Britain to Sell off $7,500-a-Bottle Wines to Fund Government Cellars

Wine and dine like a dignitary — if you can afford it.

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In an effort to curb extravagant spending Britain is dipping into its extensive cellars to sell off a few cases of rare and well-aged wines priced at an average of $7,500 per bottle, Reuters reports.

The move, touted as a nod to finance minister George Osborne’s commitment to austerity, is part of a bid to make the Government Hospitality Cellar — a government-owned wine collection kept in Lancaster House near Buckingham Palace — financially self-sustaining. Housing more that 38,000 bottles of wine and spirits, the wine cellar was begun in 1922 to help entertain foreign dignitaries. The wines are selected on the recommendation of a five-person committee that conducts blind tastings. The collection is worth an estimated $4.47 million, according to a report on the cellar released last month.

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Now, in the first ever public auction of the government’s stash (bottles have been sold privately in the past), you can drink like a head of state — but only if you’re willing to shell out for it. The 54 bottles of Bordeaux that will be auctioned off in six lots at Christie’s in London on Mar. 21 include some of the wine world’s most coveted names, such as Lafite, Chateau Latour and Petrus, in vintages from 1961 to 1968.

If successful, the auction could pave the way for more sales in the future, but Foreign Office spokeswoman Susan Crown told Bloomberg that the government will keep enough to continue serving top-of-the-line wines at Lancaster House functions. “When President Obama comes to dinner, you can’t serve him Lambrini,” she said.

The decision comes following Moody’s downgrade of Britain’s sovereign ratings from Aaa to Aa1 due to “weak prospects for British economic growth,” Bloomberg points out. But it’s also a great time to sell: demand for expensive vintages has exploded in recent years, particularly in China, where wine enthusiasts are willing to pay top dollar for quality vintages, according to a study released by the wine trade conference group Vinexpo in January, Reuters reports.

“This is a part of the process for making the cellar self-funding for the lifetime of the current parliament,” said a statement from Mark Simmonds, a junior minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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