Allegrini 2018

Excellent 2020 harvest for Burgundy. However, the Hospices de Beaune Auction has been postponed

Early harvest and warm weather, while the grapes in the cellar suggest great longevity. Covid has postponed the oldest charity auction in the world

The 2020 harvest in one of the world’s legendary wine territories, Burgundy, was quite unusual, due to the Covid-19 health emergency. This year, as far as quantity is concerned, production should be around 1.5 million hectoliters, more than in 2019 (but the data are not yet definitive and official). Furthermore, as the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne explained, the harvest started a lot earlier than usual, more or less three weeks on the average, meaning that it began on August 12th in Mâconnais. It was an early start, but there were also water shortages and very high temperatures, which presented big differences from area to area, giving rise to a vintage that “is more than ever the mirror of the diversity of Burgundy”.
This year’s harvest required great patience and expertise in the vineyard, but then consequently, thanks to very healthy grapes, things were much easier in the wine cellar, as “only a few grapes had to be removed from the sorting tables”, chiefly those slightly damaged by the heat. Therefore, the first tastes have revealed a vintage that in Burgundy has generated “new and completely unique balances. There is a subtle richness, of course, but also a pleasant tension, especially in the red grape varieties. Some are even saying that 2020 will be a great year for aging”. Specifically, the “white wines are fruity and express a lovely, aromatic complexity, together with excellent acidity. Notwithstanding the summer heat, they have pleasingly beautiful balances, brought on by a very classic freshness, in line with the expectations of a Burgundy vintage. On the other hand, red wines stand out for their persistent colors, a sign of great richness in anthocyanins. These wines are concentrated and they have definite character, but they are not heavy”.
“The winemaking process went flawlessly for both white and red wines, and the balances that emerged in our wines are extraordinary and, we must also admit, completely unexpected. The wines reveal an impressive aromatic freshness, and great acidity. Whites have substance, without too high of alcohol content. The tannins of the reds are soft, but powerful. In other words, we, therefore, have all the ingredients of a great vintage, which for many reasons will be unforgettable”, explained Ludivine Griveau, oenologist at Hospices de Beaune, which should have celebrated the 160th edition of its famous charity auction, in partnership with the Burgundy negociant and producer, Albert Bichot, and Christie’s. The auction, however, at the last moment, by decision of the Prefecture, was postponed to a later date.
“We are disappointed, but it is not a tragedy, the sale is only postponed”, recapped Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the Bureau Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bourgogne (BIVB). He further emphasized that the Burgundy wine sector is resisting very well to the health crisis emergency (-7% of exports in value in September), as the French magazine Vitisphere had reported.
The Hospices de Beaune Auction raised 13 million euros in 2019, with its sale in barrels of great wines. In 2020, the goal of the auction was to raise funds to support the medical staff of French hospitals, on the front line of the health emergency, as is happening all over the world. This year, Château de Chambord, one of the most beautiful and ancient Castles in the Loire, and UNESCO heritage will contribute the top lot, the Pièce des Présidents.
It is not, however, the first time this has happened. It had happened in 1961, due to meteorological reasons, and again in 1968 because of quality reasons. “This postponement, though, in the midst of a health crisis will be remembered. Together we must be supportive and follow the general measures necessary to tackle the Covid-19 epidemic”, commented Famille Drouhin, one of the oldest and most important wine families in Burgundy, which, with Maison Joseph Drouhin, owns over 80 hectares in Burgundy, 38 of which Chablis and 38.5 between Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune.
“The choice to postpone the event to preserve serenity, to obtain the support of all the actors, and to ensure their safety was the right one to take, even though it hurts us, because it goes way beyond an auction; it is, first of all a charity sale. This event is important for our region because it contributes to financing the material investments of the Hospices de Beaune as well as contributing to the reputation of Burgundy wines in our territory and beyond. As Hospices fittingly said, “our history has been marked by much more difficult challenges and we have always overcome them”. The profits from the 2020 sale were to be used to fund exceptional grants related to Covid-19 for hospital patients who have been severely affected by the health crisis, as well as for the children of deceased agents. Our heart goes out to them, and our family hopes that the sale will be organized as soon as possible”, explained Famille Drouhin.
The 60th edition of the Hospices de Nuits-Saint-Georges auction (which, in 2019, raised 1.6 million euros) is on the calendar for March 14th, 2021, which will be held in the prestigious Château du Clos de Vougeot, including several lots coming directly from the 2020 harvest.

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