Asian buyers help Hospices to record sales

The Hospices de Beaune auction enjoyed record sales of €5,909,276 this weekend, with Asian buyers accounting for 12% of value sales.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Guy Roux and Christie’s France president François de Ricqlès

Organised by auction house Christie’s, a total of 407 barrels of red and 111 barrels of white wine were sold at the 152nd annual auction, with the President’s Lot going under the hammer for €270,000 – its second highest price ever.

“The superb quality of the 2012 vintage, combined with the reduced quantity and the progression of global demand for great Burgundy contributed to this astonishing record result,” said Christie’s senior consultant Anthony Hanson MW.

While there were 30% more Asian buyers at this year’s auction than last year, Pierre-Henry Gagey, president of the Burgundy Wine Council (BIVB), said Burgundy plans to take a “prudent” approach to wine sales in Asia.

Asian interest in the auction reflects the increase in demand for Burgundy in both Hong Kong and mainland China, which has raised concerns that more traditional markets might be deprived of rare Burgundy if the trend continues.

In response to increased Asian interest in Burgundy, a BIVB office opened in Shanghai this month, though much of the demand in 2012 has been fuelled by the Japanese market, with 2012 sales up 35% in value.

The 15th century setting of the annual Hospices de Beaune auction

“Japan could be the second largest export market by the end of the year. At the rate that it’s going, Japan could surpass the UK on sales,” Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the Negociant-Growers Federation of Burgundy said.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, France’s former first lady, added glamour to this year’s charity auction held in a 15th century former hospital for the poor.

She wielded the hammer during bidding for the President’s Lot, a 350-litre barrel of Corton Grand Cru, Cuvée Charlotte Dumay, which was bought for €270,000 by Maison Bichot on behalf of the Ukrainian Igor Iankovskyi.

The proceeds will go to Le Fondation Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a Lyon-based charity that helps epileptic children.

Meanwhile, a new grand cru from the Côte de Nuits was offered for the first time: Echézeaux Cuvée Jean-Luc Bissey. All six barrels sold for €50,000 each.

Burgundian winemakers have had a tough 2012 growing season, with late frosts, hail and mildew combining to cut yields by up 50% on 2011 at some estates.

A shortage of grapes resulted in two of the 46 cuvées made under the Hospices label not being produced this year, while the total number of barrels under the hammer was down by 249 on last year.

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