The UK Government has spent nearly £18,000 on wine since the General Election, leading to calls for the entire collection to be sold off.
Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham MP revealed that Government Hospitality, which manages the Government wine cellar, had spent £17,698 on wine since May 6.
The total value of the Government cellar, which comprises 1,779 bottles of Champagne and 25,883 bottles of red wine, including vintages of Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour and Château Mouton Rothschild, is now estimated to be worth £864,000.
Attempts to find out the exact vintages of the wines in the 37,000-strong cellar were blocked on grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity’. It is not known if the government will be buying the super-expensive Bordeaux 2009 vintage.
Bellingham insisted that the practice of buying wines young and ‘significantly below the current market rate’ leads to ‘substantial savings for the taxpayer’.
The revelation comes amid fears that public sector pay and pensions are to be squeezed in today’s budget as ministers seek further cuts to deal with the £155 billion deficit.
The figures were revealed in response to requests from former Labour Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson under the Freedom of Information act.
Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, has called on the Coalition government to sell off its fine wines to prove ‘we’re all in this together’ – the government’s rallying cry to the country as it embarks on a series of cuts to public services.
The Government spent £80,662 on wine in 2009-10, over 30% less than in 2008-09.
The Government cellar is restocked two to three times a year.
Written by Lucy Shaw