The Renaissance Continues: A Recap of the 2024 Hospices de Nuits-St-Georges Auction

By | 21 March 2024

The World of Fine Wine’s Burgundy correspondent attends a charitable auction with its own discreet, local charm.


Sarah Marsh MW

Sarah Marsh MW reports from the 2024 Hospices de Nuits-St-Georges Auction and asks if a slight drop in receipts may herald a much-needed softening of prices in the region as a whole.

The 1959 Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Didiers floated over my palate, delicate and pure; fragile yet vibrant. Laurent Delaunay, my host for the weekend, pulled it from the cellar beneath the 19th-century Château de Chaumont in l’Etang-Vergy to “illustrate our family’s long-lasting relationship with the Hospices.” The ’59 Didiers was purchased from the Hospices de Nuits-St-Georges by his father.

In the past, the Hospices de Nuits-St-Georges used to sell its wine in large quantities to local négociants. One of these major buyers was Delaunay, who often bought the entire production, except in the excellent vintage of 1959. Starting in 1961, the Hospices de Nuits-St-Georges began to auction off their wine in barrels to the trade. However, this auction started off as a B2B event for selling barrels and didn’t attract much public attention.

The Delaunay family went through a period of considerable decline and then a revival. After selling off their domaine and négociant business in the 1990s, Laurent and his wife Catherine, both of whom are enologists, started up Badet Clément in the Languedoc. In 2003 they created DVP (Domaines et Vins de Propriété), which was intended to be Delaunay’s way of returning to Burgundy. For more information, see WFW issue 83, 2024, pp.108–11.

At its height, the house of Edouard Delaunay was one of the top distributors of Burgundy, supplying the wine of renowned domaines such as the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti to locations around the globe. As part of their strategic approach, they used DVP as a rebirth of their distribution business. Laurent Delaunay developed connections with a network of domaines to secure agreements for buying grapes from them. Delaunay currently works with 200 Burgundy producers and distributes to 60 countries.

In 2019, after recapturing the family name, he fabricated a compilation of Edouard Delaunay wines using procured grapes. The manufacturing process ensues in a contemporary winery adjacent to the family residence in Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, located on the western flank of Vergy hill. A firm supporter of Hautes-Côtes wines, Laurent Delaunay produces single-vineyard cuvées such as a scrumptious red from Les Dames Huguettes and a flavor some white from Les Lares, a west-facing plot at an altitude of approximately 1,500ft (450m) on the Vergy hill. The Edouard Delaunay assortment has grown to include around 50 appellations, ranging from Bourgogne to grands crus.

At the point when Laurent Delaunay returned to Burgundy, he aimed to overhaul the reputation and prosperity of the Hospices de Nuits auction, as well as his own. The auction needing a significant makeover. Hugues Cortot, a dynamic auctioneer from Dijon, was hired to modernize and expedite the dated procedures, which were conducted by candlelight, with each lot concluding once a candle extinguished. The new outlook included live streaming and private buyers were allowed to participate in the 2020 auction.

I attended this auction to sample the 2019 vintage, and the 2022 vintage the previous year (refer to WFW 80, 2023, pp.26–30). Upon tasting the 2023s this week, it appeared the winemaking methodology was altering, displaying a subtler touch due to the vineyards being predominantly in Nuits-St-Georges, requiring meticulous management, primarily in structure and texture. The exception being a substantial portion of the village Gevrey, Les Champs-Chenys, which was bestowed to the Hospices de Nuits 16 years ago, broadening the domaine to 12.5ha (31 acres).

Jean-Marc Moron, the estate supervisor, clarified that only three punch-downs were utilized in 2023, during an extraordinarily rapid fermentation of merely four days. He maintains that the domaine’s style underwent major alteration in 2002 when it became less tannic after relocating to a new winery which provided more space to handle the varying cuvées.

The evolution that began, perhaps, has delivered fruit-forward wines with smooth textures and an easy charm in the 2023 vintage. The vintage is often reflected by its characteristics, as Moron describes it as “fresh and elegant, ripe but with less sugar than ’22”. The 2023 vintage also possesses a distinctively lower acidity, adding to its softer tannin impression and making it very approachable.

Moron likens the style to those between 2009 and 2016, noting the balance and fruitiness, but stresses the importance of regulating yields in 2023. This included debudding and a green harvest in July, where certain parcels, like Les Fleurières and Les Vignerondes, needed a second pass in August. According to Moron, they are one of the few who produced less in 2023 compared to 2022.

