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French City Sells Off Its Wine Cellar For Aid

(c) Sky News 2013

A French city has sold off thousands of bottles of treasured wine from its cellar to help pay for local social services.

Dijon auctioned 3,500 bottles of Burgundy and raised 151,620 euros (£130,000) for its emergency aid for social action.

The sale was authorised by the socialist mayor of the city, Francois Rebsamen, as a way of filling funding shortfalls.

The city was renowned for the wines offered at formal banquets and as three-bottle mementoes given to visiting VIPs.

"The tradition was for the mayor to offer its prestigious guests - ambassadors, foreign delegations, and ministers - a set of three bottles when they are received at the town hall," Mr Rebsamen said.

The mayor said that the stock was so large that it may not have been able to give them all to guests.

"There were many old wines and I'm not sure I would have found the opportunity to offer them," Mr Rebsamen said.

While 80% of the raised funds will go to social care the remainder will be spend on repairs to the cellar, the mayor said.

The city has retained nearly 300 cases of fine wine in its cellar.

Sunday's four-hour auction at the former palace of the Duke of Burgundy attracted hundreds of bidders and watchers, with one bottle going for 4,800 euros (£4,100) - nearly five times the estimate.

The bottle of 1999 Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer, was bought by a "mysterious Chinese" man named as Wang Dongming, according to website Infos-Dijon.

President Francois Hollande's government has warned regional authorities that they must be prepared to burden share as budget cuts take effect.

"We did not need the funds for the city budget but I thought it was a beautiful idea for social help," Mr Rebsamen said.