One of the most exciting ways to celebrate the Burgundian culture and its grapes is to take part in the Hospices de Beaune annual wine auction and its related activities.
This year, the 162nd Hospices de Beaune auction on November 18-20, raised $32 million dollars for charity, thanks to what turned out to be a very good 2022 growing season, increased awareness of Bourgogne fine wines, and the jockeying among key collectors and members of the trade eager to possess these highly coveted fine and rare wines.
Insider View of the Auction
Held annually in the market hall of the Halles de Beaune, the wines come from vineyard plots accrued over almost 600 years via donations and bequests.
It all began in 1443 when Chancellor Nicolas Rolin founded the Hôtel Dieu, an architectural masterpiece built for the poor and sick.
By 1457, Guillemette Levernier gifted the first vineyards to the Hospices de Beaune, setting the tradition of wealthy landowners donating their best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards for the next five centuries.
Participating in the Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction
Once registered with the Sotheby’s auction house, participants can place bids in person (limited seating), by written bid, by phone, or via the Internet.
Participants can bid on 51 different Cuvées, guided by tasting notes from Jasper Morris MW (Master of Wine) published on the Sotheby’s website.
Following the auction, successful bidders can choose a Burgundian négociant-éleveur to age the wine, and then personalize the label.
Weekend Activities: Les Trois Glorieuses
The Sunday afternoon auction is the cornerstone element comprising the weekend known as Les Trois Glorieuses.
The other two events include the black-tie Saturday night dinner held by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin at the Château du Clos du Vougeot, and the Monday afternoon lunch at La Paulee de Meursault.
Château du Clos du Vougeot
Members of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin worldwide see this as the highlight of their year.
Here they may greet friends from other chapters, taste excellent wine, and enjoy a true Burgundian feast.
Outside of this (typically) sold-out dinner, Beaune visitors may visit the Château du Clos du Vougeot during normal touring hours.
Clos du Vougeot is well worth a visit, as it was built by monks earlier in the 12th century. Wine-loving visitors will appreciate its medieval lancet windows, ancient wine presses, cellars and vats.
La Paulee de Meursault
This intimate La Paulee lunch has its roots in 1923 when Jules Lafon, one of Burgundy’s most respected wine producers, invited thirty-five of his friends to his vat room to revive the medieval grape celebration.
In those days, Meursault-based producers brought their own lunch and a prized bottle to share with their friends. Today French chefs compete for the opportunity to cater the lunch, with guests spending much energy deciding which of their best bottles to bring and share with guests.
Long tables groan with delicious food, Grand Cru Burgundian wine, and the famous names of local producers and people in the wine trade.
Exploring the Beaune Culture
While the Hospices de Beaune Auction is a much-heralded event for Burgundian producers, collectors, and people in the wine trade, wine-loving tourists will appreciate Beaune in its most charming season.
Though November is often a gray, chilly period in Beaune, the fairs along the cobblestone sidewalks, gourmet offerings in makeshift tents, parades, music, and dancing on the street make for a festive ambiance.
People of all ages roam the charming streets with friends or family, enjoying a glass of simple wine and cheese on the surface of an upturned wine barrel, or at one of the many restaurants and brasseries along the pedestrian route.
During the Hospices de Beaune weekend, vendors set up food and wine stations throughout this small village.
Affordably priced, this is a fun way to try the local cuisine and also enjoy the people-watching scene.