At the 63rd Hospices de Nuits auction on Sunday, March 10, 150 pièces were auctioned, ten less than the previous year. In comparison to the 754 barrels auctioned from its 60ha (150 acres) of vineyards at the Hospices de Beaune auction, it seems small. While Hospices de Nuits auction doesn’t have the international glamour of the Beaune event, it possesses a distinct local charm. Despite being the older of the two Hospices, established in 1270, the Hospices de Beaune had a head start of a century in auctioning its production.

Both are charitable bodies, utilizing the proceeds to care for the sick. In Nuits-St-Georges, this has resulted in the reconstruction of the local hospital that enhances the care for the elderly. Each auction has a single charity pièce (one 228-litre barrel), sold to support a designated cause.

In an attempt to garner more attention for the Hospices de Nuits auction, the Cuvée des Bienfaiteurs was repurposed two years ago. Traditionally, it was a single barrel selection of one cuvée but now it is a blend, a ‘mosaic,’ of all nine of the domaine’s Nuits-St-Georges premiers crus.

In this cuvée, every vineyard contributes approximately 33kg (73lb) of grapes. Given that all the vineyards are harvested in a span of five days, managing this cuvée requires leaving some of the best fruit on the vine from the first and second day and selecting bunches on the third day. Some bunches are slightly overripe, some just about right and some a little underripe, all co-fermented for the blend. A new-oak François Frères barrel is employed for the élevage. The bottle is sold by subscription at €150 – anyone can purchase, and are encouraged to make donations. The focus is on smaller buyers, as they can play a role in spreading the word, says Cortot.

Prior to 2017, the lot was sold through auction. However, it was switched to a subscription-based sale due to worries that no one would purchase it. Today, Laurent Delaunay suggests that it may be time to bring back auctioning as a means of sale. Publicizing the auction does pose some challenges, given its size and the absence of a grand cru. However, this shift could help elevate the auction’s notoriety.

Keeping this in sight, a one-barrel ‘special selection’ of Les St-Georges, traditionally perceived as the best among the village’s premiers crus and potentially of grand cru status, was launched last year. In absence of a grand cru, a ‘Sélection de Vieilles Vignes,’ Cuvée Hommage à Hugues Perdrizet, is designed to draw in customers. This has led to the creation of three cuvées of Les St-Georges from the 1ha (2.5ha) parcel: Cuvée Georges Faiveley, Cuvée des Sires de Vergy, and Cuvée Hommage à Hugues Perdrizet.

Cuvée Hommage à Hugues Perdrizet is selected in July by Moron, handpicking 400 vines within the 3,800m2 parcel of older vineyards. As of last year’s auction, it was auctioned for a price of €40,000 which was considered disappointing as compared to the sale of Cuvée Georges Faiveley. Two barrels of the latter were in fact bought by Domaine Faiveley. In a conversation with Guillaume Koch, leader of Hospices Civils de Beaune, just before the year’s auction, he mentioned that the high price (€55,000) paid by Faiveley for the Cuvée that was named after them might have been partly influenced by the ambition to promote Les St-Georges to grand cru status. However, according to him, it is undeniable that the quality of the Hugues Perdrizet didn’t equal to that. Despite this, someone still opted to buy it in 2023 for €60,000, which turned out to be the maximum amount bid in that year’s auction.

For those who wish to buy wines from the Hospices but are not in the position to shell out 60 grand, it is possible to get a case or even a bottle through a négociant. Delaunay, prior to the auction, placed a village and a premier cru wine from vintage 2023 up for sale on their website. Usually, it is uncertain which village and premier cru will be secured at this stage, even though the photo provided by Delaunay hinted at Les Maladières-Les Brûlées Cuvée Grangier (estimated at €100–120 per bottle) and Premier Cru Les Didiers Cuvée Cabet (estimated at €180–230 per bottle).

In case you decide to register your interest in a specific cuvée ahead of the sale, you could do so with the négociant. Provided there is enough cumulative interest for the bottles and advance payment based on the range of past prices, Delaunay will participate in the bidding. If the bids cross his limit, your money is refunded.

Delaunay managed to secure five pièces, in this year’s auction, of which the sole village wine was the Gevrey. This is a major drop when compared to the 12 pièces of 2022s, seven of which were premier cru. There is a single barrel of Les Didiers Cuvée Cabet and three barrels of Les Didiers Cuvée Fagon.

