Burgundy prices dropping

Burgundy lovers awaiting the results of a traditional auction that usually helps establish market prices will be happy about this year's results. Producers may not be.

The Beaune Hospices auction, held in Beaune, France, features a centuries-old tradition of bidding for the final lot until two candles flicker out. Bids there traditionally set price trends for the latest vintage. This year, the weak global economy and extensive storm damage to wine grapes in eastern France combined to lower prices.

While the United States market for Burgundy wines remains relatively strong, exports to the UK fell 16% by volume, and 10% by value, in the first 10 months of this year. Nearly half of all Burgundy wine is exported.

"We have seen prices come unstuck since September and to a lesser extent since June," Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the federation of Burgundy wine traders and producers, told the Reuters news service. "We are worried but not pessimistic. We got through the 1991 crisis which was much worse. Now we have lower interest rates and the dollar is strengthening, which could help us."

James Thomson, a Scottish hotel and restaurant owner, had the winning bid of 50,000 euros ($63,257.50 US) for the final exhibit, a 228-liter oak barrel of Pommard Premier Cru red wine. Such a barrel, which will provide about 300 bottles, sold for 65,000 euros last year and a record 200,000 in 2006.

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