(November 2016) During the third week of November, Burgundy breaks into a non-stop party mood as visitors from around the world flock to the small town of Beaune to participate in a 4 day wine-tasting feast. This is all centered on the oldest wine auction in the world – the Hospices de Beaune Auction where the proceeds go to medical charities.
I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to attend the auction as a member of the press. See article I published HERE, and was very impressed with the magnificence and pageantry of the event, which is always held on a Sunday.
Non-Stop Parties and Dinner at 1243 Bourgogne Society Wine Club
By invitation only, wine buyers from around the world usually arrive on Thursday evening and attend non-stop tastings at local wineries, which last all day Friday and Saturday. There is also the magnificent meal hosted by the Chevaliers de Bourgogne at the Clos de Vougeot on Saturday, though I did not attend this.
However, I did receive many invitations to winery tastings, and also enjoyed an elegant evening at the famous 1234 Bourgogne Society Wine Club where I finally had the opportunity to meet Aubert de Villaine. Tall and inspiring, he was every bit the gentleman as we chatted briefly about his work in getting the Unesco World Heritage approval for the Burgundy climats, as well as grape growing in California.
A Most Sophisticated Auction
The auction itself starts on Sunday afternoon, and is located in the small convention center in the middle of Beaune. A red carpet and curtains around the stage make it seems very regal. From my perch in the media booth above the stage, I could look out at the sophisticated crowd and listen to the eloquent French and English accents of the Christie’s auctioneers.
Outside the windows, there is a surging mass of humanity as large crowds press up again the windows, and also watch the event on giant television screens. When I walked outside the sound of shouting and music filled the air, as everyone enjoyed the event with food and wine purchased from vendors around the square.
I couldn’t help but to compare this auction experience with others I had attended in Napa and Sonoma, where the auctioneers often wear cowboy boots, stomp their feet to get attention, yell, and tell jokes. This was quite the opposite atmosphere, with elegance and ceremony of the utmost importance. When it was complete, they achieved 8.9 million euros.
La Paulee – a 6 Hour Lunch to Celebrate White Burgundy Wine
After days of parties and the Sunday auction, you think things would settle back to normal, but no! Monday is the day of La Paulee, which is held at Chateau Meursault, starting at noon and lasting until late in the night.
I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation from Becky Wasserman, and attended with some great people who work on her staff. They were all young and fun to hang out with. Wisely, I booked a taxi to take me there and back, as I had been warned about the non-stop drinking of white Burgundy.
The huge hall of the chateau was filled with long tables, and we had assigned seating for the 5-course meal. A band was playing French folk music on a stage, and the noise, laughter, and singing became louder each hour as people consumed more and more wine. There were multiple verses of the Burgundy wine song with much waving of hands and “la, la, la’s.”
Everyone was supposed to bring a bottle or more to share, and many winemakers would move up and down the aisles with huge magnums of incredibly expensive white Burgundy and pour it in your glass. It was surreal; a cacophony of sound, color, and amazing wines that I will probably never taste again. The food was also quite good, but that is only to be expected when dining in France.
I feel very grateful that people were kind enough to include me in these famous festivities, and hope that I may have the opportunity to attend again some day.
Corton Charlemagne Served by Ms. Faiveley