Gilmore's department calls time on €77,000 wine cellar
VISITING dignitaries to Dublin will have to get used to a more modest selection of wines when they call into the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has decided to clear the cellars in his department at Iveagh House of their most expensive wines, the Irish Independent has learned.
After ordering a review of the department's wine policy, Mr Gilmore has decided it is no longer appropriate for expensive wines to be bought or drunk.
Almost a third of the 2,343 bottles in the cellars have been deemed "tradeable" by wine experts and are to be put on the market.
The entire wine collection has an overall value of €77,767, and the vast majority of those being kept will be valued at €30 or less.
Those bottles are still drinkable, and will be kept for receptions and functions.
But since Mr Gilmore has ordered that the higher-end wines are sold, the department hopes to recoup almost €40,000, or around half the value of the total stock, for the taxpayer.
"They hope to exact the same value or maybe more," a source said.
Among those being sold are 31 bottles of Chateau Lynch Bages Grand Cru Classe, 1998, which were bought for €58.65 a pop around 2005.
Or else one of 22 bottles of Chateau Leoville Barton Cru Classe 1997 bought for €75 each in 2006 might tickle your fancy.
And if that doesn't sound attractive, how about the 33 bottles of Kirwan Margaux 2000, which were bought before 2006 for €65 each?
Sources in the department say they are hoping to get the same price, or slightly more, but wine experts spoken to by the Irish Independent indicated they could struggle to do so and may end up making less back.
"Once Eamon came in and figured out what was happening in his department, he ordered a review of the spending policy," a source said.
A wine expert was brought in to review the stock, and anonymous feelers were put out to some wine dealers, without the department identifying itself.
"They have only dipped their toe in the market, they have approached wine dealers in the UK and Ireland to suss out interest but they wouldn't go so far as to put a price on it.
"They haven't made a decision on whether to do this by auction or dealer," the source said, adding that some dealers "have expressed real interest".
Mr Gilmore has already ordered that bottles bought for official receptions should cost no more than €10, with a cap of €20 for dinners.
"The point is they're not buying expensive wine any more and they're not drinking it.
"We're not sitting on one of the finest cellars in Europe, but there was definitely some expensive wine bought that shouldn't have been," a source said.
"His reaction down there is the same as everybody else's. Most people would accept you can get a decently price wine for €30. He has instructed the department to sell the higher value wine that can be sold.
"This has been in motion for a while but they have come back with some feedback as how much of it is worth selling, and how they will go about doing it."
The department spent €7,835 on wine in 2012 at an average price per bottle of €15 and no wines have been bought to date this year.
The move is similar to a recent decision made by the Elysee Palace, the residence of the French president.
It sold off a tenth of its cellar, and replaced some of the more expensive wines with cheaper ones.