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05/30/2013

Mon Dieu! $3,000 for a bottle as French president auctions off wine cellar

Wine1

Bottles of fine wine put on auction by the French presidential palace are displayed during an auction preview in Issy les Moulineaux, south of Paris.(AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

It's like a garage sale -- except the garage happens to be in the basement of the French presidential palace.

And the puns are popping faster that the wine corks.

BBC News calls it a "sobering sale" as an auction of more than 1,000 bottles in the exclusive  wine cellar of the Élysée  goes on the block.

The news of the sale  -- part of French President Francois Hollande's belt-tightening measures -- had been reported last month, but now the auction is officially getting underway.

You can a rare peek at the exquisite collection of fine wines in this BBC video.

The BBC report quotes one connoisseur claiming that one reason there was so much good wine available was that the previous French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, preferred water.

But in fact the goal is to replenish the presidential party pantry with less expensive wines without taxing, so to speak, the public purse. 

The Élysée said that “the proceeds from this sale will be reinvested in more modest wines, and the excess will be returned to the state budget.”

According to the New York Times, the Socialist  Hollande was trying to contrast his simpler style as a “normal president” with the “bling bling” image of Sarkozy. 

Still, that had not stopped the last Socialist president, François Mitterrand, from enjoying his favourite Burgundy and a St.-Estèphe, Haut-Marbuzet from the well-stocked cellar. Georges Pompidou, the Times said,  preferred Chasse-Spleen, while Valéry Giscard d’Estaing favored fine Bordeaux from the Médoc.

If you want to add to your wine collection, you can fork out as much as 2,500 euros (about $3,360 Cdn) for a high-end vintage -- but there are some bargain bottles going for as little at 15 euros.

 Julian Sher is a foreign affairs and investigative reporter for the Star. he can be reached at jsher@thestar.ca and on Twitter @juliansher 

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