Fancy a bottle of 1788 cognac?

Alf has alerted the sommelier at the Eketahuna Club to a great purchasing opportunity.

Wine from one of the world’s largest and finest cellars, La Tour d’Argent, is to be auctioned in Paris on December 7-8.

The illustrious restaurant, a fixture on the Paris dining circuit since it was founded in 1582, will sell 18,000 bottles of wines and spirits from its vast cellars.

It is a first for the venerable institution, which still attracts celebrities from monarchs to movie stars to its sixth-floor dining room with a spectacular view of Notre Dame.

The cellars, a maze of dark, narrow alleys below the restaurant, are jammed from floor to ceiling with about 450,000 dusty bottles of red and white wines, champagnes and spirits.

“To wine lovers, these cellars are like Mecca, like a cathedral. It’s the holy of holies,” said Alexis Velliet, expert at the Piasa auction house that will be conducting the sale.

La Tour d’Argent hopes to raise at least 1 million euros from the sale, but some of the bottles on offer are so rare that no market price is available.

How high the prices might go therefore is anyone’s guess.

The oldest items on sale will be three bottles of “Clos du Griffier” cognac dated 1788. The starting price is 2,500 euros per bottle. There is also a wide range of younger wines, some starting as low as 10 euros.

The history of the joint is fascinating.

Loved by French kings, pillaged during the Revolution, La Tour d’Argent passed to Napoleon’s personal chef in the 1800s.

It still keeps a table laid just the way it was on June 7, 1867, when Tsar Alexander II of Russia, King Wilhelm I of Prussia and Otto Von Bismarck, the architect of German unity, discussed Europe’s future at La Tour d’Argent.

Perhaps the darkest hour for the restaurant was during the Second World War, when the German army forced owner Claude Terrail to keep it open so that the likes of Field Marshal Hermann Goering could enjoy its signature dish: pressed duck served in its blood.

But Mr Terrail had taken the precaution of walling up the cellars just before the Wehrmacht took control of Paris.

He served his Nazi guests cheap wines and eavesdropped on their conversations, passing on information to the French resistance. After the war, fine vintages were back on the menu.

Since then, La Tour d’Argent has continued to attract the great and the good from all over the world.
US Presidents John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, assorted European and Asian monarchs, as well as movie stars from Grace Kelly to John Travolta and footballers from Pele to Ronaldo have left autographs or photos on the walls.

Alf has volunteered his services, should the Eketahuna Club decide someone should go to Paris and bid for some of the stuff that will be up for grabs.

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