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Sunday, 8 December 2013

Prime Minister's Cellar Raises More Than $237,000!


French government tightens its belt through second cellar sale this year, but it's not welcomed by one of France's leading wine critics.


A sale of wines from the French prime minister's official residence, the Hôtel Matignon, raised 173,488 euros ($237,542) on Friday, as part of the government's bid to cut costs and raise revenue.

At Friday's sale in Paris, more than 1,400 bottles – equivalent to 10 percent of the Hôtel Matignon's cellar – went under the hammer. The sale was expected to raise 100,000 euros ($136,655) but far exceeded estimates.

Cellar master Claude Bluzet said the wines being sold were now “too expensive to put on the table,” after his budget had been repeatedly slashed. “The budget for the Matignon cellar has been going down continually for a long time,” he declared, without revealing the sum allocated to wine purchases.

Bluzet, who has been cellar master for 25 years, revealed that he no longer served or bought expensive wines. ”We have never had Petrus served at Matignon. The only bottle of Romanée Conti I ever purchased was put in the sale."

A single bottle of 2004 Romanée Conti was purchased by a 27-year-old Chinese man for 10,500 euros ($14,376), more than double the initial estimate. He revealed that he had "bought it for a friend, who is a wine importer in China."  An Asian buyer also purchased one of the auction's most prestigious lots: a case of 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild for 14,878 euros ($20,369).
Bluzet revealed that the "upmarket wines" in the Matignon's cellar are reserved “for heads of state and governments.” When former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin received Queen Elizabeth II in 2004, Bluzet served a “15-euro” Loire Valley white, followed by "a Saint-Estèphe Cos D'Estournel, which cost around 50 euros a bottle.”

However, luncheon wines can cost from as little as 4 or 5 euros ($4–$6). “Winemakers give us good prices," said Bluzet. "They are all keen to have their wines on our tables.”

The auction came on the heels of a similar event earlier this year when bottles from the presidential wine cellar at the Élysée Palace brought in 718,000 euros ($932,970).

Wine critic Thierry Desseauve criticized these sales. While these auctions are a "belt-tightening exercise" he says, they give a message that France "no longer cares about good wine." He added that "we should be proud of these fine wines, these magic bottles, and show them off when heads of state come to visit." For Desseauve, "Matignon should be a showcase of French excellence."

He will be pleased to hear that it is unlikely there will be any further sales from state cellars in the foreseeable future. The French Senate has already dramatically reduced its wine stocks. Established in 1992, the cellar grew to 30,000 bottles by 2000. However, the inventory has since been reduced by two-thirds.

The National Assembly still boasts a cellar of 15,500 bottles, but its wine budget has been slashed from 60,000 euros ($82,000) in 2012 to 40,000 euros ($54,000) in the current year.
The Assembly's cellar is sometimes claimed to be "the best in the Republic," but Bluzet dismissed that notion. It “is an old legend,” he said. “Jacques Chaban-Delmanas [3-time National Assembly president] would have stocked the cellar with the best Burgundies, but since then it has been drunk.”

Source: www.wine-searcher.com