State wine cellars compared

Game time: see if you can correctly identify the photo of an official state wine cellar with the correct country, US, UK, and France.




Okay, okay, it’s photographic hyperbole — but the White House really doesn’t have a wine cellar to speak of. Downing Street (top) buys the wines on release and stores them for official occasions. Buckingham Palace has some terrific wines too as you may recall that when Obama went there on a state visit, the Queen uncorked some DRC and ’63 port. The Elysée Palace (middle) has an impressive cellar, as you might expect. The White House, by contrast, procures wines for state functions on-demand so rarely serves wines with much age on them.

The relative paucity of the White House wine cellar has its roots in our country’s love/hate relationship with alcohol: loved it so much that it became a political issue leading to Prohibition. While the shadow of Prohibition looms over the industry in the form of restrictions interstate shipments (among other things), the fact is that Americans are into wine now, as witnessed by instagram feeds or the fact that per capita consumption has increased for 20 consecutive years. So a big chunk of America would probably take pride in having some decent American wines slumbering in the White House basement.

How likely is that to happen? When pigs fly. The UK and France have both reduced their wine collections recently in the name of austerity. China introduced a ban on expensive alcohol at state banquets in the last quarter of 2011. And with an economy that’s not exactly firing on all cylinders here, there’s no way the White House would engender criticism for that kind of expenditure. Still, an American wine lover can but dream. Maybe, as a matter of national pride, Bill Koch could endow the White House with a starter collection of well-vetted wines from his cellar?

Here’s a look at a breakdown of the wines held in the UK government wine cellar, with a focus on California wines. UK_wine_cellar_2wine cellar:

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7 Responses to “State wine cellars compared”

  1. Is Bill Koch one of the Koch brothers that are behind the tea party? If so, I doubt he’d be too inclined to donate anything to the current administration.

  2. Reagan was apparently a wine guy, even opening a ’62 Le Tache on occasion (hmm…did he get it from Hardy Rodenstock, or Ollie North?),340408

    He served American wines with connections to the honoree’s country at his state dinners. And they would have to be bought on the spot market, or from a producer’s library. The “White House Cellar” certainly isn’t big enough to lay down enough wines for a 300-person state dinner.

    The Queen has advantages that the President doesn’t – something to do with that Grace of God stuff, the estates’ income stream, and the serfs and vassals who come with the job.

  3. Hey Tyler,

    Couple of thoughts:

    1) Have you ever been to the wine cellar (wine room) at the White House and seen what is there? I have….it looks like my cellar. It has good stuff in it. It is functional. It looks like a wine cellar in a place where people live and where they work, but that wine isn’t the main function of the place. In all honesty and in my opinion, you should be ragging on me for not having a better wine cellar (I make and sell wine for a living) and worrying less about the White House wine cellar.

    2) The implication is that the 3rd picture is the state wine cellar at the White House. You know it isn’t, right? Just seems oddly misleading.

    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  4. Adam is quite correct I have stuck my head into the White House cellar. It does exist. It isn’t huge. And I was shooed away but not before noting that they had a decent collection of Tokays. Some years back (Clinton era) I had occasion to regularly walk past the recycling bins and always took note of what bottles were in it. They did a fair job of serving US wines. Most frequently noted were, Jordan Cabs, Sonoma Cutrer Chards and Iron Horse bubbly. I’d say the cellar looked like it could hold around a thousand bottles.

  5. Our love/hate relationship with alcohol is part of it, but I think the White House’s small cellar has more to do with our republican (the political philosophy, not the party) traditions. Thomas Jefferson walked to his inauguration while Harry Truman did his own banking. In recent years Americans have grown more comfortable with the idea of a President that is far removed from the daily cares of average citizens, but I think having a massive, state-funded wine cellar is still too much. Personally, though I love wine, I take heart in the fact that most Americans do not feel the President is entitled to a massive, state-funded wine cellar. As to whether other countries will look down on us for our paltry cellar, well, I don’t think it really matters.

  6. Tyler, the White House does have a wine cellar, though it’s more of a wine room. I’ve been in it twice (on sales calls for a Napa property), and can confirm that the ‘collection’ is 99.9% USA.

  7. […] State wine cellars from the US, UK, and France compared […]


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