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It’s time to raise a glass for a good cause, writes Guy Chatfield

I READ a fantastic article recently describing the situation where, due to a lack of central government funding, the Mayor of Dijon in Burgundy sold off about 3500 bottles of the town’s cellar to fund a social housing project.
The town identified the bottles of significant financial value and, through auction, sold them off to locals, wine merchants, Parisian restaurateurs and foreign buyers.
In these cash-strapped times, the practical use of wine to raise money for charity in this story really touched me, although this is nothing new in Burgundy.
Every year, on the third Sunday in November, the great and the good from Burgundy and around the wine world gather in the Hotel-Dieu de Beaune, the beautiful alms house built by the chancellor of Burgundy in 1443, to celebrate ‘Les Trois Glorieuses’ – three days of partying, celebrating the wonderful food and wine of the area.
The showpiece event of the festival is a charity auction held by the Domaine des Hospices de Beaune – a not-for-profit group which owns about 61 hectares of vineyards donated by the producers, which auctions the wine made from these plots of land.
What is cool about this, though, is that many of these vineyards are the real-deal – classified Grand and Premier Cru.
As you’d imagine, the wines can be subject to a bidding war and often the barrels go for above the market price, but, interestingly, the wine trade still sees the prices reached on the day as a strong indicator for the financial health of the wine.
Charity, as they say, begins at home and we have our own way of raising cash for the needy through Wine Relief.
The brainchild of Jancis Robinson MW, it has, over the last fourteen years, raised over £4 million as part of the national Comic Relief/Red Nose Day events, principally through the donation of 10% of revenue from specific wines by some high street retailers.
Go on, raise a glass for a good cause!

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