Sunday was the annual Hospices de Beaune charity auction, if you love Burgundy pay attention. This year a basic economic principle was responsible for two records, the least amount of wine ever brought to auction sold through for the highest total amount ever achieved. Supply and demand. The most recent vintages in Burgundy have been well documented for their inconsistent/destructive weather and resulting low yields. While ’09, ’10 & ’11 have thrived despite the obstacles the jury is still out on ’12 and more so ’13. Variable would perhaps be the best way to describe the two most recent vintages, years in which quality will depend more than ever on the foresight, skill and luck of each producer. Some producers will make great wine, others not, the only certainty is the miniscule quantity that will be available.
The results of the 2013 Hospices de Beaune are considered to be a worthy measure of value for Burgundy in the year ahead and this year can perhaps, more than any other year, be considered accurately prophetic solely on the strength of its adherence to supply and demand. “In all, 443 barrels (each 228 liters) were on offer, compared to 518 last year, which was also a small harvest. In 2011, 761 barrels were sold.” This year the 443 barrels (43 different cuvees) raised a record 6.9 million euros ($9.3m), which includes the buyer’s premium. “The average price per 228-liter barrel increased by 26.6 percent to 13,013 euros ($17,560) against 10,278 euros ($13,870) in 2012.” Red wines experienced the biggest rise, up 28 percent, while whites recorded a 20 percent increase.
Also noteworthy is the winning bidder for the the “piece du President,” 456 liters of 2012 premier cru Meursault-Genevrières. While the wine and price were relatively unremarkable compared to past “pieces du President,” often wines of grand cru quality, it is worth knowing that winning bid was placed for the first time by a Chinese buyer. Worth knowing because the ever-growing number of Chinese in the fine wine market means ever-increasing buying power from the East. Buying power that was once firmly focused on Bordeaux is now refocusing on Burgundy. While this is not news, what is news is the enhanced effect that the growing demand will have on the already small annual production of Burgundy as the supply dwindles due to unfavorable weather. Established collectors need to face the reality the Burgundy pie is shrinking, historically low yields and the growing Asian market mean that there will not be nearly enough of the good stuff to go around. This is an irreversible trend that will soon see the casual drinker of Burgundy priced out of the market as the miniscule supply concentrates in the hands of the world’s financial elite.