Glossary: Keywords to understand the Hospices de Beaune estate and auction
Below are a few terms that you will come across often and that will help you to decode the customs and practices of the Hospices de Beaune Auction.
The Hospices de Beaune wine sale catalogue presents 47 «cuvées» . A «cuvée» is the name given to a wine from one or several plots of vine from the Hospices de Beaune’s 60 ha estate. This name is actually composed of two parts : the appellation (the place the wine comes from to be simple), like Corton Grand Cru or Beaune 1er Cru and then the name of a person, associated with the history of the Hospices or the benefactor who bequeathed the vines that go into the composition of the «cuvée». Example: Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalières, in hommage to the nuns who cared for the people in the Hôtel-Dieu from 1443 and were called “Dames Hospitalières”.
Another example: Cuvée Mazis-Chambertin (name of the appellation) cuvée Madeleine Collignon (parcel bequeathed in 1976 by Jean Collignon and named after his mother, Madeleine Collignon). A cuvée can come from a harmonious blend of several plots of vines or from one single spot. For example, Beaune cuvée Nicolas Rolin is the result of the blend of 5 climats, all located in the Beaune appellation area : Les Cent Vignes, En Genêts, Les Bressandes, Les Grèves and Les Teurons. On the other hand, the Beaune-Grèves Premier Cru Nicolas Floquet cuvée comes at 100% from vines in the premier cru Beaune-Grèves. Each cuvée is unique, and you can learn everything about them on this page and map.
Barrel (called pièce in French)
In Burgundy, barrels containing wine are referred to as «pièces» . In Burgundy a pièce contains 228 litres of wine, i.e. after ageing 288 bottles of 75 cl. The Hospices de Beaune wines have been sold as barrels at auction since 1859. The barrels of the same Cuvée are identical (same size and description). A buyer can acquire one single barrel, several, or all the barrel in the same series, at any time in the sale and at the same price. After the auction, the barrels we buy will be aged in our cellars, then bottled 12 to 18 months after the auction.
Ageing is the 12 to 18 month period during which Albert Bichot gives the «primeur» wines all the care required to bring out the full potential of the Hospices’ great terroirs from which they come. After the sale, the wines are transferred from the Hospices to our Colbert cellars in the centre of Beaune, to be aged under the attentive eyes of our cellar masters. Various operations are performed to bring out the best in each wine: racking, stirring of the lees, as well as numerous analyses and tastings to determine the very best time to bottle. With an average of over 25 different cuvées bought each year at the Hospices, Albert Bichot possesses real human and technical expertise in the ageing process of Hospices de Beaune wines, as these videos illustrate.
The Presidents’ barrel or charity barrel
The proceeds of the auction of the 47 cuvées go to the Hospices de Beaune and the civil hospital for the improvement of treatment equipment, modernisation of infrastructures, conservation of historical monuments. Since 1945, the Hospices supports one or more outside charities each year. One barrel dedicated to this charity is sold «by candle», according to tradition, with the proceeds going to one or several charities. These charities’ sponsors (politicans, actors, writers…) conduct this unique bidding with great gusto, with the aim of taking bidding as high as possible – it’s good to give! In 2004 and 2008, James Thomson, a friend of the Maison Albert Bichot, acquired this charity barrel through us. In 2010, the all time record was broken when the charity barrel sold for Euros 400,000. Click here to read about and re-live this emotional moment (in french). In 2012, it’s another friend of Albert Bichot, Igor Iankovsky, that bought the charity barrel for 250 000 Euros under the hammer of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
A lot is an item or group of items put up for auction. Each lot possesses a number that will determine when it comes up for bid during the auction. Each pièce (barrel) is a lot at the Hospices de Beaune auction. In addition, the buyer can buy one or several lots within a series, due to the multiplication option, at the award price of the first lot for which he successfully bid.
Each of the 47 cuvées sold at the Hospices action is sub-divided into series of several identical barrels. Within a series the buyer can choose to exercise his multiplication option by deciding to acquire a single barrel, or several, or even all the barrels remaining in the same series, at the award price (purchase price excluding fees) of the first barrel for which he successfully bid.
Each cuvée put up for sale is sub-divided into series of several pièces within which a multiplication option may apply. This means that the buyer of the first barrel in a series can acquire other barrels at the same award price, up to the number of barrels in the series. If the buyer of the first barrel does not wish to avail himself/herself of the multiplication option for the other barrels or the entire series, preferring to stick with just the one barrel, the multiplication option will pass to the buyer of the following barrel, who can in turn choose to buy one or several barrel, and so on, within the series.