Wines, spirits and glamor at rare Paris auction

Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:14pm EDT
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By Estelle Shirbon

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Hidden from Hitler's henchmen during the Nazi occupation of Paris, treasures from one of the world's largest and finest wine cellars are up for grabs in an unprecedented auction on December 7-8.

The illustrious restaurant La Tour d'Argent, a fixture on the Paris dining circuit since it was founded in 1582, will sell 18,000 bottles of wines and spirits from its vast cellars.

It is a first for the venerable institution, which still attracts celebrities from monarchs to movie stars to its sixth-floor dining room with a spectacular view of Notre Dame.

The cellars, a maze of dark, narrow alleys below the restaurant, are jammed from floor to ceiling with about 450,000 dusty bottles of red and white wines, champagnes and spirits.

"To wine lovers, these cellars are like Mecca, like a cathedral. It's the holy of holies," said Alexis Velliet, expert at the Piasa auction house that will be conducting the sale.

La Tour d'Argent hopes to raise at least 1 million euros ($1.5 million) from the sale. But some of the bottles on offer are so rare that no market price is available. Bids could soar.

The oldest items on sale will be three bottles of "Clos du Griffier" cognac dated 1788. The starting price is 2,500 euros per bottle. There is also a wide range of younger wines, some starting as low as 10 euros. (

David Ridgway, head sommelier at La Tour d'Argent for 28 years, would not be drawn into giving any top tips for buyers.   Continued...