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French Wine Palace Bargain Bin


The French Wine Palace Bargain Bin earlier this week, went down at the official residence of  President “I’m a happy Penguin” Francois Hollande. That monumental (not to mention Historical slice of spendy real estate known as the Elyseé Palace.

The bargains were some of the more “celebrated” vintages from the Palace’s esteemed cellar. (And how could it not be?) The official reason – to give up n’ comin’ French winos a shot at impressing the assorted corporate criminals and political movers n’ shakers who pass Monsieur Hollande’s table. However, the fact that this auction raised double the projected take, does raise more than eyebrows.

Yet, who are we, mere mortals content with a 3 litre Languedoc bag n’ box Merlot to question, let alone understand the motives of our elected representatives, who, like that invisible super being “work in mysterious ways their wonders to perform.”

Sadly DA BG was not able to attend. (cornering the market  for 2011 Touraine – at my supermarket. But happily, Margaret Kemp , celebrated scribbler from Spears  journal was.

Here’s her lowdown:

It was always unlikely that François Hollande, the French socialist president, would sell the vintage contents of the Élysée Palace’s wine cellars for plonk prices. A two-day auction at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, through Paris auction house Kapandji Morhange, had estimates wine merchants and winemakers can only dream about, but fetched much punchier sums.

Take the 1990 Petrus, glory of the collection: reserve €2,200; actual price €5,800, going, going, gone to the cellars of La Pergola, Rome. Another Petrus on its way to China as you read this.

Monsieur Hollande plans to replace them with more modest wines from rising stars, offering guests of the President of the Republic an opportunity to enjoy the diversity of France’s winegrowing regions (read: it is no longer PC to serve expensive wines, even at the Élysée. How depressing).

The president has taken the move to sell off some of his bibulous patrimony as a symbol that he too is undergoing austere times, just as France, with its high deficit and debt and double-dip recession and 23rd straight month of rising unemployment. It is not entirely clear whether even a full clear-out of the cellars will help reduce France’s 4.8 per cent budget deficit or £1.5 trillion debt (90 per cent of 2012 GDP).

Under the hammer

Among prized Élysée bottles under the (metaphorical) hammer of glam auctioneer Ghislaine Kapandji were the above-mentioned Petrus vintages, as well as Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Loire, Côtes du Rhone, Alsace, Sud-Ouest, Champagnes and cognacs. I was tempted to bid for six bottles of ‘Clos de Tart’ L Latour Grand Cru 1982, but am pipped as they go for €1,600 in spite of their ‘slightly damaged label’. Reserve price? €600.

The Élysée Palace wine cellar is the holy of holies protected with bulletproof doors. Virginie Routis, the Élysée’s chef-sommelier since 2007, selected the bottles for auction. ‘These were wines no longer present in large enough numbers to serve at receptions and dinners,’ explained Ms Routis, who told Le Monde newspaper, ‘I choose the wines to match the menu, but also in terms of protocol.’ (Austerity perhaps tactfully – or blithely – went unmentioned.)

Kapandji Morange say that some auction proceeds will be invested in younger, more modest wines underlining the fact that, during his election campaign Monsieur Hollande dubbed himself ‘Monsieur Normal’ who despised the excesses of his predecessors.

All the presidents’ wines

‘It’s lamentable: 1,200 bottles have been auctioned off to the highest bidder, that’s one tenth of the French presidential cellar – Petrus 1990, but also smaller labels,’ complains Véronique Andre, Figaro journalist and author. In her recent book Cuisine de L’Élysée, written with Bernard Vaussion, the Élyseé’s head chef, Mme André spent quality time in the closely guarded cellars.

‘Charles de Gaulle loved champagne, particularly Laurent-Perrier “Grand Siècle”, named in his honour,’ writes Mme Andre. ‘President Pompidou appreciated the grands crus such as Château Mouton Rothschild and certain Cahors wines. François Mitterand was keen on Burgundies, Chablis, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Château Haut-Marbuzet, Saint-Estèphe.

‘Jacques Chirac enjoyed the aromas of le Corton-Charlemagne, and also loved beer! Nicolas Sarkozy was not keen on wine, never refused an old eau-de-vie de Calvados and always charged a glass to his guests with a sip of champagne which he appeared to enjoy,’ adds Mme Andre. And President Hollande? ‘Any red, white or champagne,’ she sniffs.

