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French government’s cellar to mirror weaker economy

The French government is seeking to reflect austere times by restocking the national cellar with more modest wines, but decanter.com understands there are still plenty of rare bottles on the shelves.

Six months after an auction of wines from the cellar raised nearly EUR720,000 (US$981,000), president Francois Hollande’s government has announced it will invest less than a tenth of the sum raised to restock its collection; albeit the planned spend is still EUR50,000.

While a direct comparison of the figures is partly unfair, because some of the wines sold have had longer to accrue market value, ministers know they must be seen to show greater restraint during tough economic times.

‘There will be value wines such as AOC Graves for around EUR10, but there may be some more expensive bottles also,’ said one source close to the process, who wished to remain anonymous.

‘The négociants will suggest various producers, but the Elysée [Palace, the president’s official residence] will make the final decisions.’

There is no detailed shopping list as yet, but tenders have been sent to five or six leading Bordeaux négociant houses, including Genevieve Limouzy and Duclot, decanter.com understands. Officials are not expected to buy en primeur.

Virginie Routis, Elysée Palace sommelier since 2007, told Le Parisien newspaper this week that the cellar would comprise 30% grand crus and 30% good wine, and the rest from up-and-coming French producers.

At the time of the auction in June this year, some commentators branded the French government’s act as a sell-off of France’s national treasures. Of the 1,200 bottles sold, equivalent to around one tenth of the cellar’s contents, top lots included Petrus 1990, Angelus 1961 and Latour 1982.

However, decanter.com understands the cellar still contains verticals of nearly all top Bordeaux, as well as wines once owned by Charles de Gaulle.

French officials match the prestige of the wines to the status of guests. ‘Wines are chosen according to the menu but also according to protocol,’ said a source. ‘For a visiting head of state, it is entirely correct that prestigious bottles should showcase the best of France.’

As previously reported by Decanter, the UK government operates a similar system.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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