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Governments around the world are still wallowing in one of the deepest and prolonged economic downturns in modern history. Each country has its own unique set of socio-political and economic considerations, but cost cutting is at–or near–the top of every government’s priority list for a sustained recovery.

Leaders and legislators alike are under significant stress as they juggle popular opinion and harsh reality. When stressed, how do they seek personal relief? A glass of wine.

In the good old days (circa 2007), indulging in a mellowing glass of wine was a pleasure. Heads of state drew upon their ample wine cellars for a vintage bottle of their favorite cult wine. No fear of public outcry for wasteful spending. No threat of a sequestration denying them their favorite French Bordeaux.

Recently, however, a number of governmental agencies have descended into dusty, musty wine cellars of government buildings in an attempt to reduce budget deficits. A few notable examples:

1. The United Kingdom’s deep-cutting national austerity programs have reached into the state wine cellar located near BuckinghamPalace.

The Brits take a rather refined look at current affairs through the looking glass of history. Parliament has mandated that the cellar becomes “self-funding” so as to stem additional incremental spending.

Not a very austere measure, given that 4,651 bottles were consumed in the most recent year reported on. Additional purchases of a like value didn’t affect the 38,090 bottles in the cellar worth $4.5 million, as reported by Reuters. Maintaining the status quo does not ring of the spirit of austerity. Moody’s seems to agree, having downgraded Britain’s credit rating last week.

2. The French national government has steadfastly refused to apply austerity measures to its numerous, well-stocked wine cellars. The wine cellar at the Presidential Palace, for example, contains 15,000 bottles of the world’s most expensive wines. Other government cellars in Paris are similarly stocked. One means to rationalize these extensive holdings is that wine is a national industry and must be supported with frequent dinners and tastings. A rather convoluted, self-serving rationale in my opinion.

3. While the modern recession-plagued French may not be lacking for bread as their 18th century French Revolution predecessors were, they may be lacking for wine. The national government and Parliament are refusing to sell off any of their wine holdings, but the case at the local level is taking its toll.

Like many governments before them, the Hollande administration is pushing cost-cutting measures down the ranks to the local level. And there the impact is genuine. Many local governments have had to cut social welfare programs to the bone. One local government, Dijon, in the north of the Burgundy region, has taken an unthinkable step. Town officials have auctioned the bulk of fine wines in the city’s wine cellar. Over 3,500 bottles sold for nearly $200,000, including a single bottle of a 1999 prestigious Burgundy for $6,250. The bulk of the proceeds will be spent on sustaining local social programs, perhaps including food pantries doling out bread.

4. In the United States, austerity is rearing its ugly head, but very slowly and with an uncertain impact. The White House wine cellar will most likely be unaffected by any sequestration measures. A small cellar by European standards, the 500-bottle cellar is strictly American wines, a far cry from Thomas Jefferson’s 20,000-bottle White House cellar of fine French wines. In typical American fashion, wines are purchased as needed, rather than accumulated for appreciation and future needs.

Deepening austerity and the specter of no wine to comfort the anxious soul? That does not seem like a formula for therapeutic–or fiscal–success.

Note: The next major wine tasting event in our area is the Westchester Wine Experience sponsored by the Pleasantville Rotary Club on March 23. Over 100 wines and 20-plus restaurants will be presented in a convivial atmosphere. I look forward to clinking glasses with you.

Nick Antonaccio is a 35-year Pleasantville resident. For over 15 years he has conducted  wine tastings and lectures. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.


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