The world’s oldest charity wine auction, held on behalf of a medieval hospital in the Burgundy region of France, raised a record 6.3 million euros ($8.5 million), boosted by bidding from China.

Yan Hong Cao, a China-based businesswoman, paid 131,000 euros for the “President’s barrel,” containing 456 liters of Meursault-Genevrieres Premier Cru, Cuvee Philippe le Bon, at the 153rd edition of the Hospices de Beaune auction. The annual event, held in collaboration with Christie’s International, sells barrels of Burgundy’s latest vintage from vineyards owned by the hospital, founded in 1443.

Clothilde Couraut at wine auction

The French actress Clothilde Couraut, president of the 153rd edition of the Hospices de Beaune charity wine sale in the Burgundy region of France. Setting benchmark prices for the new 2013 vintage, the auction was held, in collaboration with Christie’s International, on Nov. 17. Source: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2013 via Bloomberg.

 Hospices de Beaune

One of the barrels of wine being sold for charity in the Hospices de Beaune auction in the Burgundy region of France. Held in collaboration with the London-based auction house Christie’s International, the 153rd edition of the event took place on Nov. 17. Source: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2013 via Bloomberg

The Hospices de Beaune in Burgundy, France. The medieval hospital is the venue of the world’s oldest charity wine auction, whose 153rd edition took place on Nov. 17. Source: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2013 via Bloomberg

The 2013 vintage is problematic. For the second straight year, vineyards in Burgundy were pounded by hailstorms in the summer, dramatically reducing yields for some winemakers. The total production of the region was forecast to be 1.26 million hectoliters, about 20 percent down on a typical year, according to data released this month by the Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB).

“It is a tricky vintage,” Paul Hammond, a partdirector at the London-based merchants IG Wines, said in an interview. “Because of the low yields, pricing will be high and the market will take it, even though the quality isn’t as good as 2012. The risk is that people will become disenchanted with Burgundy, as they have with First-Growth Bordeaux.”

This year’s difficult growing season produced a smaller-than-usual auction of 443 barrels, divided between 333 red and 110 white. All of them sold. The total, which includes fees, beat the record of 5.9 million euros, achieved last year from a sale of 516 barrels.

Asia Tastings

This was the first time a Chinese bidder had bought the president’s barrel since Christie’s had become involved in the sale in 2005. Christie’s had courted Asian bidders with tastings in SingaporeHong Kong and Beijing. Bidders from Asia bought 9.5 percent of the auction, said the London-based auction house. Last year their purchases represented 12 percent of its value.

During the last three years, wine buyers, particularly from Asia, have concentrated more on Burgundy.

Investors have balked at ever-higher auction prices for Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and other trophy clarets, and they’ve also been put off by Bordeaux’s ambitiously priced “en primeur” campaigns, wine dealers said. As a result, Burgundy’s share of the total fine wine trade in July 2013 was five times bigger than it was in July 2010, IG Wines said.

Barrels of the Grand Cru red wine Clos de la Roche and the white Batard-Montrachet dominated the Hospices sale, taking respectively five and four of the auction’s top 10 prices.

A European private buyer paid a top price of 70,620 euros for a barrel of Clos de la Roche, Cuvee Kritter, valued at 22,000 euros to 35,000 euros, while the Maison Lucien Lemoine was prepared to give an upper-estimate 65,270 euros for Batard’s Cuvee dames de Flandres.

“The charitable element slightly distorts things,” said Hammond. “The Hospices auction marks the beginning of the campaign. The market will ultimately decide the price of this vintage.”

Written by Scott Reyburn