EUROPE'S OLDEST, largest and most picturesque charity auction was given a huge boost last Sunday at Beaune in Burgundy by the French astronaut, Claudie AndreDeshayes. She was honorary president at the 136th annual wine sale in aid of the Hospices de Beaune.
Bidding took off like a rocket as she cajoled wine merchants and collectors from all over the world to part with their money for barrels of the 1996 Burgundy vintage, acclaimed as the best since the brilliant 1990.
More than Z2million was raised for the hospitals run by the Hotel Dieu, founded in 1443 by the Duke of Burgundy's tax collector, Nicolas Rolin. As an act of penance after a life of corruption, he built and endowed a poor peoples palace which, with its distinctively patterned tiled roof, remains one of France's most treasured ancient buildings.
An extra £40,000 was split between two outside charities nominated by Mmc Andre-Deshayes. One was for sick children and the other was the local branch of Secours Catholique, the Catholic campaign against poverty and injustice. Secours Catholique celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.