BRUSSELS, Belgium — Things must be getting tough. In the midst of the economic crisis, French President Francois Hollande is to sell off 1,200 bottles of wine from the cellars of his Elysee Palace.
The auction on May 30 and 31 is expected to raise $330,000. Part of the returns will go to restocking the cellar with more modest wines; the rest will go toward reducing France's budget deficit, currently running at $35 billion.
Elysee's wine cellar is one of the most secretive and heavily guarded in the world, with some of its choicest bottles reserved for dinners with dignitaries from around the world. Bordeaux and Burgundy wines will feature heavily in the auction.
Among the presidential vintages going under the hammer is a bottle of Petrus 1990 that's expected to go for around $2,900. At the cheaper end are some bottles selling for less than $20 apiece.
"These are wines that have featured on the presidential table for dinners and receptions," a representative of the auction house was quoted telling the business magazine Challenges.
"Some would have been present at the events linked to the history of the Republic."
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The profits put back into government coffers are meant to serve as a small symbol that France's leaders are willing to taste austerity.
But they won't drink too deeply from that cup, since some of the proceeds will go toward purchasing new wine, albeit younger and cheaper. The president will be more than able to drown his sorrows at the loss of any favorite tipples — the 1,200 bottles on sale represent just 10 percent of the palace's total reserve.
Hollande is not the first French leader to sell off his stock recently. In 2006, Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe put 5,000 bottles from the city hall reserves on the block, including a 1986 Romanee-Conti from Burgundy that was snapped up for $6,600.