The history of the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune: a ‘winemaking hospital’ and 5 centuries of vineyard legacies
In 1457, Jean Guillotte le Verrier made the first donation of vines to the Hôtel-Dieu built by Nicolas Rolin in Beaune in 1443. This custom continued through the centuries and endures today. Making a donation of vines to the Hospices is a way for the patients or their family to thank the institution, ensure its longevity and, also, to go down in history themselves! The wines of the Hospices de Beaune (referred to as cuvées) often bear the name of the family who donated the plots of vines whose grapes go into the composition of the wine.
This practice and the generous donation of vines still continues today! In 2017 a new Puligny-Montrachet appellation wine went up for auction for the first time, after the bequest of a plot of vines by Domaine Bernard Clerc. It was, in fact, a Canadian customer of Hospices-Beaune.com by Albert Bichot’ website who acquired this fine wine that year. No doubt there will be further bequests and donations in the years to come to add to the already long list of the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune’s prestigious appellations which include Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Savigny, Corton, Mazis-Chambertin, Echezeaux and Clos de la Roche for example.
Les Hospices de Beaune: a top-level wine estate covering 60 hectares, of which 85% are in premiers crus and grands crus areas
Today the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune covers 60 hectares, A large majority of these vineyards (50 hectares) are planted with Pinot Noir for the production of red wines (appellations: Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Corton, Savigny, Auxey-Duresses, Santenay, Pernand-Vergelesses, Echezeaux, Mazis-Chambertin, Clos de La Roche). 10 hectares are planted with Chardonnay for the white wines (appellations: Chablis, Meursault, Pouilly-Fuissé, Corton Charlemagne, Puligny-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet).
An obvious indicator of their quality is the fact that 85% of the Domaine des Hospices vines are classified as premiers crus and grands crus. The remaining 15% are classified as ’appellation village’. For many years now, the Domaine’s vineyards have been cultivated taking a sustainable, environmentally-friendly approach (no chemical inputs), and even according to organic principles when the conditions over the year allow it, as they did in 2018.
The Domaine des Hospices’ vineyard plots are mainly located in and around the Beaune area (in the villages of Aloxe-Corton, Auxey-Duresses, Savigny, Beaune, Monthélie, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault and Santenay), near the Hôtel-Dieu and its winery built in 1995. The Hospices de Beaune also own vineyards in the prestigious Côte de Nuits, the kingdom of the great red wines made from the delicate Pinot Noir grape variety, with the grands crus of Mazis-Chambertin, Echezeaux and Clos de la Roche. A few plots located further away, in Chablis to the north of Burgundy and Pouilly-Fuissé in the Mâconnais region, complete the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune’s vineyard holdings. All the Domaine des Hospices wines are sold at the grand charity auction, famous the world over and which has been held on the third Sunday in November since 1859.
Ludivine Griveau: Hospices de Beaune estate manager and winemaker
Ludivine Griveau has been the Domaine’s talented estate manager since the 2015 harvest. From the Domaine des Hospices’ patchwork of terroirs (117 different plots), she creates 50 wines, referred to as ‘cuvées’: 33 red wines and 17 white wines. Every day, she oversees and coordinates the work of 22 winegrowers who are on the Hospices de Beaune payroll. Each one works a small surface area of vines (around 3 hectares) using sustainable practices and organic growing principles when possible.
During the vinification, Ludivine Griveau’s goal is to express the quintessence of the terroirs and of each Burgundy Climat (listed as UNESCO world heritage), which she is responsible for. Take Philippe Bergeret, for example, he is the Hospices de Beaune’s winegrower responsible for a plot of Pommard Noizons which goes into the production of the Pommard Billardet cuvée. We followed his work over a year and presented it in a series of videos entitled ‘Men…and a Hôtel-Dieu’ which can be viewed here (in French)
50 wines (33 reds and 17 whites) referred to as ‘cuvées’, a blend of several plots or from a single-terroir
The majority of the Hospices de Beaune’s wines (around two thirds) are a harmonious blend of different terroirs from within the same appellation, which helps create the originality of the wines from the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune. The Beaune premier cru appellation, for example, comes in 10 different ‘cuvées’. The Beaune Nicolas Rolin ‘cuvée’ is the result of the blend of 5 different terroirs: Les Cent Vignes, En Genêts, Les Bressandes, Les Grèves and Les Teurons.
Other cuvées, the most prestigious, come from a single plot, as is generally the case in Burgundy. Examples of these cuvées include the Grand Cru Clos du Roy Baronne du Baÿ, derived exclusively from a 0.84 ha plot of Corton-Clos-du-Roy, or the Mazis-Chambertin Madeleine Collignon, a superb wine, of which a few barrels of the 2016 vintage bought at the auction and aged by Albert Bichot, picked up the title of Best Red Wine in the World at the International Wine Challenge 2018.
Why should you choose Albert Bichot to age your wines after the auction? Because we know each of the 50 wines like the back of our hand and we know how to draw out their full character during the crucial ageing phase
Auction glossary to help you buy well at the Hospices de Beaune auction
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