Elysee Palace Wines Fetch Nearly $1 Million
France has found a new way to raise public revenue: selling off its wines.
The sale of 1,200 bottles of wine from Elysee Palace totaled 718,800 euros, or $935,374. That was nearly three times the estimate of 250,000 euros.
The sky-high prices were partly a reflection of the current collectibles boom and strong prices for vintage French wines, especially Burgundy. But more important for this sale was the seller—the French presidential palace.
The palace didn't build into its estimates any premium associated with selling wines straight from the Elysee. But the Elysee-premium turned out to be well over 50 percent. We can imagine the Chinese wine collectors presenting a bottle of Petrus at a business dinner and proudly proclaiming it was the former property of the French President. Now that is table power.
The top three sellers by value were all bottles of 1990 Petrus, with the top bottle selling for 7,625 euros, or $9,922. After the bottles of Petrus, the top seller was a Musigny that went for 3,365 euros or $4,378.
(Read More: Bottle of Palace's Wine Sold for $9,400)
The promoters of the sale promised some very affordable bottles for everyday drinkers that could sell for 15 euros to 20 euros. But the lowest priced bottle to sell went for $390.
The sale was part of the Elysee's efforts to refresh its cellar. The bottles sold were mostly odd lots, where there were not enough bottles to serve at a formal dinner. The Elysee will use the funds to buy newer wines from French producers that it wants to promote.
(Read More: French Palace Wine Auction: Not Just for Snobs)
Yet the "excess" funds—more than $500,000—will go to France's federal budget, which has been strained by the recession and euro-zone problems.
All of which raises the question: since the country did so well with its discarded wines, what else could France sell to help its state finances?
—By CNBC's Robert Frank; Follow him on Twitter