Over €50,000 spent on wine for State hospitality last year


MORE THAN €50,000 was spent on wine for State hospitality by the Department of Foreign Affairs last year, over four times as much as the previous year.

The rise is attributed to visits by Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama as well as the Irish presidential election.

Figures show the department spent €51,952 restocking its wine cellar for visits and events in 2011. In 2010, the department spent just €12,511.87, while in 2009 it spent €20,613.25.

In total almost €200,000 has been spent on wine since 2005 with stock in storage in December 2011 costing €81,917, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The department’s stock of wine is maintained for use in relation to State and official hospitality. Expenditure in 2011 reflects the significant number of high-level events and visits during the year and the need to plan ahead and restock for events relating to Ireland’s chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in 2012 and the EU presidency in the first half of 2013.

“The range held in stock facilitates provisions of wines suitable for events at various levels at a very significant discount from the cost of purchasing them at the time they are required. Stock is reviewed on a regular basis to maintain levels and ensure value for money.

In general, expenditure averages €28,000 per annum,” a spokesperson for the protocol division at the department said.

At the last stock check in December, the cellar held 2,807 bottles of red and white wine with 610 of the bottles purchased costing over €50 each.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson for foreign affairs and trade Seán Ó Fearghaíl said he believed the amount spent is unjustifiable.

“I understand there is an onus on the department to show hospitality and this is understood but members of the public who have had wage cuts and are struggling to pay their mortgages at the moment will be offended by this.

“The amount seems unjustifiable. All Ministers have a responsibility to reduce the level expenditure in their departments,” Mr Ó Fearghaíl said.

The most popular wine in the cellar is the French Chateau Talbot (2005) of which the department stores 180 bottles at a cost of €53.82 each. The most expensive wine stored is the Chateau Lynch Bages Grand Cru Classe (2001) which costs €79 a bottle.

It was confirmed that some bottles purchased have greatly increased in value with some more than doubling in value. The oldest bottle of wine in the cellar is the French (1995) Chateau Talbot which cost €38.41, now worth approximately €80 to €90.

The cheapest bottle of wine stored is the Protocolo Tinto (2007) from Italy that costs just €8.09 per bottle.

The department was unable to say how it is decided which State events warrant which type of wine.