Temple of Parisian dining auctions off rare wines

Mon Dec 7, 2009 4:41pm EST
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By Estelle Shirbon and Laure Bretton

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - The illustrious Paris restaurant La Tour d'Argent put up for sale on Monday 18,000 bottles from its vast cellars, offering wine lovers a chance to acquire treasures from one of the world's finest collections.

It is the first time in the restaurant's 427-year history that it has parted with some of the wines, champagnes and spirits carefully selected by generations of sommeliers to please the palates of guests from monarchs to movie stars.

"These are like children to me, I'm both happy and sad to see them go," said David Ridgway, head sommelier at La Tour d'Argent for 28 years, speaking in the packed auction hall.

Among the star attractions was a bottle of "Clos du Griffier" cognac dated 1788, starting at 2,500 euros. Bids soared and in less than two minutes, it was sold for 25,000 euros ($37,200). The proceeds will go to charity.

The buyer was Raphael Zier, a 38-year-old Frenchman who described himself as an Internet entrepreneur in London. He told reporters it was a good way to make a donation and he intended to drink the cognac with some friends.

The rest of the sale will raise funds for La Tour d'Argent to undertake renovation projects and acquire new wines.

The restaurant by the River Seine, where diners enjoy a dazzling view of Notre Dame cathedral, was hoping to raise at least 1 million euros from the two-day auction, though by the end of the first day it looked set to do much better than that.

A TASTE OF HISTORY   Continued...

<p>View of a 1811 Vin de la Comete (comet's wine) bottle displayed at the Tour d'Argent restaurant in Paris October 20, 2009. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>