Barrel of French wine smashes charity sale record

Auction's charity lot raises previous record by €300,000

15 December 2020
By Brian McCulloch

Burgundy’s Hospice de Beaune wine auction on Sunday saw a record €780,000 paid for the “charity barrel” of 228 litres of wine, from the prestigious Clos de la Roche domaine.

The previous record for a charity barrel was €480,000 in 2015.

As well as the barrel of wine, the auction winner, who does not want to be identified, will receive a guitar donated by French singer and actor Marc Lavoine, and invited to dine with him.

Mr Lavoine was the public face of the auction this year, and said he was delighted to be doing something to help the doctors and nurses working through the Covid-19 pandemic.

First started in 1859, the charity auction was designed to be a link with Burgundy’s past, where the wine industry was started and developed by monasteries and other religious orders.

Among them was the historic Hospices de Beaune hospital, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune in the town of Beaune, built in the 1440s by the then Chancellor of Burgundy Nicolas Rolin and his wife Guigogne de Salins.

Burgundy was then a Dukedom, separate from France, stretching from modern day Belgium to the south of the country.

Aat the time, Baune was struggling to recover from the ravages of the 100 Years War and suffering from an outbreak of plague.

To fund the hospital, and the religious order set up to run it, a vineyard was established.

Now a museum, the Hospices de Beaune is the emblematic building for Burgundy having kept its original timber frame and a striking, sharply pitched roof of colourful glazed tiles.

The Hospices de Beaune non-profit organisation, still funds a modern hospital in the town, and the charity auction provides money both for the hospital and the museum’s upkeep. In another link with the past it owns and manages 60 hectares of vines in some of the top Burgundy appellations.

The auction, part of a three-day wine festival, also provides a guide for likely prices for Burgundy wines coming on to the market, even though the prices paid at the charity auctions are usually significantly higher than commercial prices.

As well as the “charity barrel”, 626 other barrels up for sale this year sold for €12.7million, slightly lower than last year, but still helping to ease fears that 2020 would see a crash in Burgundy prices.

There were just 171 buyers physically present in the auction halls, all following social distancing rules, and 140 on-line or placing bids by telephone.

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