Laurent Delaunay’s favorite appellation is Les Didiers. He depicts it as the symbol of the Hospices de Nuits. The 2.4ha (6-acre) monopole is contiguous to Les St-Georges in the north and Domaine de l’Arlot’s premier cru Clos des Fôrets in the south. Since Didiers and Fôrets are monopoles, there are no chances for cross comparison with vintages from different domaines, making it tough to grasp the distinct traits of these premiers crus. According to Laurent Delaunay, Didiers pairs “the richness and depth of Les St-Georges with the mineral aspects of Les Fôrets. It’s a personal favorite, particularly with my grandfather.” Moron describes Les Didiers’ terroir to be more shallow than the majority of Les St-Georges. It possesses small stones and two limestone veins close to the surface and was planted in 1981 and 1950.

Post-auction, Delaunay offers the Les Didiers Cuvée Fagon. You can already reserve this cuvée here. The final cost is €192 (€160 minus VAT) per bottle.

Let’s imagine you wish to buy an entire barrel—roughly 290 bottles—perhaps with a group of friends. Since 2020, you can register with Cortot et Associés to purchase directly. Cortot and Koch informed me that they have been focusing on the Asian market and there was indeed a contingent sampling from the barrel in the cellar before the auction. Registering with Cortot gives you the opportunity to sample before purchasing. Alternatively, you can accompany your négociant to the pre-auction sampling on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. You might even get invited to the grand lunch at Château de Clos Vougeot prior to the auction.

If you decide to go solo, be aware that you will quickly need to hire a négociant, as the wine must mature in Burgundy and cannot be removed prior to bottling. The Domaine de Hospices de Nuits requires successful bidders to provide the name of a négociant within two weeks post-sale, however, barrels do not have to be transported until July 1. Cortot publishes a list of négociants willing to assist, but you may also reach out to anyone with a négociant license and a listed address. The négociant’s personal wine style, the temperature of its cellars, and approach to aging and finishing the wine are worth considering. Thibault Liger-Bélair typically ages wines in barrels for 20 months, potentially with racking, whereas Delaunay ages wines for around 12 to 18 months without racking, and plans to bottle the 2023 vintage early given the wines are rather forward.

Cortot informed me that at last year’s auction, there were a handful of purchasers, likely those in the business, who acquired more than one barrel of the same cuvée to be matured in diverse négociant cellars. This is bound to have an impact, and if your rapport with your négociant is positive, participating in the élevage of your barrel could be an engaging experience.

Purchasing direct has its financial advantages, but opting for a négociant allows for the spreading of costs. Delaunay, for instance, calls for 50 percent upfront and the remaining half on bottling of the wine.

Taking into consideration additional costs; transfer of the barrel to the négociant’s cellar, storage fee for wine aging, vat topping, analytic control, bottling, labeling, and packaging. Dry goods like bottles, corks, capsules, and labels are also to be considered. Some négociants might provide a detailed expenses list, but Delaunay chooses to implement an all-inclusive fee, which runs at €4,500 a barrel. It would include personalizing the rather antiquated label of Hospices de Nuits and packing your wine into superior grade wooden boxes. It should be noted that this cost does not include delivery, despite encompassing freight documents. The wine can be transported under bond, or taxes and duties can be paid.

Moreover, when evaluating the hammer price, plus commission and taxes, bear in mind that this does not factor in the cost of the barrel— around €727 plus tax this year. Looking into the topic of oak, at the Domaine de Hospices de Nuits, all is aged in new barrels, spread as equally as feasible between François Frères, Taransaud, and Damy. 100% new oak utilization might be an excessive ask from any Burgundy. This will without a doubt influence the wine, and caution — the samples offered at the pre-auction tasting comprise blends from all the barrels in each cuvée.

Moron indicates that nobody requests to taste from specific barrels but he doesn’t hesitate to comply and provide the number of the favored pièce in the catalog. I sampled Les Boudots Cuvée Mesny de Boisseaux from three barrels, with effects as assumed: Damy shapes the wine to be velvety and rounded while Taransaud is more precise and stern. Conversely, François Frères lends shape and constitution—good for aging your wine but the oak doesn’t integrate promptly for early consumption. The single-barrel cuvées of Bienfaiteurs and Hugues Perdrizet are matured in François Frères, suggesting they are intended for aging.

After the auction, Cortot noticed, “US customers chose to have representation at the sale, rather than buying directly. The auction keeps attracting individuals with a marginal rise in the count of buyers thanks to them— a growth of 10 percent.”

