French President Hollande becomes wine seller …

Today and tomorrow (May 30 & 31) President François Hollande will step into the shoes of a sommelier.  He will be selling some wine, champagne and cognac. Mind you, it’s not your bottle of €2 plonk that he will be selling, but the choicest wine this country has ever produced. How come? Our president’s official […]

petrus wine

Today and tomorrow (May 30 & 31) President François Hollande will step into the shoes of a sommelier.  He will be selling some wine, champagne and cognac. Mind you, it’s not your bottle of €2 plonk that he will be selling, but the choicest wine this country has ever produced.

How come?

Our president’s official residence – the Élysée Palace – needs to restock its wine cellar, add some new, fresh supplies, and well, it’s going rather bad with the French economy, so to be able to do so, some of the residence’s bottles of wine, champagne and cognac have to be transformed into euros and centimes.

Paris’s Drouot auction house will therefore be auctioning off some of the presidential cellar’s stock in two auctions. The first of the auctions will be held today at 7.30 P.M.  The second tomorrow at 2 P.M.

The  presidential palace’s wine cellar contains 12,000 bottles. Of these 1,200 will go under the hammer. In the auctioneer’s 146-page catalogue for the auction of today, and the 316-page catalogue for the event tomorrow are bottles of Margaux, Latour, Mouton and Lafite-Rothschild, Yquem, Jadot, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Saint-Emilion, Petrus, Krug, and Salon and Drappier champagnes and the finest Cognac.

Least expensive of what will be auctioned off are some bottles of Riesling for which the bidding will start at €30 ($39 / £26) for two bottles. Most expensive will be a bottle of Petrus for which bidding will start at €2,500 ($3,238 / £2,142). There is though another bottle of Petrus listed at €1,000 ($1,295 / £857), and even one at €850 ($1,100 / £728). Of the champagnes, the most expensive will be a Krug for which the bidding will start at €650 ($842 / £557) and it will be sold in its original wooden box.

The Élysée Palace was originally a hôtel particulier (private manor) of the Count of Évreux and dates from 1722 and was at that time considered the most beautiful house in Paris. At the count’s death King Louis XV bought the property for his lover, the Marquise de Pompadour.  So disgusted were the Parisians (remember they had no bread to eat and would overthrow and guillotine Louis XV’s successor Louis XVI) at such a disgusting display of wealth that they hung signs on the gates that read; ‘Home of the King’s Whore’.

On Pompadour’s death the property passed hands several time and after the French Revolution the French State seized it and began to lease it out, its large grounds opened to the Parisians for dancing, drinking and eating. At one stage some of the rooms were even used from gambling. In 1808, Emperor Napoléon bought the property and it became known as the Élysees-Napoléon. On Napoléon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and his subsequent exile to Saint-Helena, the property was yet again seized by the State. After more years of being used by various individuals for various activities – even in 1814 by Russian Cossacks occupying Paris –  in 1873, then known as the Élysée Palace, it had become the official residence of the French president, its first president in residence, Marie Joseph Louis Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877).

The creator of the wine cellar was President Vincent Auriol (1884-1966), the presidential palace’s first resident after WW2 during which the residence was closed. Auriol was President from 1947-1954.

Each president since then has had his favourite vino.

President Charles de Gaulle’s favourite was Drapper champage.

That of President Georges Pompidou was Château Chasse Spleen wine, a Grand Cru from Bordeaux.

President François Mitterrand favoured Château Haut-Marbuzet wine.

President Jacques Chirac preferred Moutin-Rothschild and Château Margaux. And when no-one was looking a Corona beer drunk straight from the bottle.

President Nicolas Sarkozy did not/still does not drink.

Current President François Hollande says he is not a connoisseur when it comes to wine.

In 1995 the Élysée Palace’s cellar was renovated to ensure that the wine had the best possible care – just the right amount of light and air and to remain at a constant temperature and to make sure the place would remain dry should the area bordering the River Seine ever be flooded.

Paris's wine museum.

Paris’s wine museum.

That the presidential residence’s cellar is filled with such an exorbitant supply of wine, champagne and cognac is something many here in France find unable to accept.  One such is Member of Parliament Réné Dosière (72). An extreme left-winger, he is forever questioning the cost of the presidency in Parliament. As he told the weekly Point de Vue magazine, the residence, therefore the State, spends €250,000 annually to replenish supplies. ($323,800 / £214,237.)

And who drinks these Mouton-Rothchilds and Krugs?

The president’s guests of course whoever they may be.

I will end with two quotes.

One is by Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), English churchman and historian: “Wine hath drowned more men than the sea,” he wrote.

The other is by Ernest Hemingway. “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and if offer a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing,” he wrote.

 

Wine made in Paris's Montmartre

Wine made in Paris’s Montmartre

 

 

UPDATE: SATURDAY, JUNE , 2013

 

 

The auction fetched €718,800 ($934,871 / £613,600) for the 1,200 bottles.

 

The 3 bottles of Petrus were sold for €7,625($9,917 / £7,625); €5,500 ($7,153 / £4,695) and €5,800 ($7,543 / £4,951).

 

A pack of 2 bottles of Château-Latour, 1er Grand Cru Classé was sold for €4,625 ($6,015 / £3,948).

 

That almost million dollars will be used to buy more ‘modestly-priced’ wines for the presidential palace’s cellar.

 

And this government is today going to announce measures to reduce family allowances for the poor.

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

4 Responses to “French President Hollande becomes wine seller …”

  1. 4
    Charlotte N. Wyatt Says:

    ‘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.

  2. 3
    Charmaine Howard Says:

    Marilyn, I found this interesting….thanks.

  3. 2
    Marilyn Z. Tomlins Says:

    I agree with you Jo.

  4. 1
    Jo Wake Says:

    I wouldn’t have thought the champagne was worth it, if its old it won’t be potable. I have never understood just having wines for the sake of possessing them. Proper daft if you ask me.

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