Live (Sort of) From the Hospices de Beaune

The Hospices de Beaune wine auction is still in full swing. It opened with great enthusiasm this afternoon, just as the sun peeked through the incessant clouds that have been sprinkling the Cote d’Or all week. For the first two hours, all of the auction lots were selling at 10 to 20% higher than their auction estimates. This bodes well for Burgundy, and perhaps the wine world as a whole.

The highlight of the day so far, however, must be the sale of the annual President’s lot, a special wine, made even more special at this, the 150th Anniversary of the Hospices de Beaune wine auction, as it is being offered as a single, specially made tonneau, the oversize 500-liter oak barrel. The wine inside is a 2010 Beaune Premier Cru, and the wine’s official name is Cuvée Nicolas Rolin, after the Chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, who founded the Hospice de Beaune in 1443.

Here’s a short video of the guest President of the auction, French actor Fabrice Luchini, taking the final bid and bringing down the hammer. Final price for the single tonneau of wine: 400,000 Euros.

For anyone looking to do mental calculations, that’s $548,320, about $822 for each of the 666 bottles you’d get out of such a barrel. And, that’s not the end of the cost for such things, because as a buyer you must pay someone to keep the barrel for you until the wine is ready, and then pay to have it bottled, and shipped. An experienced buyer I spoke to told me that the best rule of thumb, once you figure the aforementioned costs in addition to your buyer’s premium paid to the auction house was about twice the price you bid.

But like all such charity auctions, the proceeds go to a very good cause, and they should really demonstrate generosity rather than market prices. More to come on the auction as I get the time.