Moving on to the numbers from the 63rd Hospices de Nuits-St-Georges Wine Auction. The auction amassed a total of €2,281,500. This ranks it as the third-best auction in Hospices’ history, but it’s a decline of 36 percent compared to the previous year. Out of the total 19 cuvées, 150 barrels were sold, ten less than last year and the wines fetched generally lower prices.

The average price of the red wine (18 out of the 19 cuvées) was €15,750, a drop of 29 percent from 2023. The white cuvée saw a drop by 38 percent. To provide some perspective, the average price for the 2021 reds was €16,668.

Concluding a four-year trend of increasing prices, the 2023 auction (for the 2022 vintage) reached a record €3,603,000, a 123 percent rise over four years, during which the average barrel price more than doubled (€22,519 in 2023, compared to €9,728 in 2019).

There were two exceptions to the downswing: the Premier Cru Les St-Georges Cuvée Hommage à Hugues Perdrizet, which realized €60,000, up from €40,000, and the charity lot Cuvée des Bienfaiteurs, which set a historic record of €68,330, up from €67,430 the previous year. This was auctioned for the benefit of the Clément-Drevon Foundation, supporting medical research in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region.

While it’s disappointing to see price drops given that the proceeds bolster the local hospital, as a signal of Burgundy’s softening prices, this is both welcome and delayed.

Barrels are sold individually, but are assembled with several from the same appellation. Purchase one, and you have the option to acquire the rest for the same price. I’ve provided prices for this year and the previous year. The Hospices has one white wine from the premier cru Les Terres Blanches, situated at the slope’s summit, over the boundary in Premeaux, coupled with Les Didiers and Les Corvées Pagets. There are five village cuvées. The Gevrey-Chambertin comes from a single parcel, while the village wines from Nuits-St Georges are blends. Once again, two shone through. I tasted all the wines twice—on the pre-sale Saturday afternoon, and again the next morning.

There are a few négociants who will have 2023 bottles for sale. The biggest buyer was Albert Bichot who, as usual, was also the largest bidder at the Hospices de Beaune auction. They bought 41 pièces, which accounts for 21 percent of the overall volume and 28 percent of all sales.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Terres Blanches Cuvée Pierre de Pême

This one has an exotic, spicy taste with hints of mango. Rounded and with a creamy texture, it has a soft acidity, which is noticeably influenced by the oak in its flavor, texture, and weight. Despite this, it has a firm core and a fresh finish. It’s priced between €20,000 and €21,000 (it was €32,000–34,000 in 2022).

Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champs-Chenys Cuvée Irène Noblet

A standalone, rather substantial piece from where 10 barrels were produced. This lies in between Charmes-Chambertin grand cru and the R74. A well-adjusted and quite heavy Gevrey, being fresh for the vintage and maintaining a smooth texture. €10,000–11,000 a barrel (2022, €13,000–16,000).

Nuits-St-Georges Les Bas de Combe Cuvée Guillaume Labye

A combination of Les Lavières and Les Bas de Combe, this is my top village wine from Nuits, appreciated for its flow and silky texture. A lovely red fruit, it will mature quickly and will be pleasant as a young wine. It expands well for a village wine, leading to a dynamic finish. €9,000 a barrel (2022, €15,000).

Nuits-St-Georges Les St-Julien-Les Plateaux Cuvée Claude Poyen

A fusion of St-Julien and Plateaux offers a more vibrant and solidly built experience. It presents dark and earthy tones, a tangible tension, and a respectable finish. With its village origin, this wine shows promising longevity. The price ranges from €7,000 to €8,000 per barrel (2022, €14,000–15,000).

Moving on to the nine premiers crus. The auction included 13 red wines, with premiers crus Les Didiers and Les St-Georges each being divided into three distinct cuvées. I felt that Les Rues de Chaux was truly rustic in nature. The first trio of premiers crus, originating from the village’s northern region, showed an uncharacteristic lack of vigor, potency, and flair, leaving me somewhat letdown. However, venturing to the southern region, Les Porrets-St-Georges exhibited additional complexity and a prolonged finish.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Vignerondes Cuvée Bernarde Delesclache

It provides a liberal, fruit-led profile, accompanied by an expansive palate. The forest fruits offer an enjoyable aroma, yet the finish is marred by an overly detailed oak flavor. While lack of definition jeopardizes the wine’s overall effect, the wine effortlessly caters to its audience. The price ranges from €10,000 to €13,000 per barrel (2022, €21,000).

