Elysee Palace to flog $325,000 of vintage wine

Gutting for the French president, but brilliant for wine lovers with large wallets. The palace is auctioning off 1,200 bottles from its cellar to raise money in the spirit of austerity.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

It is famously one of the finest cellars in the world, with ancient vintages stacked high ready to serve to French presidents and the monarchs, heads of state and other dignitaries at banquets. But in tough economic times, president François Hollande feels, even the Elysee Palace needs to pull its weight.

About 10% of the palace’s entire collection will be sold at Drouot auction house in Paris on Thursday and Friday this week, with auctioneers expecting around $3,235 for the most expense wine (a 1990 Petrus), down to about $20 for some of the cheaper plonk – probably normally reserved from British prime ministers.

Ghislaine Kapandji, the lead auctioneer, says: ‘This is exceptional because this is the first time that the Elysee put its bottles on sale.’ Bottles have also had a palace label and the date of the auction stuck on, and Kapandji adds: ‘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 Elysee. For many people, that is also the purchase of a souvenir, as a symbol.’

Apparently the auction house has had a massive response from wine lovers in Europe, the US, China and Russia, as well as a ton of Parisian restaurants looking to get some exclusive stock in their own cellars. Think of the mark-up on Elysee Palace wine in a fancy restaurant…

For anyone who thinks it’s a shame that the palace should be flogging such a sizeable portion of its collection for a one-off fundraiser, it is worth noting that a lot of the stuff earmarked for sale is ready to be drunk straightaway. The Palace’s head sommelier says these wines are stocked in quantities too small to keep laid up for big state dinners and such.

The proceeds will be used to buy some younger vintages, and the idea is the make sure the president has enough wine stashed away to entertain his guests without having to use public money. So if you find yourself at dinner with Hollande, be prepared for cheap stuff with a bitter aftertaste – a 2012 shiraz is about the best you’ll get, by the sound of it…

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