Le Petit Parisien 19 novembre 1923

A Le Petit Parisien article 01 1 vente hospices de Beaune 1 1


This year's sale produced more than double the previous one.

Beaune, November 18 (from our special env.). During the harvest, I traveled through this Côte-d'Or, a sumptuous mantle of undulating vineyards, embroidered with blond gold, vermeil gold, red gold. I admired the famous clos, whose names are also worth gold: Chambertin, Vougeot, Nuits, Corton, Volnay, Pommard, kings of red wines; Meursault and Montrachet, emperors of white wines, to which the Duke d'Aumale had the weapons presented. Some of them, surprisingly, were no larger than a soldier's handkerchief.

I saw these princely wines made in the vat room of the Beaune hospice, handling the little black grape, this famous fine pinot that we dare not crush in presses, any more than we trample it underfoot , but which are piously destemmed by hand.

Today, it is the third act, more thrilling, this famous sale of the hospices which takes place at the same time and according to the same rites as in the fifteenth century, at the time of the benefactors who made donations, of the twenty-two august winegrowers, of Messires Nicolas Rollin, Guigone de Salins, his wife, Jehan de Massol,

Exceptional sale this year. The burning sun has sweetened the grains, the rain has swollen them, the quality of the wine is resplendent. This is known.

We have more than four hundred and fifty lunches this morning, the director of the famous Hôtel de Beaune, one of the pearls of our provinces, announces victoriously to me.

And a big wine merchant added. Usually, twelve and fifteen Swiss come to us. There are two hundred and fifty of them this year, not counting the English, the Americans and our customers from France.

Tasting at the hospice

Barely does day break when countless cars snore and roar along the old bastioned ramparts whose mossy feet dip in the green water. There is a trampling of herds along the narrow streets where the dilapidated houses with arched porches and beautiful rusty tile roofs lean. A weak sun shines on the beehive-shaped pinnacles. And in the cellars, catacombs with vast crypts and vaulted passages that intersect and extend, feverish activity reigns.

Around ten o'clock, the crowds flocked to the courtyards of the hospice. It buzzes under this cloister, a jewel of art, whose Flemish Gothic with its slender pillars, its pinnacles, its doors with stone lacework, its frail ironwork, has so much elegant flight.

Crowd of men, somewhat somber and monotonous, brightened here and there by the haloed headdress of an old winemaker with pursed lips, the white and blue silhouettes of the nuns, the hospital ladies whose hennin frames their pale rounded faces. On the threshold of the paneled rooms, as vast as cathedrals, crouching old women peacefully contemplate these people whose money will support them.

At the far end, a staircase, a few rickety steps, a black hole. We queue. It is there, in the cellars, that the tasting takes place. Serious operation. No fuss. As soon as you enter, a pungent and powerful scent hits you in the throat. A few bulbs dimly illuminate black figures who swarm, nudge each other and wade through purple mud. The ceiling with its blackened beams touches the skulls and, in the chiaroscuro, superb new barrels are lined up in pyramids, golden like honey and smeared with red. Here and there, men ride them, pot-bellied like silenus, their red granite faces bristling with blond quackgrass mustaches and cracked by a laugh of pride.

These are the winegrowers attached from father to son to the hospices. They plunge a long glass pipette into the belly of the barrels and squirt the wine into the old burnished silver cups that are handed to them. How pretty mine is with its grape decoration, its handle where two carved birds peck at a grain!

We can hear in the hustle and bustle. What a fabric, real velvet! Yes, but more robust than elegant! The sumptuous garnet color of red wine evokes the old stained glass windows of cathedrals, it is powerful and mellow. The white wine sparkles and laughs, so lively, so cheerful. We taste, we savor, we spit. We leave delighted, dazzled. But why, in the old-fashioned garden, do the hornbeams and the pointed pear trees exchange noble bows?

Once, twice, three times... Awarded! Two o'clock. It's raining. Whatever. During the bountiful lunch, the sun flowed down our throats with the warm waves of Burgundy. Also, the impatient crowd, with fiery faces, waiting in the courtyards and galleries, laughs, sings, shouts, gesticulates, jeers, applauds, then, with the doors finally open, rushes into the council room, which it overwhelms of its enormous roaring flood. This room is too small, but so harmonious with its carved oak woodwork, its magnificent tapestries, its antique paintings. Above the fireplace, Louis XIV smiles disdainfully under his wig. And they also look like portraits, the hospice administrators with their colorful faces and venerable beards, gravely lined up on the dais at the back, behind the table with the green carpet.

I am putting the Jacques Pellin vintage up for sale, announces the mayor of Beaune, Mr. Dubois, in a sonorous voice.

At the end of the table, a small candle lights

Four thousand shouts a voice. Four thousand five hundred! retaliates

Five thousand ! screams a third. The offers take flight in a corner, bounce, pirouette, ricochet, sometimes hesitate, then cross, collide, rush off in sprays, repeated by the recipient of the hospices, standing with a fist on his hip. First fire... Second fire...

The thin light burns, flickers, revives, glows, then goes out. Sold for seven thousand seven hundred francs per tail!

The tail is four hundred and fifty-six liters. Buzz of surprise.

Last year, the same quantity of the same vintage only made two hundred and sixty francs, my neighbor remarks.

It is a Dane and a Swiss who share the first batch. The following barrels roll towards Paris, rush to Nice, Dijon, Chalon. One even falls to Choisy-le-Roi.

A moment of emotional silence when the fate of the famous vintages, Nicolas Rollin and Guigone de Salins, is decided, which reach, the first eleven thousand francs a row, the second eleven thousand five hundred francs. These royal wines will remain in Beaune, where they can be tasted.

But when ? In ten years ? In fifteen years? Because this day marks the beginning of an austere retirement for them, in a bottle at the bottom of the cellar, under the powder of time and the cobwebs. In ten years, in fifteen years? Melancholy thought. Fortunately, the sale ended with a triumphant figure: 735,557 francs! Last year, it only reached 332,607 francs. Come on: Burgundy is always happy!