Hospices de Beaune Tasting

HdB Hôtel-Dieu

Hôtel-Dieu. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Wines Tasted

  1. Pouilly-Fussé Cuvée Françoise Poisard 2012
  2. Meursault-Charmes 1er Cru Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay 2011
  3. Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru Cuvée François de Salins 2011
  4. Savigny-Lés-Beaune 1er Cuvée Arthur Girard 2012
  5. Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Guigone de Salins 2009
  6. Volnay 1er Cru Cuvée Blondeau 2010
  7. Pommard 1er Cru Cuvée Dames de la Charité 2011
  8. Corton Grand Cru Cuvée Charlotte Dumay 2011
  9. Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru Cuvée Madeleine Collignon 2010
  10. Echézeaux Grand Cru Cuvée Jean-Luc Bissey 2012

Recently I attended a tasting of wines from the catalogue of the Hospices de Beaune as Christies Auction House prepares for the coming event in November this year.

HdB Christies HK

Tasting at Christies Hong Kong. Source: Christies Hong Kong

The Hospices de Beaune refers to an annual wine auction that occurs each year, typically on the third Sunday of November. Founded in the fifteenth century by the Chancellor of Duke Philip the Good, Nicolas Rolin, and his wife Guigone de Salins, the activities of the Hospices de Beaune centred around the Hôtel-Dieu. The hospital, visually noted for its distinctive polychrome roof tiles, was built in 1443 to provide care for the residents of the area suffering the ravages of the Hundred Years’ War and a recent outbreak of the plague.

1859 marked the first annual wine auction to raise funds in support of the hospice with 189 barrels of wine being offered for sale. Today the hospice has vineyard holdings of 61,000ha and offers 47 different cuvées for sale from 228 barrels. Of the wines available 85% are sourced from Premier and Grand Cru sites.

Currently, funds raised at the auction for the Hospices de Beaune are dedicated to three main areas; maintenance of the vineyard and heritage conservation while the majority of the funds raised go to the hospital.

The auction takes place during a time of great festivity in the town of Beaune. The three day festival Trois Glorieuses, or three glorious feasts, begins with a black tie chapter meeting of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin at Château du Clos de Vougeot and ends with the Paulée de Meursault, a lunch celebrating the end of harvest, at Château Mersault. Between these two events lies the auction, which is open to participants from around the world and although the prices are higher than current commercial value (all in the name of a good cause!) they are seen to have some impact on the market prices for the new vintage, making this a very important event in the international wine calendar.

The wine offered at auction is from the actual year of production and following purchase the wine is cared for by a negociant over the next 12 – 24 months until bottling. The successful bidder may opt to have the wine bottled using personalised label but all bottles must carry the distinctive crest of the Hospices.


The 47 different blends or cuvées are named in recognition of original benefactors, the details of whom may be found below for the 10 wines tasted.

The Cast of Cuvées and Tasting Notes

Pouilly-Fussé Cuvée Françoise Poisard 2012

Upon the death of Françoise Poisard the vineyards from his domain included land and two houses which came into the Domaine des Hospices.

The wine is derived from three plots totaling 141ha. in Chaintré which is located in the south of this appellation.

Aromas of orange blossom, jasmine and ripe stone fruit followed by some citrus on the palate. Although the same alcohol as the other two white wines, the warmth from the alcohol was persistent and the most present in all three white wines.

1. HdB Pouilly Fussé

Meursault-Charmes 1er Cru Cuvée de Bahèzre de Lanlay 2011

An inspector of telegraph lines who upon his death donated his entire fortune to the Hospices de Beaune in 1884. This generosity provided the construction of a surgical block and a wing of the hospital dedicated to the care of elderly residents.

Two plots of land from the Mersault-Charmes appellation totaling 88ha. are used to produce this wine.

Floral aromas, citrus reminiscent of lemon curd and tangerine alongside a lovely mineral finish that persisted all the way through to a zingy lemon juice note at the very end. My favourite white of the night and one that revealed its layers as it opened in the glass.