‘All these wines at auction were served at the table of the Presidents of the Republic, some accompanied by great moments of history as chronicled in my book. The cellars were created in 1947, under the presidency of Vincent Auriol and refurbished in 1995 to improve the conservation of wines and have evolved over the decades, often with gifts from winemakers and champagne houses.’

Read more HERE.


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28 Responses to “French Wine Palace Bargain Bin”

  1. ramon varna says:

    great post ! – but for france….not good image wise when the main man decides to sell his pricey drinks in a country with a…shall we say..less than perfect economy?

  2. yann levesque says:

    you are very right ramon….we are having now 10% chommage..(people not working)…which mean that one quarter of french people are without work.

  3. homer perkins says:

    sound like france is heading for some belt tightening! like the rest of the overdevloped world

  4. avery clark says:

    hey homer…at least people in the “overdeveloped world” can spell.

  5. morgan anson says:

    frankly, a sign of the times. worldwide, not just in france.

  6. sal zentz says:

    kind of a sad story…..when the predient of a nation famous for wine decides to sell off his best bottles!

  7. merry andrews says:

    maybe i’m missing a joke here….actually i’m sure i am..that’s why i’m writing!…..so…why do you call hollande “the happy penguin?”

  8. veronique moreau says:

    bonjour merry….you are right….it is a joke….;but unless you are living here in france and hear the news each day….of course you would not know……it is because the wife of the ex-president(sarkozy) carli bruni – who is also a singer….made a song refferring to hollande as a “penguin.”…..hollande’s reaction was:
    “well, at least the penguin is a happy animal.”

  9. larry croman says:

    veronique…a big merci beaucoup for explaing the joke….funny!

  10. paul castman says:

    when you check out what wines the former presidents enjoyed..it seems like mitterand was up for them all. way to go!

  11. jack robbins says:

    hey paul..i see what you mean…

  12. kerri marshall says:

    hey paul and jack….who wouldn’t be up for all the good stuff?
    especially if it was free??? (duh!)

  13. joe capp says:

    i’m thinkin’ it’s nuts that anybody would pay that kind of money for wine….but hey…what do I know?

  14. morey walters says:

    i’m with you joe!….and you forgot to mention paintings….
    same deal there….

  15. randy ooney says:

    i hear ya morey……van gogh and the sunflowers…..how much did some nut pay for that?

  16. carla bronson says:

    will he be selling the furniture next?

  17. mary evers says:

    hey carla…if he does…let me know….i mean who wouldn’t like a bargain on a louis 14 chair?

  18. alison canter says:

    mary……can’t tell you how many sleepless nights i’ve had dreamabout a louis 14 chair. (lol!)

  19. agnes headmond says:

    i loved that phrase “quality time in the elysees cellars”…how could it not be???

  20. harvey adams says:

    with ya there agnes…hey, i’d settle fro some “carppy time” in those cellars any day!

  21. bart stevens says:

    sooo..if this cellar is protected by bulletproof doors…why?
    did somebody previously try to shoot their way in?

  22. ian bennet says:

    excellent question bart! – logic would seem to say “yes” – but we all know that often logic is not involved in seemingly logically decisions – n’est ce pas, ‘as DA BG would say!)

  23. candace watkins says:

    bart and ian…….i think you’ve really hit on something there!
    anyone else have any ideas?

  24. timothy alstairs-benn says:

    candace..i’m sure many people have “ideas” on this subject….
    but to answer this question…we need FACTS.

  25. rodney bastion says:

    this is right in character for a president (if i understand correctly) who doesn’t live in the palace to prov, one supposes he’s “a man of the people.”

  26. geri gonzalez says:

    rodney…..another possibility might be that wherever he’s living now is more comfortable for him personally than the palace…

  27. al sinton says:

    you’ve got a point there geri….and ditto rodney…yes..it’s “point-a-thon!” (lol)

  28. reannna frobisher says:

    al…..from your comment….i think you’re drastically overpaying whoever writes your stand-up(sit-down?)material. (ever considered outsourcing overseas?)

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