Fine wine news roundup: 12-18 December
Second highest result ever for Hospices de Beaune auction
The annual Hospices de Beaune sale – delayed by a month due to COVID – raised more than €14 million last weekend – its second highest result ever.
Taking place on 13th December, the socially-distanced and online auction saw a total of 474 barrels of red wine and 156 barrels of white wine sold. The Pièce des Présidents – a single 228-litre barrel of wine which is sold to benefit a specific charity every year – broke the record for bids and went on to sell for €660,000. The previous record of €480,000 for a barrel of Corton Renardes Grand Cru was achieved at the 2015 auction.
With additional donations from two private clients, a total of €780,000 will be donated to this year’s chosen charity, the French Federation of Hospital Workers.
François Poher, director of the Hospices Civils de Beaune, said: “Beyond the absolute record for the Pièce des Presidents, two feelings dominate on the evening of this sale: the recognition given to all the hospital workers who continue to fight day after day to care for the patients, and the symbolic strength of the sale result for the whole of Burgundy which aspires to better days as soon as possible.”
Blue chip wines shine at Annabel’s auction
A fine wine auction for the Birley Wine Club, held at Annabel’s in London last week, raised more than £52,000, with proceeds donated to The Caring Family Foundation’s ‘Food from the Heart’ campaign.
The auction featured wines from Birley Club owner Richard Caring’s personal wine collection as well as donations from the families of the wines served on the evening.
Split into three lots, the first – which sold for £27,000 – featured gems such as Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2002, a double magnum of Chateau de Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2003, a double magnum of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1990, an Imperial of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005 and two 75cl bottles of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1999.
The second lot focused on Italian wines, with names such as Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Brunello di Montalcino raising a total £13,000. The third and final lot sold for a total £12,000 and featured three different wines, including a double magnum of Opus One 2009, one six-bottle case of Vega Sicilia Unico 2004, and one tappit hen (210cl) of Graham’s 1977 vintage Port.
Christie’s DWWA auction raises £58,000 for charity
The 2020 annual Christie’s and Decanter World Wine Awards auction saw more than 3,800 bottles sold with over £58,000 raised for charities including WaterAid, The Drinks Trust, Change Please and Centrepoint.
Highlights of the sale – which took place two months later than originally scheduled due to COVID – included: three lots consisting of 60-bottle mixed cases of vintage, non-vintage and rosé Champagne from small growers to Grande Marques which sold for £1,100 and £1,200; three 48-bottle mixed cases of red Bordeaux from Medoc, St-Estephe, St-Julien, Margaux, Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Pomerol and St-Emilion, which sold for £800 each to a single buyer; and two lots of 60-bottle mixed cases of white Burgundy from Chassagne and Puligny Montrachet, Meursault and Chablis, which sold for £1,100 each.
Christie’s associate specialist Charles Foley said, “There were more active bidders this year than ever. Spirited bidding from across the world saw 91 lots of medal-winning wines hammer for an impressive total. Many of the bidders went on to buy wines in the following auctions from three superb private collections and were delighted to support the chosen charities.”
French authorities recover wines worth €5m
An operation by French police, codenamed ‘Magnum’, has led to the recovery of fine wines worth more than €5 million, as well as the arrests of over 20 people.
Authorities swooped in to locations in the Gironde, Dordogne and Loire early last week, recovering around 900 bottles of wine from prestigious names such as Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Cheval Blanc, Petrus and Yquem.
The suspects – thought to belong to a single organised gang of thieves – had stolen the bottles from restaurants, warehouses and shops around France. Patrick Leonard, Bordeaux’s interregional chief of police, said: “These are professionals who know how to foil security measures, from cameras to alarms or motion detectors.”
The operation was dubbed “the seizure of the century” by one French news station.
New ‘fingerprint’ method may help detect wine fraud
Researchers in Australia have discovered a technique using ‘fluorescence spectroscopy’ that could provide a straightforward way to detect wine fraud.
“This method provides a ‘fingerprint’ of the samples according to the presence of fluorophoric or light-emitting compounds,” explained Ruchira Ranaweera, PhD student at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute, who conducted the research. “When used in combination with a robust data analysis using a particular machine learning algorithm, it is proving to be a powerful technique for authentication.”
During tests, the team was able to correctly identify Cabernet Sauvignon wines from three different regions of Australia, and one from Bordeaux.
As well as identifying potential cases of wine fraud, the innovation could also have applications in smoke taint detection, as well as phenolic and wine colour analysis, the scientists said.
Chateau Lafite releases ‘The Almanac’
Chateau Lafite Rothschild has released a new book, The Almanac, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Rothschild family’s acquisition of the estate.
The book covers all 150 vintages since 1868, exploring vintage conditions and the quality of the wines, and including photographs and images, facts, memories and anecdotes related to each.
CEO Saskia de Rothschild said: “We built this book to tell the story of Lafite since the Rothschild family has owned it, but also to share more stories about the life of a vintage. We hope readers will come out of reading it with a better understanding of how a wine grows, from the soil to the vine to the bottle.”
The start of 2021 will see the estate release 300 limited edition gift sets that include both a copy of The Almanac and a magnum of the 2018 vintage, which will feature a hot air balloon and engraving of ‘CL 150’ on each bottle.