Paris City Hall to Auction Famous Wine Collection

This was not just any wine cellar. For decades, the corridors beneath Paris City Hall harbored a wine lover's fantasy land of carefully collected grands and premiers crus — until Friday, when nearly 5,000 bottles headed for the auction block.

The collection, which caught the attention of amateur buyers from around the world, was expected to bring in up to $942,000, according to one of the organizers, wine expert Claude Maratier.

The sale, at an auction house in the Marais district of Paris near City Hall, was expected to begin Friday afternoon and run into Saturday.

Maratier acknowledged that the collection itself is not particularly exceptional, but said its source — the 19th century castle-like Hotel de Ville — added collectors' item value to the bottles.

Among the top-end bottles is a 1990 Chateau Petrus Pomerol, priced at $1,500.

Maratier praised the excellent conditions under which the wine was stored, with carefully controlled temperatures and labels still intact.

Paris' Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, has spearheaded the effort, seeking a less elitist use of city funds, according to local media reports. Delanoe's office would not comment on the auction Friday.

Much of the collection was assembled during conservative Jacques Chirac's term as mayor, from 1977-1995.