, “Burgundy is complicated… But that’s part of its allure!”.
That observation is equally relevant to the current subject. Namely, the wines produced for the famed yearly Hospices-de-Beaune charity auction.
The history of the Hospices-de-Beaune dates from 1443 when it was founded by Nicolas Rolin, who was the Chancellor-de-Bourgogne, as a Catholic charity hospital for the then impoverished indigenous population of Beaune.
The original structure which housed the hospital until 1971, the Hotel-Dieu-de-Bourgogne, is currently a museum, with patient care now provided at a nearby larger and more modern facility.
In 1966, the acclaimed French movie “La Grande Vadrouille” was filmed at the Hotel.
Since 1859, The courtyard of the Hotel has been the site of what is considered by many fine wine aficionados to be arguably the world’s most famous annual charity rare wine auction.
The auction and associated festivities, known as Les Trois Glorieuses, commence on the third Sunday in November and take place over three days. This includes a black-tie dinner the night before the auction at the Chateau de Clos Vougeot, and a luncheon on the day after the auction, known as La Paulee-de-Meursault.
Each year, wine professionals and private Burgundy collectors vie to purchase barrels of wine at the auction which are comprised of cuvees unique to the Domaine-des-Hospices-de-Beaune.
Three of the most famous are: Cuvee Nicolas Rolin (named after the founder of the hospital), Cuvee Guigone-de-Salins (named after Rolin’s wife), and the Cuvee Charlotte Dumay (wife of the King’s Keeper of the Mint in Dijon, who had no heirs). Examples of two of these, along with other cuvees were included in the recent tutored tasting mentioned below.
The domaine owns approximately 150 acres of prime vineyard land that was bequeathed to the hospital over the years.
Buyers from wineries do their own bottling. Successful bidders who are members of the wine trade, and private collectors, choose which winery to bottle and ship the wines for them.
The difference in the perceived prestige of which winery does the bottling can impact the price of subsequent sales of the wine. Although, to some aficionados it is unclear if that actually makes a qualitative difference. However, a seasoned Burgundy oenophile who attended the aforementioned tasting opined that the quality of the wine used to top off the barrels was pertinent. And more prestigious wineries often have access to better wines for that purpose.
The prices realized at the auctions serve as a bellwether for future overall sales of Burgundy from a given vintage.
Up until the last decade, most purchasers tended to be members of the wholesale wine business who subsequently sold the wine to their customers. Often, despite the rarity and perceived quality, the wines could later be purchased at retail for very reasonable prices compared to other bottlings of prestigious Burgundy.
From 2005 until 2020, Christies wine auction house organized the auctions, and participation by individual retail buyers increased significantly. Beginning in 2021, Christies archrival Sotheby’s took over conducting the auctions.
In 2018, another movie that showcased the Hotel-Dieu-de-Bourgogne was released. Titled “Three Days of Glory”, it presented insights into the trials and tribulations that vineyard owners and winemakers contend with.
Insiders familiar with the auction who had participated in the past, feared that the success of the movie would cause higher prices. But the concept of buying wine by the barrel remained puzzling to most private buyers, and in the ensuing years, often the wines remained a great value at retail.
However, the 162nd Hospices auction which took place this last November, raised $32 million which was the highest total in the charity’s history.
On the occasion of the annual Grande Marque Trading Partners Meeting in December, which was held at the offices of Americaneagle.com, the Partners were treated to a tutored tasting of select Hospices-de-Beaune Burgundies.
We began the evening with a Jeroboam of 2015 Marc Hebrart Special Club Champagne provided by Mike Widmaier of Chicago Wine Consulting, who decanted and served the wines.
Accompanying the wines was a curated menu of gourmet proteins provided by Chris Maloyan, President of Second City Prime Steak and Seafood Company, and prepared by Chef/Pitmaster Hipolito Sanchez of Slow Motion.
Australian Wagyu: flank and mbs 9+ New York strip, were both sous vide and finished over charcoal with our second City Prime rub that is a mixture of porcini mushroom, shallots, tellicherry, peppers, garlic and Portuguese sea salt
2019 Hospices-de-Beaune, Beaune Les Montrevenots, Cuvée Cyrot-Chaudron, elevage Edouard Delaunay
2018 Hospices-de-Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru, Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres, elevage Au Pied-du-Mont Chauve
2018 Hospices-de-Beaune, Volnay-Santenots, Cuvée Gauvain, elevage Au Pied-du-Mont Chauve
Iberico Presa, also sous vide, and finished over charcoal
2017 Hospices-de-Beaune, Beaune, Cuvée Clos-des-Avaux, elevage Au Pied-du-Mont Chauve
2017 Hospices-de-Beaune, Corton, Grand Cru, Cuvee Charlotte Dumay, elevage Famille Carabello-Baum
Colorado Rack of Lamb marinated over night with Portuguese Sea Salt, Black Truffle Paste, Sous vide to 125 then grilled over charcoal
2010 Hospices-de-Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru, Cuvée Guigone-de-Salins, elevage Louis Jadot
1996 Hospices-de-Beaune, Clos de la Roche, Grand Cru, Cuvée Cyrot Chaudron, elevage Roux Pere et Fils
Hudson Valley Duck Breast: brined in Portuguese sea salt, citrus and rice wine vinegar, smoked for 1 hour, chilled and vac packed to Sous vide to an internal temp of 125 and grilled over charcoal. Finished with Foi Gras and butter sautéed black trumpet mushrooms
1985 Hospices-de-Beaune, Beaune, Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres, elevage Louis Jadot
1937 Hospices-de-Beaune, Volnay, Cuvée Blondeau, elevage Camille Giroud