Another Name for Liquidity

Every year on the third sunday of November, you'll find Daniel Cathiard at a charity auction in France's Burgundy region, looking for clues to his own prosperity. In a ritual dating back to 1859, merchants gather in a covered market near the vineyards of Hospices de Beaune to bid by candlelight for rights to Burgundy's fine wines.

Cathiard, who owns Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Graves, uses the Hospice de Beaune prices to estimate demand for wine in general, and ultimately the price he'll set for his own vintage the following March. "There isn't really any other...

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