With the dollar declining in value, the Burgundy merchants profess that there is little that they can do about price anyway. "We will have to have our friends from abroad swallow more increases in the cost," said Burgundy merchant and producer Louis Latour in mid-November, just before the annual charity auction of wine for the medieval hospital known as the Hospices de Beaune here in the heart of Burgundy.
Most Americans who drink Burgundy wine know almost nothing about the history of old Burgundy. But its brief flash of glory has a romantic appeal to Europeans. A young German woman, who went to Dijon to study at its university three years ago, explained recently why she decided to stay and work for the Burgundy office of tourism. "Every time you take a step," she said, "you touch history."
Burgundy is the only French wine that can compete with Bordeaux in quality, but it has a disadvantage. Unlike Bordeaux, with its small number of large estates, Burgundy has a proliferation of small vineyards. Some are very well known and therefore command very high prices. But customers are often faced with a confusing myriad of lesser-known Burgundy labels in shops, some of it on wine of uncertain quality.