For The Wine Geeks Among Us : 2008 Beaune Wine Auction

Even the venerable Etienne Marey seemed a little down on Burgundy wine this year.
The Party Was Still On, But The Same Cannot Be Said For The Global Wine Market!

Everyone was expecting lower prices this year at the annual Beaune charity wine auction. The leader of the winemakers’ union was making nosies about a “soft landing” for global wine prices over the past several days. However, as it turned out, the metaphor of a fiery plane crash would have been more à propos.

Here’s what I mean;

Prices of Red Wine = down 31.53%

Prices of White Wine = down 2.45%

Total Price of White & Red Combined = down 26.42%

That’s right. Yikes. We were standing outside the halles looking into the auction, and listening as it was broadcast on speakers outside. The auctioneer from Christie’s would set the price, and then instead of going UP from there as it usually does, it went DOWN instead.

One of the most startling examples of this trend was the price of the pièce of wine that is traditionally sold every year with proceeds going to the charities chosen by the celebrity guests. In 2006 this pièce set a record by selling for over 200,000 Euros. This year it sold for 50,000 Euros. Repeat after me, Aie aie aie.

However, you wine geeks out there should know that these lower prices, in my opinion, really have little correlation to the quality of the 2008 vintage. True, 2008 was a vintage that suffered from a wet summer and a bout of very destructive hail. However, sunny dry weather leading up to the harvest and continuing all the way through saved the vintage.

The grapes were small, but all my winemakers friends are reporting that they are remarkably concentrated with considerable elegance and staying power. 2008 is looking like a year that is turning out better than anyone possibly could have expected, and all my favorite winemakers are predicting that it will be an excellent year for aging.

However, due to the problems with mildew this year, it is crucial for the 2008 vintage as it was for the 2007 vintage to only buy from winemakers who are rigorous about sorting their grapes and only harvesting optimal mildew-free bunches. For the many winemakers who do this as a matter of routine, the result of the 2008 Burgundy vintage is truly turning out to be a small miracle.

The real problem is the drop in exporters. I heard from my sources that the three most important wine buyers weren’t present at the auction this year, and I know that many winemakers here in Burgundy are suddenly unable to contact their US exporters.

The worldwide financial crisis has now, as of this weekend, officially reached Burgundy, but it is reassuring to note that despite all the whinging and wailing that the sky is falling, the wine here continues to be as delicious and authentic as ever.

The show must go on…