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Thousand-pound Burgundies in £3m UK government cellar

Thousand-pound bottles of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, as well as Chateau Margaux, Cheval Blanc, Cos d'Estournel and other fine wines were served last year at official functions, according to a statement released by the Foreign Office last week.

English wines had a decent run at UK government hospitality functions, with English still and sparkling wine accounting for 36% of bottles uncorked in the year to the end of March 2012, with 2,400 bottles of Chapel Down’s Bacchus 2010 purchased for receptions.

At dinners and other functions, officials opened 294 bottles of English sparkling wine, including 121 bottles of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee Brut 2005, 98 bottles of Nyetimber 1998 and 43 bottles of Denbies Cubitt Reserve 2006, plus several bottles of Ridgeview Cuvee Merret Fitzrovia Rose 2004 and Merret Grosvenor 2006.

All wines were bought or released by the government’s hospitality cellar, which holds around 38,000 bottles with a market value of £2.95m, according to the first annual wine cellar statement published by the Foreign Office this week.

A detailed list of wines used, released to Decanter.com, also shows guests’ thirst for top-end Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Among high-end wines opened at official dinners were 23 bottles of Chateau Margaux 1982, currently priced at £700 per bottle, and 25 bottles of Margaux 1986, priced at £388 each.

Guests also drank 64 bottles of Cos D’Estournel 1989, around £250 each, five bottles of Cheval Blanc 1983, currently selling at between £356 and £440, plus three bottles of Angelus 1989, costing £250 each.

Among the Burgundies, guests enjoyed 38 bottles of Domaine de la Romanee Conti Échézeaux Grand Cru 1990, priced at around £960 each.

The list also revealed more modest tastes at some functions. The most-opened Champagnes were 42 bottles of Heidsieck Heritage Brut NV, currently on offer at £22.50 per bottle in Waitrose, and 48 bottles of Louis Roederer Carte Blanche NV, available for between £30 and £40 each.

Concha y Toro Merlot was the red wine served at receptions.

In total, the Foreign Office spent close to £49,000 on wine purchases in the year to the end of March 2012. As part of efforts to make the cellar self-financing, it sold £44,000 of wine, including 120 bottles of Chateau Ausone 1978, and received a further £10,000 from sales to other government departments.

Despite the amount of English wine served, the government could do more to promote our wines abroad, one English wine executive told Decanter.com.

‘They use our wine at functions and we’re delighted about it, but they should be doing more,’ Chapel Down’s sales and marketing director Guy Tresnan said.

‘UK embassies in Hong Kong, China and Vietnam are desperate to get English wines in. We should be shouting about it.’

Written by Chris Mercer

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