French president's ready-to-drink wine cellar up for auction

Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:20pm EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - It's the most refined and thirst-quenching of diplomatic devices that has helped cement ties between France and its international allies.

But now, the all-French wine cellar of the Elysee presidential palace, which has helped fortify foreign kings, queens and heads of state throughout the decades, is being pared back, with 1,200 bottles to be auctioned to the highest bidders.

Many of the bottles to be offered at the prestigious Drouot auction house in Paris on May 30 and 31 are at the pinnacle of their shelf life and ready to be drunk immediately.

"These are wines that have figured at the presidential table for dinners or receptions," a Drouot spokesperson told Reuters. "Some of them have participated in events linked to the history of the Fifth Republic."

The auction, in which wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy will dominate, is expected to fetch around 250,000 euros ($327,500), some of which will go back into state coffers, according to President Francois Hollande's entourage.

It's the latest episode of belt-tightening as France struggles to lower its soaring deficit to appease euro-zone partners and find 60 billion euros in public savings over five years.

Some auction proceeds will be invested in younger, more modest wines that are still worthy of a president's table, especially one who during his election campaign dubbed himself a "Mr. Normal" who eschewed the excesses of his predecessors.

Organizers say prices may reach as high as 2,200 euros for a 1990 Petrus to as low as 15 euros for a more modest wine.

Called the "divine juice of September" by Voltaire, wine has been produced in France from pre-Roman times, and today it is an integral part of the national heritage.   Continued...

French President Francois Hollande walks back to the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer