The wine cellar of the French Presidential Palace – the Elysée – where President François Hollande now resides, is not that far from the command center of France's nuclear arsenal.
Its location remains just as much a mystery. Except for authorized personnel, it is impossible to visit the wine cellar, with the entrance being vaulted shut. More than 15,000 bottles of the very best France has to offer lie within: Châteaux Ausone, Petrus, Figeac, Yquem, the prestigious châteaux of Burgundy, a collection of vintage champagnes etc. This is where the French Republic keeps its prestige and one of its means of diplomacy.
However, it is not so much the French president who gets to enjoy these wines; it is rather for his hosts to gauge how France's reputation lives up to reality. Virginie Routis, the sommelier at the Elysée Palace since 2007, knows exactly how political the choice of wine is: "I choose the wine according to the menu, but also according to protocol. For a head of state, there will be various well-known labels on the table, such as a Château d'Yquem with foie gras, or with meat a 1998 Léoville Poyferré, for example, which is a prestigious, second cru from the Saint-Julien vineyard, classified in 1855." And for simple parliamentarians? "Wines from smaller vineyards, but who still do very good things," she smiles.