Chinese Demand Pushes Wine Auction to Record $8.5 Million

Monday, 18 November, 2013
Scott Reyburn, Bloomberg
The world’s oldest charity wine auction, held on behalf of a medieval hospital in the Burgundy region of France, raised a record 6.3 million euros ($8.5 million), boosted by bidding from China.
Yan Hong Cao, a China-based businesswoman, paid 131,000 euros for the “President’s barrel,” containing 456 liters of Meursault-Genevrieres Premier Cru, Cuvee Philippe le Bon, at the 153rd edition of the Hospices de Beaune auction. The annual event, held in collaboration with Christie’s International, sells barrels of Burgundy’s latest vintage from vineyards owned by the hospital, founded in 1443.

The 2013 vintage is problematic. For the second straight year, vineyards in Burgundy were pounded by hailstorms in the summer, dramatically reducing yields for some winemakers. The total production of the region was forecast to be 1.26 million hectoliters, about 20 percent down on a typical year, according to data released this month by the Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB).

“It is a tricky vintage,” Paul Hammond, a part-director at the London-based merchants IG Wines, said in an interview. “Because of the low yields, pricing will be high and the market will take it, even though the quality isn’t as good as 2012. The risk is that people will become disenchanted with Burgundy, as they have with First-Growth Bordeaux.”

This year’s difficult growing season produced a smaller-than-usual auction of 443 barrels, divided between 333 red and 110 white. All of them sold. The total, which includes fees, beat the record of 5.9 million euros, achieved last year from a sale of 516 barrels.

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