Paris mayor puts Chirac's wine cellar up for sale

20th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 21, 2006 (AFP) - A two-day action of world-class wines collected by former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac scooped up nearly one million euros, city officials said.

PARIS, Oct 21, 2006 (AFP) - A two-day action of world-class wines collected by former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac scooped up nearly one million euros, city officials said.

Bidders from around the world pounced on some 4,680 bottles, including two 1986 bottles of Romanée-Conti Burgundy that sold for EUR 5,000 apiece.

Three 1989 Petrus Bordeaux fetched an equally hefty EUR 4,000 each, which another 1988 Petrus went for EUR 2,500 — a world record for that vintage.

Now France's president with a longstanding reputation as a bon vivant, Chirac collected the wine during his marathon 1977-1995 tenure as Paris mayor.

Current mayor Bertrand Delanoë ordered the auction, after an audit deemed the city hall's wine reserve sufficient for current needs.

Totaling EUR 961,000, the wine sales will help fatten the city's coffers.

Some 5,000 bottles from the city's 7,000-strong hospitality cellar — including a dozen Château Petrus Bordeaux wines from 1990 — were sold to the highest bidder.

The other big stars of the show were two bottles of 1986 Romanée Conti from the eastern Burgundy region, at a starting price of 1,500 euros.

Small bidders were also set to get a look-in, with lots of Beaujolais and white Bordeaux starting at less than EUR 5 per bottle.

The two-day auction, taking place in the capital's central Marais district, kicked off with the sale of six bottles of Château Laffitte-Rothschild, with bids starting at EUR 900.

Many of the wines are currently at their peak, but could start declining in quality if they are kept much longer, according to the City Hall, which is also concerned about a flood-risk in its cellars from the River Seine.

The oldest, most valuable bottles — seen as too good even for the most lavish city function — have been selected for the sale.

"To serve 10 bottles of Château Petrus with dinner amounts to putting EUR 25,000 on the table — which is not necessarily entirely reasonable," said Claude Maratier, the expert charged with valuing the wines ahead of the sale.

Delanoë, speaking on French radio earlier Friday, also explained that City Hall now preferred to organise standing champagne receptions rather than formal sit-down dinners for its guests.

But Bernard Bled, who helped build the wine cellar as secretary general at City Hall under Chirac and his centre-right successor Jean Tiberi, said he was "sorry to see Parisians' wine being sold off".

Pre-sale estimates valued the 4,960 bottles, divided into 793 lots, at EUR 550,000.

Potential buyers from Asia, the United States and Russia were seen checking out the bottles since Thursday, when they were put on display ahead of the sale, Maratier said.

Chirac, 73, who was Paris mayor from 1977 to 1995, is known as a bon viveur with a taste for good food and wine — although he is said to prefer a bottle of Corona beer to even the finest "grand cru".

The Socialist mayor filed suit in 2003 over the allegedly exorbitant entertaining expenses incurred under his tenure, but the country's highest court of appeal threw out the case last year under the statute of limitations.

An audit revealed that Chirac and his wife Bernadette spent more than EUR 2 million on dinners and receptions at the Hôtel de Ville between 1987 and 1995, when he stepped down to become president.

Under Chirac's tenure, Paris City Hall became the centre of an illegal scam to finance his centre-right Rally for the Republic (RPR) and other parties, before a system of public financing was introduced.

Forty-three politicians, businessmen and party leaders were convicted last year of helping to rig public works contracts around the capital to raise money for the RPR and its ally the Republican Party, but also for the Socialists.

Chirac, as a president in office, escaped prosecution.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article