The Climats of Burgundy Face Far East – Beaune China

by amantduvin

The 150th auction of the wines of the Hospice de Beaune 2010 has been premiered in Paris at Christies.

It is not only the golden slopes of vines in Burgundy that face east. Historical, commercial and cultural aspects have created a new link in 2010 with the Far East.

Alain Suguenot, President of the Hospices de Beaune and Deputy Mayor of Beaune, explains that “Burgundy and China share parallel histories, both multi-millennial cultures that can continue to grow with a common language of exchange – wine.”  Suguenot continues that “French palates have been as diverse as the Chinese teas, sensitive to subtlety and nuance, and diverse expressions of our climats (parcels of vines) … China, who understands more than anyone the value and notion of time, can understand the patience required to make Burgundy wines.”

Emmannuel Vidal-Delagneau of Christies says, “China does not really know Burgundy – yet. But Burgundy is growing in awareness … like objects of art”.

Christies continues to internationalise the sale this week, for the first time presenting by invitation the Hospices wines in Peking, Shanghai and Hong Kong – “a beautiful showcase” remarks Anthony Hanson MW, Senior Consultant Christies.

Two presidents have been chosen this year, one French and one Chinese, to nominate a charity for the sale of the “Piéce du President”. Creating another link, both charities are united by a UNESCO theme. French actor Fabrice Luchini has chosen the Association for Life and Hope against Cancer (AVEC), managed by Professor David Khayat. Professor Khayat wants in turn to honour wine, adding that “There is no scientific evidence that cancer comes from drinking wine … Wine, like all things, in moderation has good effects,” which he gracefully defends in his book Le Vrai Régime Anti-Cancer, adding, “We work to promote UNESCO’s universal chart against cancer.”

Co-president Chinese actor Liu Ye is supporting the Association of the Climats of Burgundy to UNESCO world heritage listing.  Aubert de Villaine is leading this “international cause” to permanently enlist and protect the unique heritage of Burgundy.  Aubert de Villaine modestly deflected any discussion about his own wines and spoke only of the cause: the association of climats and their objectives. “It is not wine, it is the famous climats at the base of the application and the base of the fame our terroir of Burgundy … delimited to make wines of excellence … and the culture they have generated.”

Roland Masse, Director of the vineyards and winery of the Hospices, describes the size of millésime 2010 as an “haute couture model” – smaller but beautiful, perhaps unaware that it is Prêt à Porter fashion parade week in Paris. In true haute couture style, the Hospices wines are not prêt à boire – they are a special collection to be tailored with time. Masse concludes that 2010 should be an excellent year in Burgundy for both red and white wines, and Anthony Hanson adds “the two colours show harmony, beauty and are classic”.

White: After strict triage, the white wines are very good quality. Masse compares 2010 to 1978, with a late harvest 21 to 29 September resulting in equally small bunches, but a good millésime. There are only around 100 piéces this year compared to 155 in 2009 because of a smaller production. The white wines started with high sugar levels, concentration, and good acidity similar to 1993 but not as high as 1996. They show a weight and strength that recalls 2006; the excellent acidity gives freshness and personality without heaviness.

Red: Pretty, small berries with rich, thick skins, were savoury and concentrated, and because so healthy did not need much sorting. While the alcohol and acidity levels are good the 2010 tannins are suave, but tighter and denser than the round and supple 2009s. Aubert de Villaine said it is too early to speak about the styles of the red wines yet, but adds that concentration, tight tannins and increased acids will help to keep the wine. Masse agreed it is still too early to say but thinks 2010 will make a very beautiful red wine with character, “a pretty wine, like we love”, but will wait for the wines to speak for themselves, adding, “I am confident – I was before the harvest, and I am still confident after.”

Two changes have been made for the 2010 sale. A parcel of sixty ares of Santenay Pinot Noir has been donated by William D. Friedberg, an importer of wines to Boston and 20-year veteran of the Hospices sale. La Cuvée Christine Friedberg will honour the memory of his wife, adding 65 piéces of Santenay red to be included in the sale.

To avoid confusion between piéces previously sharing the name Grand Cru Corton Charlemagne, the Cuvée Charlotte Dumay has been renamed Cuvée Roi du Soleil. The Sun King Louis XIV visited the Hotel Dieu in Beaune in 1658 with his mother Anne of Austria, to thank god for his existence, after she once prayed there that she may have a child. The King then made annual donations to the Hospices.

There are no figures yet to confirm total pieces for the sale, but Masse is predicting 100+ white and 500+ reds, a total somewhere between 600 to 650 piéces. Such a landmark anniversary deserves to bring in new records. Anthony Hanson noted that Christies Live subscriptions have doubled since last year’s sale.

The sale will take place in Beaune on Sunday 21 November 2010.

More information on the Climate of Burgundy UNESCO application can be found at ).

Sign up to support the application of the Association of Climats of Burgundy for UNESCO heritage listing

See current issue Decanter, Clive Coates MW, “The Buyer’s Lot”, November 2010 for history of the sale.

 A masterclass will take place in London on 26 October

Further articles I  have written on Burgundy Climats Tastings and UNESCO application: