World's oldest wine sale enters the internet age

Burgundy auction reaches out to new crowd

The medieval and the ultra-modern will join hands tomorrow when the world's oldest and most prestigious annual wine auction enters the age of Facebook and Twitter.

The annual auction of the Hospices de Beaune, which sells wines from fragments of leading Burgundy vineyards bequeathed to charity over six centuries, is a key event in the calendar of wine experts and traders all over the world.

In recent years, efforts have been made to open up the auction to remote bidders and to ordinary wine-lovers. The auction still takes place by the medieval "candle" method, which means that bidding for each lot ends as soon as two small candles have burned down.

In theory, bidders must buy at least one pièce or large barrel, of wine, equivalent to 288 standard 75-centilitre bottles. In recent years, however, the auction has been open not just to those who travel to Beaune but to bids from the internet. Starting last year, and even more elaborately this year, a system has also been created to allow ordinary punters to bid for mini-lots of as little as six bottles at a time. The price varies with the bidding but could be as "reasonable" (for the finest red and white burgundies) as €25 a bottle.

The success of bids can be followed on Twitter and Facebook as well as on the auction's official site.

Group purchases have to be registered long in advance with the Beaune wine trader, Albéric Bichot, who has been appointed to bid on behalf of small punters. It is already too late to apply this year, unless you want to bid for a whole barrel of Montrachet or Volnay at – depending on the precise plot and particular vineyard – between €2,000 and €50,000 a barrel. There is, however, always 2011.

The 2010 auction is the 150th in a series which began in 1794 and has been interrupted from time to time by revolution, war, pestilence and disease. This year 45 different types, or appellations, of Burgundy are on sale, in 643 barrels, down from the bumper crop of 799 barrels last year.

The fall in quantity reflects the relatively small wine harvest in Burgundy this autumn after a summer plagued by bad weather. None the less, both wine growers and independent experts believe that the quality of 2010 Burgundy will be high, though perhaps not quite as high as 2009 – an exceptional year in both Burgundy and Bordeaux.

Another feature of the 2010 auction is expected to be the fervent interest of Chinese buyers. Sales to China have become an important part of the market for the finest French wines in the last two or three years.

The Hospices de Beaune auction has an honorary host each year, usually a French film or TV star. As a sign of the times, the 2010 auction will be co-hosted by a French actor, Fabrice Lucini, and a Chinese actor, Liu Ye, star of, among other movies, Curse of the Golden Flower.

Only four of the 45 different appellations on sale tomorrow are available for group bids by small punters. If successful, the experiment may be extended next year.

The four on offer for 2010 are a Meursault-Porusots 1er Cru, a Beaune 1er Cru, a Volnay 1er Cru, and a Corton Grand Cru, all red.

Small buyers register their maximum purchase price with Mr Bichot. He bids on their behalf for whole barrels. If the price goes higher than a small buyer's bid, his or her deposit is returned.

Note, however, that the wine must stay in barrels in Burgundy for another 16 months and will not be delivered, in bottles, to buyers until 2012.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Voices
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power