China develops thirst for Burgundy wine

China develops thirst for Burgundy wine

Burgundy's annual wine auction, Hospices de Beaune, has achieved sales higher than 2010 and 2009, but many of the prices paid fell below expectations.

Under the shadow of a precarious world economy, the 151st Hospices de Beaune Burgundy wine auction reached total sales of EUR5.81m (US$7.8m), up by around 11.5% on last year. It also beat the total for 2009, which stood at EUR5.43m, according to records published by auction house Christie's, which conducts the event in France's Burgundy region.

However, there were signs that the economic storm clouds have engendered some restraint among high-end wine buyers. The top lot, a 460-litre barrel of wine named the “Pièce des Presidents”, this year sold for EUR126,500, according to Christie's. Last year, the price was around EUR400,000.

Still, looking at the broader industry, there are signs that Burgundy wine producers are increasingly benefiting from China's strong demand for French wine. Burgundy's great rival, Bordeaux, may continue to carry greater prestige, but figures published over the weekend show that, for the first eight months of 2011, the value of Burgundy wine exports to Hong Kong and China has doubled.

Volume exports to Hong Kong and China have also grown strongly, outpacing growth in all other markets except Taiwan, according to Burgundy wine body BIVB. Global exports of Burgundy wines rose by almost 18% to EUR400m in the first eight months of 2011. Volumes, however, only rose by 0.4% on the same period of 2010, to 53m bottles.