Every third Sunday in November the famed Hospices du Beaune charity event and auction takes place under Les Halles (home to the Saturday market). The famed event brings together wine enthusiasts from across the globe to partake in a weekend full of prestigious tastings, Burgundian festivities and delectable cuisine. From Friday onward the town becomes a-buzz when wineries and wine shops open their cellar doors for special tastings – often pulling out several old vintages for people to try in celebration of the weekend. On Saturday an extra large market is set up throughout town where you can find burgundy truffles, sausages, and even sweaters – they have it all. If you haven’t managed to score a table at one of Beaune’s great restaurants for lunch no problem, a myriad of food stands are set up in Place Carnot to satisfy your cravings from fois gras to frog legs. My favorite is the oyster stand where each plate comes with a glass of chablis to quench your thirst. Should you feel the need to burn off some calories after having indulged in the delices of the region you can even participate in a half marathon which goes right through Beaune. The fun never ends!
While many of the celebratory activities leading up to the Vente des Vins are in the spirit of the event, many are the precursor for later bids on barrels during the Sunday auction. It’s important to note that the auction is open to both wine professionals and nonprofessionals – meaning that everyday wine enthusiasts can also get their hands on a barrel of 228 liters of Corton Grand Cru, Chassagne-Montrachet Village, or any other magnificent cuvee being offered at the auction. A handful of “insider” events, which are not highly publicized, give potential buyers and connoisseurs alike insight into the current vintage, past vintages and the potential of various appellations in the future. They are a must do if planning to bid or not!
The first of the events takes place at the Hospice du Beaune winery on Saturday. For 10 Euros you have the opportunity to taste through 12 of the 43 cuvees that will be auctioned on Sunday from the current vintage, in this case 2013. Tasting each of the cuvees (which are still in barrel) gives you an idea of the wine’s characteristics and its potential. Although it can be difficult to taste through wines that are extremely young and most of which have not started their second (malolactic) fermentation, it’s an interesting experience nonetheless. If you’re lucky enough to team up with a professional you can taste all 43 of the cuvees at another location, and perhaps find one that you love!
Before or after tasting the Hospice wines head over to the Fête des Grands Vins to taste some finished wines and older vintages at the Palais des Congres in Beaune. The purchase of a 25 Euro ticket at the door will give you a wine glass and the opportunity to taste up to 100 burgundy appellations from over 700 wineries. The event, which in recent years had been closed to the public on Friday, was opened up this year allowing enthusiasts the opportunity to taste wines from some of Burgundy’s most renowned appellations and domaines such as Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Coche Dury, Comte Lafon, etc. Wine from the more famous appellations and domaines is often the first to run out, so having the chance to get to it first on Friday is essential…you can imagine where I headed upon arrival. Luckily the bottle of 2007 DRC La Tâche was still half full by the time I arrived, and wow was it good!
The room is divided into multiple stands, which include several different appellations such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée etc. Each appellation has wines from various producers of various years including the present, in this case 2013. Our winery partner Clos de la Chapelle was even featured at the Pommard stand this year, which was great to see!
A lot of winemakers like to taste the new vintage to see what others produced and to get an idea of the vintage in general, which may be useful for later decisions made in the winemaking process.
After having tasted through dozens of appellations, the various vintages and terroirs you develop a great sense of place and wine style. Your palate does tend to get a little oversaturated, but in a good way, with only the best of Burgundy wines! What was tasting soon turns into an aperitif and a celebratory toast to a weekend in admiration of Burgundy.
If you want to know Burgundy in all its glory this is a weekend that is not to be missed!