Table of Contents:
- Days of wine auctions and gay marriage
- Plundering party
- Sell wine to buy more wine: An odd two nights of vintage wine, foreign billionaires, and gay marriage protestors demanding Pinot noir.
There weren’t any Rudy Kurniawan lots to liven up the evening, but the wine sale at the famed Drouot auction house in Paris was memorable all the same.
Fat-cat Americans waited on the end of telephone lines for the bidding to start. Nouveau-riche Chinese paced the floor with enough cash to choke a donkey. Frenchmen grinned and winked, declaring that a portion of the profits would fund social welfare. Sommeliers, local dealers and rank amateurs milled about the see-and-be-seen affair, praying the Chinese wouldn’t be leaving with the entire haul. And watching it all from the periphery — 200 gay marriage protestors pressed against the glass and shouted out requests to French President Francois Hollande — “We want Pinot, not marriage homo.”
Despite the tapestry of odd images, there was a simple purpose behind it all: Sell wine to buy more wine. The Elysee Palace cleaned out its wine cellar, or at least tidied it up. The cellar, deep underneath the presidential palace, holds a stock of approximately 12,000 bottles — 1,200 of those bottles were auctioned at Drouot. The 1,200 bottles represented a motley collection not suitable for the rarified air of a state dinner. Or as the Washington Post put it: “… wines the palace no longer had enough of to service a dinner or reception — or too embarrassingly valuable to present to guests when all of Europe is having to tighten its belt.”
The money from the wine auction will be used to purchase more moderately priced wine. In short, the Elysee is restocking its wine cellar without drawing on public funds. (Any profit surplus is supposed to spill over into the government budget.) It wasn’t the first government related wine cellar auction; in 2006, Paris City Hall raised $1.25 million in a 5,000-bottle auction.