STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Unidentified Man #2: (French spoken)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man #2: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Parisian Bernard Farge(ph), who came to buy some old Bordeaux, says he's having second thoughts after seeing the prices being paid.
BERNARD FARGE: (Through translator) The Tour d'Argent is a legend. People may not even know where it is, but the name is mythical, and people are willing to pay more because of the reputation of their extraordinary wine cellar.
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BEARDSLEY: For the past 30 years, Ridgway has hand picked many of the wines and spirits in what is said to be the finest cellar in France and the largest for a restaurant in the world. Ridgway says choosing the wines for the auction block was particularly difficult.
DAVID RIDGWAY: Unidentified Man #3: (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Passing 12-foot-high racks of burgundies, Bordeauxs(ph) and Alsatian wines, Ridgway points out rare marvels and some history.
RIDGWAY: This was where the wall was bricked up in June 1940. This part of the cellar was hidden for five years.
BEARDSLEY: Before that wall could be built, the Nazis made off with 80,000 bottles in the first chaotic days of the Paris occupation. The Tour d'Argent has overlooked the Seine River and Notre Dame Cathedral since 1582, when Henry III would stop off here after a royal hunt for some heron pate.
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BEARDSLEY: Ridgway says this week's sale was not to make money, but to make room for newer vintages and to move some bottles that no longer sell so well. He admits that habits are changing.
RIDGWAY: People seem to want to drink younger wines now. It's rather sad, because I think a well matured wine has a lot to say for itself.
BEARDSLEY: Back outside the auction hall, businessman Toka Fulakrey(ph) is slumped in a chair. He took the train over from London and had hoped to return home with one of his favorite white burgundies, until he was outbid.
TOKA FULAKREY: It's Puligny Montrachet Referts Sauzet, the '92 was a lovely year. And I had this particularly wine last year for my 40th. It was really, really good. It would've been nice to get a case and, oh, drink that over the years. But there we are.
BEARDSLEY: You didn't get it?
FULAKREY: No, not today.
BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
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