Geneva gold vault now a safe home for vintage wine

Tue Mar 2, 2010 8:22am EST
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By Barbara Prevel

GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - Security cameras, codes, a double key system, and a two-tonne vault may seem a bit much for a few bottles of wine, but the owners of the fine vintages kept by Au Bonheur du Vin in the heart of Geneva sleep easy.

Situated right beneath a private bank in Geneva and dedicated to people who love their wines, the vault which used to store gold for a Swiss bank is now one of the safest commercial wine cellars in Switzerland.

Built in 1988 as a nuclear shelter for the bank staff, with a safe and one meter-thick walls, the bank and its basement are also surrounded with a fence on pillars in case of earthquake.

Open since 2008, Au Bonheur du Vin currently houses 37,000 bottles for 137 clients and has room for 100,000 bottles in total.

Le Caviste" and manager Filip Opdebeeck has a passion for wine, and looks after such rare vintages as Chateau d'Yquem 1899. His oldest bottle is a Madeira dated to 1850.

"There is a relationship of trust between the owners and myself," Opdebeeck told Reuters.

Open to anyone at a cost of about 0.25 Swiss francs ($0.23) per bottle per month, the cellar has no temperature variations, smells, light or vibrations and keeps its humidity constant.

Confidentiality rules are strictly respected as only one client can enter the safe at a time. There are no names on boxes and only the client's individual code appears on each box.   Continued...

<p>Bottles of red wine are seen at a wine-cellar in the village of Brestovitsa, about 150km (93miles) east of the capital Sofia, December 8, 2009. REUTERS/Oleg Popov</p>