Inside Wealth

French Palace Wine Auction: Not Just for Snobs

France's $325,000 Wine Auction
France's $325,000 Wine Auction

France's Elysee Palace is set to auction off more than $325,000 of wine Thursday. And while some bottles may sell for up to $3,000 a bottle, others might be yours for a mere $20.

Along with bottles of 1990 Petrus and other blockbuster bottles, the auction will feature some cheaper wines that will allow the Yellow Tail crowd to say they own wine from the French Presidential palace.

"The auction will permit anyone who loves wine to bid," said Juan Carlos, an independent French wine expert who is working with The Hotel Drouot on the sale. "We will have bottles for 15 to 20 euros."

Bottles of French wine Petrus Pomerol.
Mike Clarke | AFP | Getty Images

The highlights of the 1,200-bottle auction will no doubt be the vintage bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The 1990 Petrus could sell for $3,000 to $3,500 a bottle, while the 1998 Meursault Premier Cru and 1975 Château Lafite Rothschild and Champagne from Salon could also hit big numbers.

Carlos said the proceeds of the sale will go to replenish Elysee's 12,000-bottle cellar and buy new, younger wines from lesser known French producers. He said featuring those wines in the Palace will give them added prominence.

He added the wines that are being sold are mostly odd lots—there are only a few bottles left or an odd number so they can't be served at a state dinner.

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Still, because some of the leftover proceeds may go to the state budget, some have called the wine auction a sign of French austerity and criticized the Palace for selling some of its liquid jewels.

Famed French wine collector Michel-Jack Chasseuil wrote to President Francois Hollande recently saying he feared the wines will go "to the world's billionaires and we'll be sorry when we realize we have no more."

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But Carlos said that he hoped the wines would be sold to "drinkers" who appreciate wine for its pleasure—not just to collectors who store them for value.

"I do believe that the best thing to do with bottles of wine in auction is not to put them behind a glass, but to drink and then share the memories of how good a time you had with them with others."

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By CNBC's Robert Frank; Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank

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France's $325,000 Wine Auction
France's $325,000 Wine Auction