Although this auction is not as famous as it’s illustrious sister auction “the Hospices de Beaune”, it has a certain appeal that you can only really understand once you have taken part.
I was lucky in being invited by Alain Servault, technical director of Maison Albert Bichot – the most important buyer at the Hospices de Beaune, boasting the acquisition of around 100 barrels for its clients.
Alain wanted me to experience the “authentic” way of auctioning the hospital’s wine. Since Christies have been in charge of the auctioneering at the Hospices de Beaune, it has become more modernized – international. What appealed to me with the Hospices de Nuit is that it has authentic Burgundy appeal, with a local auctioneer.
To start with, all the barrels auctioned are from the Nuits Saint George village – so there are no Grand Cru.
Buyers are all French, bar a Swiss family who bought the only NSG Chardonnay “1er Cru Les Terres Blanches”.
The auction takes place using the ancient candle system, where continued bidding keeps the candle alight, and when the bids are raised a new candle is lit (these are of course special short candles). As soon as the third candle burns out, the final bid is accepted.
Each year there is a President’s barrel that is auctioned for a hospital charity. This year was a Nuits St George 1er Cru Les Didiers, which fetched the impressive sum of 38,000€ for a 228l barrel. This year’s charity was the “institute for brain and bone marrow”.
A French celebrity helps raise the bids and this year it was the turn of Mr Patrick Timsit a highly popular comedian and actor. There was guaranteed laughter and high bidding.
Despite apparent “economic recessions” , this years auction raised 737,000€, up over 20% on last year.
I came away with a distinct impression of being part of Burgundy tradition. Having been lucky to have been invited the previous Wednesday for a private barrel tasting, I was able to comprehend the particular fervor for certain barrels and the frenzied bidding between local French “negociants” and wine estates. It may not have the “international” glamour of the Hospices de Beaune”, but it was certainly a very special event, which retains a unique charm that one rarely sees at French wine auctions
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