Austerity auction: Elysee Palace's wine cellar put on the block

French President Francois Holland is selling vintage bottles of wine usually reserved for high-ranked guests in an unprecedented auction of the Elysee Palace cellar. The belt-tightening measure comes amid continuing austerity in Europe.

About 1,200 vintage bottles, which make up a tenth of the
Elysee’s wine collection, are to be sold at Drouot house in Paris
in a two-day auction of France’s national heritage starting on
Thursday.

 

The money raised from the liquid jewels of the presidential
palace’s cellars are to be used to replenish the collection with
younger, more modest wines to make sure the president has enough
wine to entertain his guests – kings, queens and other heads of
state – without drawing too heavily on public resources. The
excess money will go to the country’s budget.

Wine lovers from all over the world have already contacted the
Drouot auction house ahead of the first sale of the Elysee Palace
wine cellar, said the auctioneers.

This is exceptional because this is the first time that the
Elysee put its bottles on sale,
” said auctioneer Ghislaine
Kapandji of the Kapandji Morhange house.

 

All of the bottles are labeled with the mark of the Elysee Palace
and the date of the auction, which adds to their value.

 

I think that’s a bonus for buyers, because that’s a way for
them to be sure that these bottles have always been stocked in
the cellar of the Elysee
,” Kapanji added, noting that it
guarantees “good preservation conditions.”

 

The bottles come from vineyards mostly in Burgundy and Bordeaux —
the most famous wine regions in France, but there are also
offerings from Alsace, the Loire department and the Rhone valley.

French President Francois Hollande (AFP Photo / Pool)

The estimated price for a bottle ranges from 20 euro to 2,500
($25 to $3,235), including the oldest bottle of Chateau
Latour dating back to 1936 and coming from one of the most famous
estates of the Bordeaux region, a 1990 Petrus and a batch of 1985
Romanee wines.

Bottles of cognac and champagne with the inscription
presidency of the French Republic” should also attract
wine lovers.

A part of the wine collection was available in too small
quantities to be served in grand dinners organized at the Elysee,
so Virginie Routis, head sommelier at the Elysee, said that they
are ready to be drunk immediately.

The auction is expected to collect more than 250,000 euro
($325,000), according to a statement from the auction house.

However, some experts say that the auction has more of a
political meaning, amid the recession and the growing
unpopularity of the socialist president.

This is a largely symbolic affair and more of a publicity
stunt than a really important wine sale,
” said David Ridgway,
sommelier of the Michelin-starred Tour d’Argent restaurant in
Paris, FRANCE 24 reports. “There isn’t anything really
exceptional up for sale here — the media value is much greater
than the actual value of the wines.”

The French president’s office is not the first to auction wines
to raise funds. In March, the British government sold around 50
bottles from its cellar with Christie’s, collecting around
$114,000.

The Elysee Palace wine cellar was established in 1947, under the
chairmanship of president Vincent Auriol, and refurbished in 1995
to allow optimal wine storage.

This article originally appeared on: RT