A short drive or cycle down the Route des Grands Crus from Pommard, Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital, is home to all sorts of fascinating medieval history and legendary landmarks. There are cellars, cathedrals and castles, cobbled streets and courtyards, as well as, of course, more than enough museums, monuments and mouth-watering wine shops to please the tastes of every type of oenophile. Yes, the city of Beaune is a postcard-perfect paradise where beauty, history and fine wine can be found around every corner.
But, perhaps the most arresting destination, the place where beauty and history merge more visible than anywhere else, is at the world-famous Hospices de Beaune and the site of the Hôtel-Dieu.
With the annual Vente des Vins charity auction coming to town this week, it’s the ideal time to take a look inside this shining monument to Beaune’s glorious, and generous, past.
Hospices de Beaune & Hôtel-Dieu
The Hôtel-Dieu has always been centred around the charitable deeds of those with more giving to those with less. Today, the Hospices de Beaune is famous for its Charity Wine Auction, of course, but it was on August 4, 1443, when the chancellor to Phillippe Le Bon, the Duke of Burgundy, Nicolas Rolin and his wife, Guigone de Salins, founded a hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu, to aid, feed and protect the poor, sick and needy of Burgundy, following the aftermath of the Hundred Years War. It has been maintained by the Hospices de Beaune ever since and today is a beacon of Burgundy’s proud history.
Money, from the sales of Burgundy wine, has been raised to help fund Hôtel-Dieu for centuries, providing medicines and resources for the nuns and nurses who looked after the patients. Since its doors first opened, the hospital has received large donations from the nobles and bourgeoisie of France to ensure its doors never closed. The hospital housed the unwell and elderly well into the 1980s. After a brief period of restoration, the hospital reopened as a museum and today it is one of the most popular attractions in the Côte d’Or.
Room at the Inn: Self-guided tours are a great way to experience the many different rooms and artefacts of the hospital
Today, no visit to Beaune is complete until visitors have experienced the self-guided tour around the Museum of the Hotel-Dieu. Behind the famous cobbled Courtyard of Honor, a veritable feast of attractions entice the eyes: the Great Hall of Pôvres, the Chapel, ancient kitchens, cellars (which houses the Hospices’ special reserve of wine sold at Vente des Vins), am apothecary and, finally, a collection of more than 5,000 artefacts, including hospital furniture, tapestries, sculptures and priceless masterpieces, such as Dutch artist Rogier van der Weyden’s world-famous polyptych, The Beaune Altarpiece.
Belongs in A Museum: The Beaune Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden
The Museum of the Hotel-Dieu is open every day of the year, from 9 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Designed and built by architect Jehan Wiscrère in honor of the golden age of the Dukes of Burgundy, Hôtel-Dieu’s famous Gothic-style polychromatic glazed flat roof tiles ; with their hypnotizing geometric patterns illuminating the streets below ; not only act as a historic representation of the civil architecture of the Middle Ages, but also prove that Burgundy has had style and flair long before many other major cities of the burgeoning modern world.
Life in Technicolor: The hospital’s multicolored roof is a wonder of medieval architecture
A symbol for prestige, status and opulence, multicoloured roof tiles have been cherished throughout Burgundy for several centuries. Indeed, many structures, including nearby Château de Santenay and Château de Corton André, are adorned with similar eye-pleasing patterns.
Week of Festivities: Château de Pommard’s Week of Hospices, to celebrate the arrival of Beaune’s Wine Festival weekend, begins on November 11th
Hospices de Beaune – Vente des Vins
The Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction is the largest, oldest, and most famous, charity wine sale in the world. Not only does the Auction take the pulse of the fine wine market around the world, it’s also a great opportunity to for the whole of Burgundy to come together before Winter hibernation takes control of the region. For one awesome weekend, the eyes of the wine world look upon Beaune with envy and desire – and the Vente des Vins has never disappointed.
Before and After: The Halles de Beaune quickly fills up on the Sunday of the Auction
Alongside Harvest, the Vente des Vins wine Auction is the place to be in Burgundy. Every year, on the third Sunday in November, the Auction attracts wine enthusiasts from around the globe. It’s been this way ever since the inaugural auction in 1860.
