Hospices de Beaune
The organisation comprises the actual hospital and the old peoples’ home in Beaune, which was founded by the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Burgundy, Nicolas Rolin and his wife, Guigone de Salins in 1443. They endowed the foundation with vineyards and these were added to by benefactors throughout the centuries. It is the sale of the wines of these vineyards that supports the Hospices.
Since 1859, the sale has been a public one, held on the third Sunday in November – unless, as in certain years, the vintage has been poor, when the wines are sold privately. Originally the sale was held in the cellars of the Hospices; nowadays it takes place in the marketplace, covered in for the occasion. The function is made the excuse for great celebrations in Burgundy, notably the ‘Trois Glorieuses’. These three feasts are given over the weekend of the sale: Saturday and Sunday nights at the cellars of the Bastion in Beaune and at Clos de Vougeot respectively; the Monday lunch of La Paulee is at Meursault, with ceremonies, installations of new members in the local wine order, songs and speeches by local and widely known personalities. The commercial aspect of the sale is important, because this is the first public showing of the wines of the current vintage, and the prices reached – even though these are sometimes extra-high for the occasion – indicate the level of the prices of other wines as well. The cuvees bear the names of the donors and are all in the Cote de Beaune; sometimes the white wines make the record price but all the wines may be regarded as good. Marc is also sold.
Anyone can buy at the Hospices, the sale is attended by wine merchants, shippers, buyers of huge retail chains, and restaurateurs from all over the world. Bidding takes place a la chandelle: the autioneer takes bids while a taper burns down, then a second taper is lit and bidding is open only while this burns. Some reference books mention a single taper or even three, but there are invariably two.
Hungary as a Wine Region It is considered by those who should know that the finest wines of south-eastern Europe are made in Hungary, in addition to Tokay, which is one of the great wines of the world. There is a very long and proud tradition of winemaking, and the wine institutes today carry these on. A high proportion of the country is under vines and some of these are, as might be expected, classic varieties, such as Riesling, Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Native grapes include the white Harslevelii, Mezesfeher, Keknyelu, and Szlankememka and the black Kadarka, which is found throughout this part of Europe, but seems to produce at its best in Hungary.
All types of table wine are made, but possibly the best known on export markets are those made around Lake Balaton and in the Mount Badacsony district, and from the vineyards around the beautiful town of Eger, which are responsible for white and red table wines respectively as far as the English-speaking drinker knows them. Villany, Soml6 and Sopron are also extremely important regions: Pecs-Villany wines, white and fragrant, and Villanyi Burgundi are very easy to like. The best Soml6 wines are white and made from the Furmint grape; those of Sopron most likely to be met with on export markets are red, made from a grape that seems to be a type of Gamay, excellent drunk while it is young and fresh. Pleasant white wines are also made in Sopron.
It is significant that it was a Hungarian, Agoston Haraszthy, who, quite justifiably, has been called the father of California viticulture. In the middle of the 19th century he went to the U.S. And planted vineyards, of which the most famous is probably Buena Vista in Sonoma County. In 1861 he visited Europe at the request of the Governor of California and returned with cuttings of 300 grape varieties, thereby establishing many of these in the California vineyards.