French President to Sell 1,200 Wine Bottles Amid Belt Tightening

French President Francois Hollande, who unlike his predecessor enjoys good wine, is selling off a 10th of the Elysee Palace’s cellar to raise funds.

The 1,200 bottles, which range in estimated price from 15 euros to 2,200 euros ($2,900) for a Petrus 1990, will be put up for sale tonight and tomorrow at Hotel de Drouot by auction house Kapandji-Morhange. The estimates of the lots add up to 250,000 euros, or an average of about 208 euros a bottle.

“This operation is aimed at self-financing the renewal of the cellar of the Elysee Palace,” Drouot and the president’s office said in a statement. “In seeking good management, the proceeds of the sale will be reinvested in more modest wines and the profits will be turned over to the government’s budget.”

Hollande, elected a year ago, has asked ministers to reduce their operational expenses by 7 percent this year and by 4 percent next year, as part of efforts to cut total spending by about 12 billion euros a year over his five-year term.

France slid into recession in the first quarter, and the country’s joblessness, at 3.2 million people, has hit a record high.

The wines being sold are mostly from Bordeaux and Burgundy, according to the statement, and have all been served at the President’s table.

Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t drink wine, saying his decision was “a question of taste.” Jacques Chirac, the president before Sarkozy, was a wine drinker, though was often seen downing glasses of beer at official functions.

Not First

The Elysee isn’t the first government institution in France to raid its wine cellar. Paris City Hall raised 961,000 euros, 75 percent more than the catalog estimates, in 2006 as it auctioned off 5,000 bottles that had been accumulated when Chirac was mayor from 1977 to 1995.

Dijon, the capital of the Burgundy region, raised 152,000 euros in January as it sold half its wine cellar. In both cases, the bulk of the buyers were British and Chinese.

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