“The second best performance in the history of this charity auction.”
– Aline Sylla-Walbaum, Christie’s
Friday 18, Saturday 19 and Sunday 20th of November 2016 saw Beaune come alive once again for the annual, and world-famous, Beaune Wine Festival. More than 100,000 wine drinkers and lovers descended upon Burgundy’s wine capital for a weekend of wine, more wine, and even more wine, to support and celebrate lots of brilliant charitable events and causes.
Saturday morning saw the 31st edition of the Beaune half marathon. More than 3,500 runners, supporting their charity of choice, and thousands’ more supporters and well-wishers stayed the course too turning the streets of Beaune into a party zone. Following the marathon, runners fell into the wine bars and restaurants to celebrate their PB’s and running times by having a well-deserved good time. The doors of domaines, shops and restaurants were open to all and thousands flocked to the city centre to share in the weekend’s cherished festivities – a feast of wine tastings, gourmet food, street performances, folk parades, and concours de tire bouchon, or corkscrew contests, that continued all day and deep into the evening.
When Sunday arrived, so did the 156th edition of the Vente des Vins. Outside the Hospices de Beaune, thousands of connoisseurs, professionals, and wine lovers watched on the big screen as almost 600 barrels of prestigious local producers and rare vintages were sold to the highest bidder. All told, the average price of a bottle came to 48euros, or roughly 15,000 euros a barrel. The highlight of the weekend, organized by Christie’s, takes place on the Sunday afternoon in the Halles de Beaune. Wines are offered for sale from an estate made up of donations and has been in operation for more than 500 years and totals more than 60 hectares, 85 per cent of which is premier cru. Acting as a barometer for the international market, the Wine Auction brings together Beaune’s major trading houses and buyers from 20 nations across the world. This year the President’s Lot – the most prized barrel on offer – was sold for 200,000 euros, when actress Virginie Ledoyen and filmmaker Claude Lelouch refused to leave the podium until that value was reached.
The festival drew to a spectacular close on Monday 21st with the traditional “Paulée”, held at Château de Meursault. Revellers each bring and share their own bottles, and waste no time celebrating the wonderful conviviality of Burgundy and the passionate spirit of the region’s winemakers. Michael, Rakesh and Charlotte from the Château de Pommard team enjoyed the Paulée immensely – tasting more than 100 bottles of wine each. The next day was, to quote each of them in turn, “a bit of a blur”.