2. HdB Meursault-Charmes

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru Cuvée François de Salins 2011

A descendent of Guigone de Salins, Françoise was a priest and canon at the church of Nortre Dame de Beaune. He bequeathed his vines to the Hospice in 1745.

One of three Grand Cru wines in the Hospices de Beaune portfolio, this wine is created entirely from a 48ha plot in Le Charlemagne.

Lots of lovely white flowers, citrus and mineral notes but at first tasting it was rather reticent and faded against the more forward Mersault-Charmes. Returning to this wine at the conclusion of the tasting revealed a complex personality that invited sip after sip as its personality unfolded – perhaps this was my white wine of the night too?

3. HdB Corton-Charlemagne

Savigny-Lés-Beaune 1er Cuvée Arthur Girard 2012

Arthur Girard donated a portion of his estate to the hospice in 1936 and this wine is produced from a 1ha. plot that runs up to the commune border with Beaune.

An easy drinking red wine with notes of sweet red fruit and spice alongside some herbaceous green leaf notes.

Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Guigone de Salins 2009

At age 18yrs Guigone de Salins became the third wife of the then 47yrs. Nicolas Rolin the wealthy Chancellor of Duke Philip the Good. Together they had three children and worked on a number of charitable projects together including the establishment of the Hospices de Beaune.

In 1462 Guigone de Salins was widowed but continued to lead the Hôtel-Dieu until her death in 1470.

The wine is produced from two plots totaling 264 ha. and is more brooding in nature providing a good contrast to the previous wine. The fruit notes are darker with more earthy notes coming through and on the palate the weight is fuller with softer acidty and slightly powdery tannins. The fruit along with candied violet and pencil shaving notes made this wine a pleasure to drink.

4. 5. HdB Savigny-Les-Beaune + Beaune

Volnay 1er Cru Cuvée Blondeau 2010

A generous benefactor, Françoise Blondeau not only provided the bells of the Hospice de la Charité, which are still used today, he also donated all his vineyards in Pommard and Volnay upon his death in 1811.

One of four Premier Cru wines from Volnay offered by the Hospices de Beaune, this wine had a bright red fruit character making me think of raspberries and sour cherries which sat alongside notes of black tea leaves.

6. HdB Volnay

Pommard 1er Cru Cuvée Dames de la Charité 2011

This cuvée is named to honour the Sisters of Charity who devoted their lives to the care of those less fortunate and upon their deaths left their belongings to the hospice.

As of 2005 the wine became 100% Premier Cru and the 2011 showed good complexity and power on the nose with aromas of forest fruit, spice, violets and dark minerals all of which followed through on the palate.

7. HdB Pommard

Corton Grand Cru Cuvée Charlotte Dumay 2011

With no heirs to bequeath her estate to, the wife of the King’s Keeper of the Mint in Dijon, Charlotte Dumay donated vines in Aloxe to the hospice.

Sourced from two plots totaling 266ha. this wine had an appealing elegance to the structure. Sitting alongside red and black fruits were delightful floral notes of violets and a touch of rose petals.

8. HdB Corton

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru Cuvée Madeleine Collignon 2010

A relatively newcomer to the Hospices de Beaune, this Grand Cru plot was donated in memory of his mother, by Jean Collignon in 1976.

Produced from one plot of land totaling 174ha, which lies immediately next to Chambertin Clos de Bèze, this was my red wine of the night – elegant and well structured with the perfect balance of spice, forest floor and fruit along with the subtlest hint of sweet oak sitting just behind these flavours.

9. HdB Mazis-Chambertin

Echézeaux Grand Cru Cuvée Jean-Luc Bissey 2012

This wine joined the catalogue of the hospice in 2012 and is the newest wine to be included in the auction.

The wine is sourced form a 17ha plot and showed floral, mineral and some barnyard notes with the fruit very much playing a secondary note.

10. HdB Echezeaux

All in all a stunning cast of characters and just a wee bit tempting don’t you think?

