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Culture

Fine wines from French PM's cellar up for auction

media The cellar contains only French wines Tim Graham/Gettyimages

Wines from the cellar at the Hôtel Matignon, the official Paris residence of the French Prime Minister, are to be sold at an auction on Friday.

Its hoped the sale will be as successful as a similar auction held in May for bottles from the Presidential Palace, the Elysée, which netted 718,000 euros, much more than the 300,000 that had been predicted.

Claude Bluzet, the head sommelier at Matignon said about 1400 bottles will be up for sale, about ten per cent of the collection in the cellar, which contains only French wines.

Many of the wines have been chosen for sale because they are “too expensive to serve”, according to Bluzet.

Some labels have been selected because only a few bottles remain in the cellar so there is not enough to serve everyone at formal dinner.

A 2004 Romanée Conti valued at between 5,000 and 5,500 euro is among the most prized wines up for auction. “Romanée Conti is the unattainable, the most coveted wine in the world”, says expert wine auctioneer Aymeric de Clouet.

Among other highlights is a bottle of La Tache 1990, valued between 1800 and 2100 euro, “an amazing year”, says de Clouet.

There is also a crate of 12 Mouton Rothschild 2000 wines (8,400 – 9,000 E) but de Clout expects that some lots will be sold for quite affordable prices, with bidding starting at 15E.

 

Claude Bluzet has worked at Matignon for 25 years. “We have never served Petrus at Matignon and I bought the only bottle of Romanée Conti we have in the cellar in 2006 and it will be up for sale at the auction” he says, dispelling notions that the Matignon cellar was a treasure trove of legendary wines.

The wine budget at Matignon has been steadily reduced, in line with the budgets of other French institutions.

“I buy 2ème or 3ème crus. Not just Bordeaux or Burgundies, also wines from the Jura, Provence, the vast majority of French wines are good,” says Bluzet.

“For world leaders or heads of State we put out the wines which are most chic,” he explains. When former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin hosted Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 2004, he served a Loire Valley white wine “for about 15 euros,” then a Saint Estèphe, “a Cos d’Estournel for about 50 euros”.

“Vineyards give us good rates,” he says. “It’s in their interests to have their wines served at our tables”

Bluzet says he would not rule out serving wines costing only four or five euros, for cabinet lunches.

Rumour has it that the best political cellar in France is not at the Elysées or at Matignon but at the Assemblée Nationale, the French lower house of parliament, where there are 15,500 bottles.

“That’s a bit of a myth,” says Claude Bluzet, “Jacques Chaban-Delmas [former Prime Minister 1969-72 and Mayor of Bordeaux] apparently stocked it with some amazing Bordeaux, but they’ve probably been drunk by now!”

The budget at the Assemblée has also been reduced - from 60,000 euro in 2012 to 40,000 euro in 2013 - but there’s still probably something worth drinking.

 

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