Hospices de Beaune

January is the time of year when Burgundians show off their new vintage.

Currently it’s hard to cross the road in London without falling over a top-notch Burgundian producer clutching bottles of their 2016s – a year that is notable for reduced volumes due to spring frosts, and consequently high prices. It’s also hard to avoid the topic on wine-related social media and websites…

I was lucky enough to have an early insight into the vintage when I attended the famous Hospices de Beaune, the annual jamboree in November when the new vintage wines are auctioned off to raise money for the local hospital and other good causes.

It’s probably the most famous wine auction in the world and I was there to tell the story of how and why Marks & Spencer gets involved. After all, it’s hardly the kind of place you’d expect a UK supermarket to be, when barrels are being auctioned off to high rollers for sometimes eye-watering prices.

It was also fascinating to meet Mounir and Rotem Saouma, who run the micro-négociant Lucien Le Moine, who bid and then age the wines on behalf of M&S (only registered local negociants are allowed to bid in the auction itself). Their operation and approach merits a piece in itself.

By way of postscript, I was lucky enough to return to the auction this past year (2017) and attend the celebrated Chevaliers du Tastevin dinner at the Château du Clos de Vougeot. It made me think: given the UK is starting to make some really quite creditable still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and has a well established wine scene not short of those well adjusted to the notion of ‘fun’, perhaps it’s time we came up with some sort of similarly Bacchanalian celebration on these shores…maybe even with a charity auction to boot.

[Peter Richards MW on the Hospices de Beaune in Decanter magazine December 2017]

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