Britain's government is selling vintage French wine at around
£5000 a bottle in a bid to make its wine cellar self-funding
as part of a national austerity drive and clamp-down on
The government wine cellar, located in the basement of
Lancaster House near Buckingham Palace, is used to provide
wine for foreign VIP guests ranging from royalty to heads of
state and prime ministers at 200 or more events a year.
The cellar contains 38,090 bottles of wine and spirits with
an estimated market value of £2.95 million, according to an
annual report on the cellar released last month.
But figures show that a government review from 2010
recommending the cellar become self-funding rather than a
drain on taxpayers had not worked out with sales of £44,000
last year but purchases of about £49,000.
Auction house Christie's said the government was selling six
lots of wine, a total of 54 bottles, on March 21 with the
sale expected to raise up to £65,000.
A spokeswoman said this was "the first time that wine from
the Government Hospitality Cellar has gone to auction" with
previous sales conducted privately.
"This is part of the process for making the cellar
self-funding for the lifetime of the current parliament,"
said a statement from Mark Simmonds, a junior minister in
Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Austerity has been the watchword for finance minister George
Osborne since his Conservative-led coalition came to power in
2010 but last week Britain suffered its first ever sovereign
ratings downgrade when Moody's cut its rating to Aa1 from
Aaa, citing weak prospects for British economic growth.
Christie's said six bottles of the highly sought after 1961
vintage of Chateau Latour were leading the auction, with each
of these estimated to raise up to £5000 pounds a bottle.
The sale also includes six bottles of 1978 Petrus and cases
of 1986 Chateau Mouton Rothschild and 1988 Lafite Rothschild.
"Many of the wines included in this sale have been served
across the decades to kings and queens, presidents and prime
ministers," the Christie's spokeswoman said.
The sale comes at a time when affluent drinkers in China and
the United States are spending more on expensive wines with
growing demand for better quality vintages, according to a
study released at the Vinexpo wine trade show in January.
China has become the biggest importer of Bordeaux wines with
consumption soaring by 110 percent in 2011.
The government wine cellar was set up in 1922 to provide
hospitality for high-level overseas government guests.
Christie's said the cellar was an "exemplar of professional
cellar management", with wines bought young and held in ideal
conditions until fully mature and ready to drink.
The wines are bought on the recommendation of a committee
that is made up of five people who select on blind tastings.
Details in the annual statement on the government wine cellar
for 2011-12 showed that 4651 bottles £55,679 pounds were
drunk from the store between April 2011 and March 2012.