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British government sells off French wine to cut down on costs

Some of the British government’s wine is being sold off as part of a bid to make its hospitality service self-funding.

Image: Markus Mainka via Shutterstock

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT is to auction off a stash of vintage French wine from its own cellars, in an effort to make its diplomatic hospitality service self-funding.

The sale, which will take place at Christie’s in London later this month, follows the publication of an report which revealed that the government’s official hospitality unit had not made its wine cellar self-funding as it had hoped.

While its prime role is to supply wine for official government events, such as state dinners, the cellar is intended to remain self-funding by selling off wines that it does not intend to use – ideally at a higher price than they were bought at.

Last year, however, civil servants failed in their bid to make the wine collection self-funding – buying £49,000 (€56,650) worth of new wine while only raising £44,000 (€50,900) in sales.

By comparison, about 5,000 bottles with a total market value of over £55,000 were consumed by various government departments.

As a result, the cellar has decided to press ahead with plans to sell off six lots of wine – including a total of 54 bottles – with reserve prices indicating that the auction could bring in up to £65,000 (€75,150).

The top wines in the collection are six bottles of 1961 Chateau Latour paulilac, which are described as “port-like, with an unctuous texture, and a dark garnet colour with considerable amber at the edge” and “unquestionably one of the Bordeaux legends of the century”.

They have a reserve price of between £20,000 and £30,000 (€23,130 and €34,700) for all six bottles.

The government cellar’s 38,000 bottles of wine are worth almost £3 million (€3.41 million) now, having been bought for £857,000 (€990,200).

The Daily Telegraph said a report from 2010 identified the cellar as the most cost-effective way of catering for government events, but recommended that it be operated on a cost-neutral basis.

News of the British auction follows reports on the Irish government’s wine-purchasing habits, when the Irish Daily Mail revealed that the state had funded the purchase of over €50,000 in wine in 2011.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore responded by saving he had given an instruction in March 2012 that “any wine bought should be reasonably priced, and that every care should be taken to ensure that the cost of State and official hospitality would be kept to a minimum”.

The cost of the Irish government’s wine purchases fell to €7,834.66 last year as a result.

Read: Tánaiste: Dept of Foreign Affairs has stopped buying ‘expensive wines’

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Gavan Reilly

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