We are delighted to report that we have had a very successful Sunday afternoon at this year's Hospices de Beaune auction last week, securing all our top ranked cuvées for syndicate members at excellent prices.
The auction raised a staggering €25.2 million - the second-highest in the Hospices' history - and the clear highlight was the Pièce des Présidents Charity Barrel, as always, which sold for €350,000, comprising a very rare Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru. The barrel itself was constructed from a 220 year-old tree used to re-build the spire of Notre Dame!
The afternoon was unlike the four we have previously taken part in: prices and bidding were highly erratic and did not follow typical patterns - the most extreme examples being the Domaine's Clos de la Roche - which saw the a spread of hammer prices from the first to the last barrels (of four offered) increase by 44%. Almost as extreme was the 40% difference between the highest and lowest successful bids for the Mazis-Chambertin - but this time the least expensive barrels were the final lots. On other cuvées, most notably Corton Charlemagne, Cuvée François de Salins, enthusiastic phone bidders pushed the prices quickly to crazy heights (€50,000 jumped to €135,000 in a single increment and hammered at 40% above Sotheby's high estimate!). Against this backdrop we had to keep very cool heads to ensure a) we secured our targeted barrels and b) at a price we could comfortably justify to syndicate members...
Honest Grapes 2023 Syndicate Member's Hospices de Beaune Barrels:
In our tasting at the cuverie on Monday we had been very pleased with the quality of the Beaune 1er Cru reds, as had our chosen éléveur, RVF negociant of the Year Jane Eyre, and would have been delighted to have walked away with several of those offered. However we really liked the Pommard 1er Cru, Cuvée Dames de la Charité and kept it at the top of our shortlist, even though we expected it was likely to exceed our upper limit. We were fortunate however that despite being one of the most sought after red cuvées, the prices were not as crazy as expected and we were able to secure a barrel at the lowest price, and 4% less than the highest prices hammered. Final total share price for this cuvée will be £1,560 in bond (12 bottles), which is 113% of our nominal estimate.
Next up was our Corton Grand Cru... For founders Tom & Nathan, and Jane Eyre, the two top cuvées this year were the Renardes and Corton Grand Cru Clos du Roi, Cuvée Baronne du Baÿ. The latter was a real favourite of ours - a particularly energetic and complete wine, showing the sophistication and elegance of which Corton's best sites and winemakers are capable. We secured this mid-way through the series before prices started to rise - for 8% lower than the highest price hammered and for just 83% of our nominal estimate. Final total share price for this cuvée will be £2,892 in bond (12 bottles).
So far the auction had been relatively straight forward but things were about to get trickier... The 2023 whites are being particularly lauded and, given there are only a third as many barrels in the auction as reds, and the Hospice's 1er Cru Meursaults come from the most prestigious vineyards, we were quite nervous about securing a barrel. On Friday we confirmed the illustrious Domaine de Montille as éléveur for our white, confident winemaker Brian Sieve's genius to ensure energy and freshness in richer, riper years would ensure perfect equilibrium. Two of the cuvées on our shortlist came and went with prices just too high above our maximum to justify raising the paddle and we were starting to get nervous as bids opened for the first barrel of Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes, Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay. This for me had been the most satisfying of the cuvées, with the finest balancing acidity. Sadly the first lots in the series all went for prices right at the very upper end of our maximum BUT then, with early buyers sated, we were able to swoop in and secure a barrel for an unbelievably low winning bid, before prices rose again for the remaining lots. This was arguably our finest coup at the auction to date as we paid 11% less than the average and 16% less than the highest hammered barrels. This means that final total share price for this cuvée will be £2,916 in bond (12 bottles) which is 84% of our nominal estimate.
Pommard 1er Cru, Cuvée Dames de la Charité 2023
Homage is paid here to the Sisters of Charity who provided care to the “poor and sick” and who often bequeathed their possessions to the Hospices.
1er Cru Vineyards: Rugiens Hauts, La Refène, Les Combes Dessus, Les Petits Epenots
The Epenots, exposed to the South, bring their finesse to the Cuvée. La Refène, with its soils rich in limestone, enhances the wine and prunes it for very good aging. It is undoubtedly the Rugiens Hauts, thanks to its deep, limestone and stony marls which energise this wine and adds tension to the finish.
"A dense crimson purple color. The bouquet shows an exceptional density with the detail still waiting to emerge. Firmly tannic but in the right way to support the fruit intensity. The acidity is perfectly pitched as well. In 2023 the Dames de la Charite is as complete an expression of Pommard as one could wish for." Jasper Morris MW
Corton Grand Cru Clos du Roi, Cuvée Baronne du Baÿ
The Baroness Du Baÿ, daughter of Doctor Peste, who worked at the Hôtel-Dieu, donated plots of vines on the Aloxe-Corton hillside during her lifetime in 1924. Since 2007, this Cuvée has been vinified individually, bringing out the expression of the terroir in an exceptional way.
Grand Cru Vineyard: Le Clos du Roi
This is one of the most prestigious Climats in Corton. Two parcels, with steep slopes and facing East, make up this Cuvée. The soils are stony and clayey, with a light and airy texture; all elements that result in a robust but racy wine with a "velvety" feel and a very good ageing potential. The wine combines the elegance and power expected of a Corton.
"A very attractive and evenly spread ruby purple colour. The Clos du Roi delivers an elegance and sense of refinement over and above the other Cortons, as is almost always the case from this magical terroir. Displaying black fruit at the front with plenty of red berry notes behind, this has a sense of precision and class, with very fine tannins, more evident than the acidity." Jasper Morris MW
Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes, Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay
Louis de Bahèzre de Lanlay, Inspector of telegraph lines, bequeathed his fortune to the Hospices de Beaune in 1884, thus enabling the construction of several care facilities.
1er Cru Vineyards: Les Charmes Dessus, Les Charmes Dessous
The "Charmes" Climat is the most extensive in Meursault with approximately 31 hectares of production. This Cuvée is made in equal parts from the "Charmes du Dessus" and "du Dessous", facing East and on marly limestone. Together, these Climats produce a concentrated and harmonious wine, both bold and elegant, fleshy and opening up after five or six years.
"The lees of this powerful Meursault Charmes had recently been stirred, so the wine is still hazy to look at. A really discerning classical nose, with Charmes style white fruit, then an exceptional opulence on the palate, some bacon fat in with the concentrated white flesh, yet a superb spicy balance at the finish. For those who like a full-bodied chardonnay, almost a classical old style Meursault, this is the one." Jasper Morris MW