The auction of 1,200 bottles of wine from the Elysee Palace is on pace to easily surpass its estimate of $300,000.
The two-day auction won't end until late Friday. But one sale is setting the pace: a bottle of 1990 Petrus that sold for 7,250 euros, including tax. That's $9,400. The bottle was expected to sell for under $3,000-meaning it sold for more than three-times the estimate.
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The buyer is said to be a Chinese importer, according to people familiar with the auction.
There have been more expensive bottles of wine sold, of course. But the 1990 Petrus usually sells for around $2,000 to $3,000 per bottle. The premium shows just how much wealth wine collectors-especially Chinese wine collectors-will pay to have wine once owned by the Elysee Palace.
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The proceeds of the sale will go to replenish Elysee's 12,000-bottle cellar and buy new, younger wines from lesser known French producers. Leftover funds may end up going to France's budget.
The sale has come under fire from some critics and French wine collectors who say the country is selling off part of its history for short-term financial gain.
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-By CNBC's Robert Frank; Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank