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French presidential wines go in 'austerity' auction

© afp

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-05-30

In a move fitting with French President François Hollande’s “Mr Normal” image, the country’s presidential palace is auctioning off 10 percent of its wine collection with a view to investing in “more modest” wines from less well-known vineyards.

Hundreds of bottles of fine French wines from the Presidential Elysée Palace’s collection go to auction Thursday in a bid to raise cash to maintain a “more modest” collection.

Some 1,200 bottles – about 10 percent of the overall collection – go under the hammer at the Drouot auction house in Paris in a sale that organisers hope will raise more than 250,000 euros.

Prices range from up to 2,500 euros for a bottle of 1990 Château Petrus, all the way down to 15 euros for lesser vintages.

The oldest bottle on sale, a 1936 Château Latour from one of Bordeaux’s most famous vineyards, is expected to sell for around 500 euros.

Austerity plonk

“Symbolically this is a very big collection,” the auction’s wine expert Ambroise de Montigny told FRANCE 24. “Collectors, both private individuals and restaurants, will value the fact that it comes from a trusted source and will be labelled as having been in the presidential collection.”

There is also a political dimension, and the sale fits with Hollande's image as “Mr Normal” - a regular guy with regular tastes, compared to some predecessors such as the attention-grabbing (and teetotaling) former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Montigny explained that the sale was designed to make the presidential collection reflect “more modest wines from smaller and less well-known vineyards” and to make the Elysée cellar “self-financing” into the future.

“Hollande, unlike Sarkozy, is a wine drinker and takes a personal interest in the presidential cellar,” Montigny said, adding that the French leader’s German counterpart Chancellor Angela Merkel was also a wine lover.

“But in austere [financial] times it would be unthinkable for two heads of state to sit down to a bottle of Petrus together,” he said.

A ‘publicity stunt’?

Auction organisers said that many sommeliers (resident wine experts) at some of France’s best-known restaurants were taking a keen interest in the two-day sale.

Not so the Michelin-starred Tour d’Argent restaurant in Paris, whose English-born sommelier David Ridgway was underwhelmed with the choices on offer.

“This is a largely symbolic affair and more of a publicity stunt than a really important wine sale,” he told FRANCE 24. “There isn’t anything really exceptional up for sale here – the media value is much greater than the actual value of the wines.”

“For the buyers, there is a certain cachet in having wine of known provenance, but for the presidential palace, the message is that even though Hollande is a wine-lover, unlike Sarkozy, the sale showcases just how wonderfully moderate he is.”



Date created : 2013-05-30


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