Hosted in the Halles de Beaune, directly opposite the Hôtel-Dieu, and broadcast (and now live-streamed too!) by Christie’s ; the world-renowned auction house, since 2005, 2017 – the 157th edition of the Auction – looks set to be bigger and better than ever before.
With several hundred wine lovers lining the streets and watching the Auction on a giant screen, the city centre emits an exciting energy. Following the final sale, a huge candlelit dinner is held in the Hôtel-Dieu for patrons who took part in the proceedings. This year, that includes a list of ever-present celebrities. We will see Charles Aznavour, the 93-year-old French singer who has recorded with Edith Piaf and Frank Sinatra in his long career, actress Julie Depardieu, daughter of national treasure, Gérard, and TV presenter Marc-Olivier Fogiel. All three of them will be hosting separate lots; their presence is designed to generate as much enthusiasm and interest in buyers as possible and not stopping until every cent has been squeezed out of those present. Last year, actress Virginie Ledoyen refused to leave the podium until a certain figure had been raised for her nominated charity.
Wine Auction: Château de Pommard’s Michael Baum and Emmanuel Sala were the subject of Sky Arts’ Auction series, with an episode focusing on Hospices de Beaune’s Vente des Vins
All proceeds from the this year’s Auction will go towards three charities, hand-picked by Depardieu, Fogiel and Aznavour: Alzheimer Research, the Tara Expeditions, and the Federation for Brain Research.
Every year, new wines are submitted into the Auction and take the name of the benefactors who donated their vineyards to the Hospices de Beaune that year. The 2017 sale is the first year a new entry. A highly-prized Puligny-Montrachet will become part of the Hospices’ range of wine for sale.
The Streets are Alive: The residents of Beaune line the streets to watch the auction on a giant screen
All wines are auctioned in barrels, or pièces, from 2017’s harvest and then produced by Ludivine Griveau; the Hospices de Beaune’s winemaker, before being delivered to the Buyer in barrels. Remember: a barrel amounts to approximately 288 bottles or 24 cases of 12 bottles.
In 2016, more than €7.5million was raised, with the “Presidents” barrel – the most popular barrel for auction – selling for €200,ooo alone. On average, most barrels sell between €10,000 and €15,000. But, you never know… This year could see an overall increase due to the quality, and large yield, of the vintage.
Broadcast: The world-famous Auction house, Christie’s, have been hosting the Auction since 2005. In 2017, Château de Pommard will live-stream the event on a large screen in their Tasting Room
In total, 787 barrels will be sold at 2017’s auction – 157 barrels of white wine and 630 of red wine.
All the wine sold at the Vente des Vins comes from 60 hectares of vineyards, many Premier and Grand Crus appellations of Burgundy, all made up from legacies and donations to the Hospices de Beaune.
2015 Pommard: The wine labels for the Hospices de Beaune are now as famous as the wine
In 2017, to support the Rebuild Wine Country relief fund, following the aftermath of the Californian wildfires during September-November of this year, Château de Pommard is proud to be hosting its own Silent Auction, to shout out loud its support to a cause close to our hearts.
Learn more about our Silent Auction, and how you can make your bid count, here.
Hôtel-Dieu: The former hospital is a beautiful backdrop from the giant screening of the Auction
Three Glorious Days of Burgundy – Beaune Wine Festival
It isn’t just the Vente des Vins that ensures the city of Beaune is in celebratory mood over the third Sunday weekend in November. There are many other awesome events happening too that get people up on to their feet and dancing in the city’s streets.
From cork-screw contests to street performances ; half-marathons to traditional folk parades, gourmet food stalls and marching bands as well as, of course, wine tastings on almost every street corner ; Beaune’s Wine Festival is the place to be in Burgundy.
To avoid disappointment, arrive in Beaune early Friday 17th November to organise your itinerary for the weekend. You won’t want to miss any of the tastings or festivities.
See you there!
Screwed: The corkscrew contest is a perennial highlight of the Beaune Wine Festival.