Happy Bidding!



Hopices de Beaune

Burgundy Eye

Pinot Noir – East Coast Representing!

Wines Tasted

  1. Bishops Head, Waipara, Pinot Gris, 2011
  2. Bishops Head, Waipara, Pinot Noir, 2011
  3. Escarpment Vineyards, Martinborough, Pinot Noir 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004
  4. Escarpment Vineyards, Martinborough, Te Rehua, Pinot Noir, 2011

Summer holidays are nearing an end here in Hong Kong and things are getting busy again for the wine industry. Recently I attended a couple of tastings from my home country, New Zealand, one from a region not far from where I grew up and the other not far from where I was born. (Many thanks to both Northeast and Wellspring Wines for the invitations!)

Waipara and Martinborough are both small regions producing some excellent Pinot Noir along with a smattering of aromatic white wines. Looking at a map the regions share some similarities in terms of geography. Both are located on the east coast of the country; Waipara in the South Island, roughly a one-hour drive north of Christchurch sits at latitude S43˚ and Martinborough in the east of the North Island at S41˚ is also an hour in the car from another of New Zealand’s major cities, Wellington.

NZ map Waipara and Martinborough

The Waipara Valley (not to be confused with the tongue twister North Island region of Wairarapa) consists of three main sites; the valley floor, the hill slopes and the river terraces. This sub-region of Canterbury is situated at the foot of the Tivotdale Hills, which provide shelter from the cool easterly breezes of the Pacific Ocean. To the west of the region further afield are the Southern Alps and closer to the town are the Three Deans mountain range, which all help to keep the warmth from the sun in the area. Add to that warm north-westerly winds and long dry autumns and you have a good ripening period for the grapes and wines that exhibit a lovely spicy character.

Martinborough, in the North Island enjoys similar protection from the winds as provided by the Tararua Ranges to the west, although this region is open to the blustery winds from the east as they come in off the Pacific Ocean. Growing up in this area, but on the western side of the Tararuas, I remember autumns of cool nights and mornings followed by days of brilliantly clear blue skies as the temperature slowly climbed out of single digits. This is true also of Martinborough – the region experiences a high diurnal range, that is to say a big difference between the temperature at night and the temperature during the day, and this is perfect to ensure the grapes ripen sufficiently.

Escarpment Wairarapa

Source: Escarpment Vineyards

Both regions are classified as sub-regions; Waipara is within the Canterbury region and Martinborough within the Wairarapa region. Each of the larger regions accounts for a fraction of annual total production by tonnes in New Zealand. With Canterbury coming in at 2.4% and Wairarapa at 1.3% in 2013, it’s easy to extrapolate that production from these smaller sub-regions is tiny but I can assure you it is well worth seeking out. [1]

One point of difference between the two locations is white and red wine production. White wines dominate plantings in the Canterbury region accounting for 73% of all vines planted, whereas red wines, mostly Pinot Noir, dominate plantings in the Wairarapa region at 54%. [2]

Bishops Head winery in Waipara is named after a large limestone rock face deep in the Waipara Gorge. In addition to Pinot Noir, Bishops Head also produce a range of aromatic white wines. Drawing on experiences from around the world the winery fnds itself looking towards Europe for its stylistic template – all the while overlaid with an understanding of the localness and the unique characteristics brought to the wine from the particular sites on which the vines are grown.

Bishops Head Waipara

Bishop’s Head, Waipara Gorge. Source: Bishops Head Winery

During a superb dinner at Mott 32, the 2011 Pinot Noir and the Pinot Gris of the same vintage were the standouts of the night. The Pinot Gris was full of ripe round stone fruit and white flowers. It had great texture and weight on the palate without being too heavy, good length and attractive mineral complexity on the finish.

The Pinot Noir showed typical notes of red fruits, spice and violets along with the first hints of forest floor, mushrooms and a touch of cedar. The grapes are hand picked and a portion of the stems left on during fermentation. Natural yeasts are put to work and French oak is used for maturation. The tannin and acid structure formed a solid foundation on which to hang complex flavours, which in turn matched perfectly with the crispy duck we were served.

