French president auctions off wines in austerity fire sale
The French presidency will on Thursday and Friday put up for auction 1,200 bottles of wines in an unprecedented belt-tightening measure at a time of recession.
The sale, to be conducted by the Drouot auction house, is a watershed with the Elysee putting up some of the contents of its all-French cellar for auction for the first time.
The expected price of the wines range from 20 euros to 2,500 euros ($25 to $3,235) per bottle and include top-end offerings such as a Chateau Latour dating back to 1936, a 1990 Petrus and a slew of 1985 Romanee wines.
The cellar at the Elysee was established in 1947 during the presidency of Vincent Auriol and now holds 12,000 bottles. Burgundy and Bordeaux wines will dominate in the auction but there are also offerings from Alsace, the Loire and the Rhone valley.
The bottles may well fetch prices far beyond their estimate due to their cachet.
“All these wines were meant to be served at the table of the president of the Republic and for some to accompany defining moments of the Fifth Republic,” a Drouot statement said.
Many of the wines are meant to be drunk immediately, having reached the pinnacle of their shelf life.
Some auction proceeds will be invested in younger, more modest wines that are still worthy of a president’s table while the profits will be returned to state coffers, Drouot said.
Socialist President Francois Hollande, who portrayed himself as a “Mr Normal” during his election campaign, has adopted a less flamboyant style than his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who was derided by critics for being too “bling-bling”.
The contents will each bear a round label certifying they came from the Elysee palace and with the date of the sale.
“It is an auction that is charged with symbolism and I am keen to see the results,” auctioneer Ghislaine Kapandji said.
The auction has raised tremendous interest domestically and abroad, especially in China, the United States, Russia and Japan, and among leading hotels.
Demand for wine from France, the world’s leading wine producer by value, is high especially from well-heeled buyers in China and the United States. China is the world’s biggest importer of Bordeaux wines.