Toasting nation’s guests leaves €50k wine bill

They were the toast of the nation — but now the taxpayer has been left with a €50,000 bill after we raised a glass to Barack Obama, Prince Albert of Monaco, and Queen Elizabeth II.

Figures released to the Irish Examiner show the cost of restocking the State’s finest wine collection in the bowls of Iveagh House after the troika of VIP visits last year quadrupled compared to the previous year — up from €12,511 to €51,952.

While the US president enjoys the odd pint of Guinness, the queen is reported to like a gin and Dubonnet before lunch, and the prince prefers champagne, it appears officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs were all hands to the pump wining and dining a host of dignitaries ahead of the big arrivals.

Department sources have attributed the bigger spend primarily to the build up and official visit by the queen and the US president, although no expense was sparred during the visit of Prince Albert II.

“They were three important visits and it was great they happened in the one year, but they had to replenish the collection [of wine],” said a source.

The lavish spend last year on the fine liquors far exceeds the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, with figures showing that the department spent €29,915 in 2008, €30,021 in 2007, and €27,215 in 2006.

Wines stored in the treasured cellar beneath its offices range from a modest €18.95 for a bottle of 2005 Billaud-Simon Chablis to €75 for a 1997 bottle of Chateau Leoville Barton Cru Classe. It is thought the department’s wine collection numbers over 1,000 bottles.

The department said its stock was used for state hospitality and that it engaged closely with wine experts from its suppliers and regularly checked its stock to maintain levels.

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