Bishops Head bottle shot 2     Bishops Head bottle shot

Source: Wellspring Wines

Keeping on the Pinot Noir theme and the look back to Burgundy for inspiration brings me to Escarpment Vineyards in Martinborough, owned in part by the New Zealand “godfather of Pinot Noir”, Larry McKenna. Having moved from his home of Adelaide some years ago Larry’s first work in Martinborough was at Martinborough Vineyard in the 1980s. Then in 1998 he, in partnership with the Kirby family, established Escarpment Vineyards.

Escarpment Kupe vineyard

Larry McKenna at Kupe Vineyard, Martinborough. Source: Escarpment Vineyards

Escarpment has always peaked my interest, as the 2008 Escarpment Kupe single vineyard Pinot Noir is one of those wines I have never forgotten. A special dinner out in Wellington some years ago with dear friends and this was one of the wines we enjoyed. I remember it because although we were deep in conversation the wine quietly requested – or rather, insisted – on slightly more of my attention than I had given. My first sip taken mid-conversation resulted in my having two conversations – one at the table, the other in my head as my senses were distracted by the layers of flavour unfolding in my mouth. So here I was in Hong Kong and being invited to attend a tasting of the Escarpment Range from 2004 – 2011, how fabulous!

Escarpment Range

An engaging speaker, Larry took us through the range describing the vintage conditions and approach to winemaking for each of the wines. The Escarpment Range is no exception in reflecting Larry’s approach to making wine. It is a style that looks back to Burgundy, being heavily influenced by the winemaking of Domaine Dujac, whilst at the same time creating a truly unique representation of the place from which it comes.

The 2004 with its lovely tertiary notes of leather and dried fruits alongside good acidity and a lovely dose of herbal notes was one of my favourites. At the other end of the spectrum I also enjoyed the 2011, all black fruit and spice with the delicacy of fresh violets and pencil shavings on the finish. At dinner the following evening I was lucky enough to taste the 2011 Te Rehua, another of the single vineyard expressions which includes the aforementioned Kupe and the Pahi and Kiwa labels. As with the Kupe this was a standout and it generated much discussion at our dinner table, mostly around how to get one’s hands on more of it!

Escarpment as with Bishops Head also produces a range of white wines, which I must admit I didn’t know too much about. Having tasted through the Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling (both dry and late harvest) I would recommend seeking them out. The Chardonnay in particular was a delicately crafted, refreshing expression and I am looking forward to enjoying a bottle or two more at some point in my future.

New Zealand’s reputation as only a Sauvignon Blanc producer has been expanded to include other varieties, most notably Pinot Noir, and although not as large as some of the other Pinot Noir producing regions I would encourage you to seek out wines from Waipara and Martinborough. And while you are at it, you might as well grab a couple of bottles of their outstanding white wines too!

Happy Drinking!

Related Happy Wine Woman Articles

Waitaki, North Otago, Pinot Noir – John Forrest Collection

Central Otago, Pinot Noir – Coal PitMt. DifficultyTwo Paddocks


Bishops Head

Escarpment Vineyards

Johnson, H. & Robinson, J. (2007). The World Atlas of Wine. Great Britain: Mitchell Beazley

New Zealand Wine

Robinson, J. Purple Pages

1.2. New Zealand Wine: Canterbury/Waipara Valley and Wairarapa

Arfion: Our (fresh, textured and delicious) Wine

Ar Fion label

Wines Tasted

  1. Arfion, Yarra Valley, Field Blend, 2012 and 2013
  2. Arfion, Yarra Valley, Pinot Rosé, 2013
  3. Smokestack Lightning, Yarra Valley, Pinot Grigio, 2013

Recently I gave a tasting of wines from small producers in the Yarra Valley for the Hong Kong Wine Society. This is the stuff that get’s me excited – anyone who has experienced the thrill you get when you think you are the first to find a great bargain or something really unique, knows what I’m talking about. Clearly I am not the first to discover these producers – but hey, that’s not the point – I still get a thrill from sharing these wines and seeing how people react to them.

