Last Monday’s post, we hiked the frozen tundra of Beaune’s vineyards, tasted pinot noir from skeleton vines, got lost, and ate its chalky soil. Today, we tumble back into Beaune to visit the Hospice de Beaune Hôtel Dieu: home of the world’s most famous wine auction.
A few plagues and marauding bands brought Beaune to a humanitarian crisis in the 1440s. Desperate to stop disease and buy a one-way-ticket to indulgence-paved heaven, Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor, and wife Guigone had a hospital and hostel built for the poor. We arrive outside, a bit underwhelmed:
It’s cool looking but Beaune’s limestone forms a cold facade. Yet the red door hints at the extravagance within:
We pick up audio guides and enter into not just any courtyard:
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More about that auction later. First: context:
Christopher Columbus wasn’t even born when this was built. The hospital still runs today, but off site in a modern facility. But here, up until the 1970s, nuns and doctors toiled over the poor and infirm, keeping the riff raff from infecting higher society.
This is the great hall where the poor rested, ate tables along the center, while enjoying mass from the convenience of their beds.
Beyond the great hall follow modest rooms where nuns slept, ate, and probably complained about either exhaustion or boredom:In excessive contrast was a later Baroque chapel added, not for the poor, but for those who ran the Hospice:
The whole place tended toward eclecticism and extravagance. We’re not going to show photos of the rectal medicine funnel. The kitchen had the most fantabulous contraption for meat turning:
And they ensured the stove had not one, but two goose-necked water spouts…practical:
Meanwhile, the onsite apothecary had wall-to-wall jars of herbs, as well as a state-of-the art distillery.
Oh, and let us not forget one of Art History’s favorite Weyden polyptych panels with Jesus riding a rainbow:
This Weyden reminded us that Burgundy certainly once looked North, especially with their kingdom including the Netherlands.
Works like this were one of many ways higher society kept donating their way to heaven. Another Christmas gift to Hotel de Deiu came in the form of vineyards. Today, the Hospice owns 150 acres of Grand and Premiere Cru vines throughout Burgundy.
After each harvest and fermentation, their wines-to-be are auction the third week of November.
The charity auction has run since 1851. Come auction day, 31 cuvées of red and 13 of white totaling 800 barrels are up for grabs. How high (or low) sales go often sets the standard expected value for the rest of Burgundy that vintage.
Sadly, we couldn’t try any. The nuns don’t have a tasting room. This is an EU Austerity Drinking Tour after all.
Next Monday’s post and 131 days of constant travel take us to a magnificent monastery outside Dijon.
You’d think there would be a Nun Sommelier at a Hospice that distinctive. Admittedly, Christ riding a rainbow is a fresh take in iconography.
I think he’d be right at home in the 60s
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