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Boudots Cuvée de Mesny de Boisseaux

This mature, full-bodied wine is delightfully succulent. Its somewhat jammy fruit and rich texture offer generous appeal off the bat. However, a better follow-through would be appreciated. Its cost is slated at €21,000 (2022, €33,000–41,000).

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Murgers Cuvée Guyard de Changey

In contrast to the Boudots, the Les Murgers is straighter with lighter body, making it somewhat fresher. This attribute is coupled with a slight piquancy complimented by spicy notes. It is priced between €18,000–21,000 a barrel (2022, €25,000–26,000).

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Porrets-St-Georges Cuvée Antide Midan

This Porrets is nothing to sneer at. It presents itself as incredibly juicy at first sip, with a full body and a smooth texture. The concentration is satisfactory and this enticing Porrets completes with an intensity and refreshing aftertaste. Priced at €16,000 in 2022, projected to be €24,000–25,000.

The next two wines are both sourced from Premeaux and demonstrate excellent typicité.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Terres Blanches Cuvée St Bernard de Cîteaux

Not superior to the Porrets, neither as lengthy, but possess more style. It’s compact, direct, airy, and chalky. Dark fruit sweetness, but thin, tangy, and neatly outlined. A fine and crispy Nuit-St-Georges, with a savoury, salty aftertaste. Right down my alley. Prices range from €15,000–16,500 (2022, €21,000–25,000).

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Corvées Pagets Cuvée St-Laurent

Lasts longer than the preceding wines. Currently quite covered in fresh oak, but the robustness of the centre, the plentiful lively fruit, and the smooth transition to a focused end all hold promise for this wine. I enjoy it. €17,000–18,000 a barrel (2022, €20,000–21,000).

Concluding with the premiers crus Les Didiers and Les St-Georges, though the youthful vine cuvées are not better than some of the preceding wines.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Didiers Cuvée Cabet

This wine features the fruit-forward flavors of grapes from forty-year-old vines. It may have a slight jammy quality, but boasts a good level of acidity for balance. It has a comparatively relaxed, fruit-led style, but retains a nice degree of charm. In 2022, it is priced at €18,000–19,500 a barrel, though this is anticipated to rise to €20,000–22,000.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Didiers Cuvée Jacques Duret

This wine is an equal blend from 40- and 70-year-old vines, granting it a greater degree of structure and body. It comes across as smooth with a graphite-like mineral quality, and an impressive layering of sweetness and acidity. You’ll notice it lingers longer on the finish compared with the younger vines. As of 2022, it’s listed at €18,000 a barrel, with predictions seeing it rise to €18,000–24,000.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les Didiers Cuvée Fagon

Embracing the legacy of Dr Guy-Crescent Fagon, who was a prominent benefactor of the Hospices and noteworthy botanist, accomplishing distinction as the personal physician of Louis XIV and his Director of Gardens. Dr Fagon was remembered for advocating the superiority of Burgundy’s health benefits over Champagne. Initially, the taste seemed dominated by oak on a Saturday, yet surprisingly accessible the day after. This blend reaches a balance between being compact and sophisticated, surpassing the Jacques Duret selection. With the allure of ripe hedgerow fruit and an elegance as smooth as satin, it bears a close resemblance to a Les-St-Georges. The blend is smooth, leaving a persistent finish. The cost per barrel ranges from €19,000 to €24,000 in 2022, previously €35,000–38,000.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les St-Georges Cuvée des Sires de Vergy

This inviting wine is a product of younger vines, offering a refreshing hint of blueberry and brimming with vitality. Even though it might not be particularly profound, it is loved for its purity and flowing taste. The cost is expected to be between €37,000–41,000 in 2022, was €41,000–48,000 previously.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les St-Georges Cuvée Georges Faiveley

Named in honor of Georges Faiveley for his efforts during the Second World War, this cuvée comes from older vines that yield a refined and deeply flavorful wine. Despite its intensity, the wine is restrained and ends on a persistent finish. Truly valuable. Prices range between €36,000 and €40,000 in 2022, and €51,000 to €55,000.

Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru Les St-Georges Cuvée Hommage à Hugues Perdrizet

This fresh one-barrel cuvée, sourced from the estate’s most venerable vines, is named after the first vineyard benefactor of the Hospice. A barrel from François Frères. Highly concentrated and dense, it presents a more robust and richer profile compared to the Cuvée Georges Faiveley, and is overall a more grandiose wine. I lean towards the more refined interpretation of Les St-Georges as presented in the Cuvée Georges Faiveley. Priced at €60,000 in 2022, down from €40,000.

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