France to Auction Wines From Presidential Cellar

1,200 of the Élysée Palace's finest vintages will be up for bidding, and some of the money will reportedly be funneled into the cash-strapped country's budget.

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Charles Platiau / REUTERS

Francois Hollande holds a glass of wine at the 49th Paris International Farm Show at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris February 28, 2012.

Not even the French President’s wine cellar is immune to the financial austerity measures taking effect across Europe.

The Paris auction house Drouot has announced that the Élysée Palace — the presidential palace — is set to put 1,200 of its finest bottles up for auction at the end of the month, the New York Times and Reuters report. The money raised—expected to be around 250,000 euros ($327,500)—will reportedly be used to both buy cheaper wines and fund the cash-strapped country’s budget.

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The bottles in upcoming sale make up about 10% of the 12,000 in the Élysée Palace’s famous cellar, which provides wines for state functions. Drouot says some of the wines, mostly from Bordeaux and Burgundy, have “accompanied great moments of the Fifth Republic,” as Radio France Internationale reports, and the cellar’s wines have been served to numerous foreign guests. While the Financial Times says one of the bottles up for sale, a 1990 Petrus Bordeaux, is worth about 2,200 euros ($2,900)—the auction house says most bottles should be available for less than 100 euros ($132).

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Since he took office in 2012, France’s Socialist President François Hollande has tried to portray himself as “Mr Normal,” a man who prefers people to money and rejects the excesses associated with his predecessors in the post. So the wine auction may be a symbolic gesture to show empathy with a nation feeling the pinch of austerity.

The plan also comes after the city of Dijon auctioned 3,500 bottles in January, as socialist Mayor François Rebsamen sold half of the city’s official cellar, raising 150,000 euros ($198,000) to help fund the city’s struggling social services. Across the Channel, the British government also auctioned off vintage French wine from its cellar last month as part of an austerity drive, according to Reuters.

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