In chatting with the guys about what it is that drives them to produce their style of wine, it becomes clear that they are careful to craft something that speaks about where the wine comes from and to their story as a winemaker.

Having previously worked as a musician this makes sense to me. One of the first things I did for my Master of Music was to trace my musical heritage through my previous teachers. By doing this I could see what a rich history of experience I had to draw on and how that had shaped my voice as a musician.

The same is true of the winemakers I met, whether it be travelling the world to learn from others in order to understand your story, or living almost a double existence which many winemakers do – working for a large winery while at the same time experimenting with side projects that allow for a different expression, or working for the big guns to start with before going out on your own to find your own voice.

Dave Mackintosh is one such winemaker that I met while sourcing wines for the tasting. Coming from a wide range of experiences Dave now makes wine under a couple of different labels; one with Steve Flamsteed for Salo and another under his own label Arfion of which Smokestack Lightning is also part of the portfolio. The word Arfion means Our Wine in Scottish Gaelic and is not only an acknowledgement of Dave’s heritage but also a statement of pride in the fact that this wine is made with the independence of a small family run company – that draws on a rich history of experience to produce something that is very unique indeed.

Under the Arfion label there are five wines including a Field Blend and a Pinot Rosé. The Field Blend consists of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc – “what?” I hear you say. Stay with me on this because the result is a dangerously drinkable white blend that leaves you emptying the bottle on a hot summer’s day with friends faster than you care to admit!

Ar Fion Front Field Blend 2013Ar Fion Front Rose 2014

Grown in the Prices Ridge Vineyard in the Gladysdale region of the Yarra Valley these grapes eke out an existence in this rather cold and unforgiving site. Each vintage is treated differently according to the vintage conditions – the grapes may be pressed separately but blended as juice before fermentation as for the 2013 or in the case of the 2012 each grape variety was fermented separately before the blend was created, after which 5 months of maturation takes place before being lightly fined and filtered for bottling.

Arfion_FieldBlend_2013 bottle shot

The 2012 Field Blend consisted of 50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Gris and 15% Sauvignon Blanc while the 2013 switched it up with Pinot Gris leading the blend at 40% and the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc each at 30%. The determining factor for the blend is to express the soil in which the grapes were grown rather than the individual characteristics of each grape variety.

Mouth watering aromatics of green fruit, white flowers and stone fruit lead you on to a voluptuous palate of stone fruit and pear flavours together with the zingy acidity of fresh oranges and limes. The freshness of this wine combined with the fullness on the palate is what makes it work; or rather what makes me refill my glass!

yarra valley winery map

Source: Wine Yarra Valley Australia

The rosé is made using Pinot Noir grapes sourced from vineyards in the Yarra Valley – 2014 is sourced from a vineyard in Dixons Creek at the northern side of the valley as well as from a site in Gladysdale. After being picked by hand, a portion of the grapes undergo carbonic maceration for 7 – 12 days depending on the vintage, before being pressed directly to old French barriques. Carbonic maceration is a technique perhaps most famously associated with the Beaujolais region in France. In general terms the grapes are picked in whole bunches and carefully loaded into an anaerobic tank, usually using carbon dioxide to exclude oxygen. The lack of oxygen facilitates a process occurring within the cells of the grapes, which produces a small amount of alcohol along with certain flavour and aroma compounds. This gives the wine a fresh and fruity flavour and winemakers will use this technique and many variations on it to achieve the required style. In this particular instance for the rosé, a small portion of grapes undergo carbonic maceration whilst the remaining grapes are pressed directly to barrel.

All barrels are lees stirred over a period of 5 months before being bottled and this gives the wines a lovely texture or as the recently updated website says “fresh, textured and delicious” and I can’t argue with that! Both the 2012 and the 2013 rosés were dry and savoury in style, the red fruit of the Pinot Noir is most definitely there with strawberry and cherry notes but there are some lovely umami notes too, and with the texture imparted from lees stirring this makes for a great dinner wine on a warm summer evening. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the 2014 when I am back in the Yarra later this year!

ArFion_2013_PinotRose Bottle shot

Before finishing I must mention the Pinot Grigio from the Smokestack Lightning portfolio – made in minuscule quantities it is most definitely worth getting your hands on. A mesmerising orange colour this wine is a complete delight – it is unexpected, thought provoking and utterly delicious. The gloves are off and this is a no holds barred approach – whole bunch carbonic ferment where the grapes at the bottom of the tank were stomped to release their juice before having bunches piled on top, 12 days on skins then pressed to old barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation before 6 months of ageing and then into bottle with no additives, just a small amount of sulphur.

Smokestack Lightning 2013 bottle shot

The resultant wine has the gentlest waft of spun sugar, ripe strawberries and the full tangy zing of tangerine on the back palate, a hint of purple flowers and a lovely touch of sour cherries on the finish. I managed to snafu the last two bottles of the 2013 for the HKWS tasting and I can honestly say they went down a treat – be sure you get your hands on the 2014 and don’t miss out!

Happy Drinking!

Related Happy Wine Woman Posts

Yarra Valley – Jamsheed Wines

Yarra Valley – Payten & Jones


Arfion: Wines from the Yarra Valley

Robinson, J., ed. (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine. Great Britain: Oxford University Press




Meerlust Wine Estate: the pleasure of drinking


Source: Meerlust Wine Estate

Wine Tasted

  1. Meerlust Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, Rubicon, 2008

Year One of the WSET Diploma is done and dusted and in keeping with the metaphor I have dusted off my keyboard and returned to something that gives me great pleasure in addition to drinking wine – writing, or rather, rambling about it!

At a tasting of South African wines with my tasting group I came across a wine I wanted to know more about – the Rubicon 2008 from Meerlust Wine Estate.

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Greco di Tufo; still or sparkling? Or … what exactly is that?

Wines Tasted

  1. Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania, Italy Greco di Tufo sparkling, NV
  2. Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania, Italy, Greco di Tufo, 2012

The weather in Hong Kong has been pretty gloomy of late so to cheer myself up I’ve been thinking of all those chilled wines I intend to enjoy as I attempt to manage the inevitable heat and humidity that is coming…

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Gin Glorious Gin!


Four Pillars

Gins Tasted

  1. Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Yarra Valley, Australia
  2. G’Vine Floraison, Cognac, France
  3. G’Vine Nouaison, Cognac, France

A recent review of our cellar revealed that the winery Giant Steps (GS) has a lot to answer for when it comes to my drinking choices. Giant Steps and Innocent Bystander both hold a long standing spot in our cellar but that has now expanded to include wines made independently by former and current GS winemakers, such as Salo Wines (winemakers Steve Flamsteed and Dave Mackintosh, current and former winemakers for GS), Ar Fion (Dave Mackintosh), Dirty Three Wines (Cameron Mackenzie former winemaker with GS) and now, if that wasn’t enough, Four Pillars Gin, headed up by Cameron Mackenzie, seems to have snuck its way into our house. Mr. Sexton, we really need to talk if my liver is to survive!!

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48 hours in Épernay: Day 2 Champagne Gosset

Champagne Gosset logo

Champagnes Tasted

  1. Gosset, Grand Blanc de Blancs, NV
  2. Gosset, Grand Rosé
  3. Gosset, Grand Reserve
  4. Gosset, Celebris 2002, Extra Brut

The final appointment for the 48 hours I spent in Épernay was to Champagne Gosset in rue Godart Roger with the absolutely lovely Nathalie Dufour, Export Sales Administrator. Despite Nathalie’s best efforts and although the sun was shining I couldn’t bring myself to part with my jacket as we set off for a tour around the facilities – it was a true winter’s day!

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