It was French entrepreneur and founder of “Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers à Monaco” (S.B.M.) François Blanc that built the legendary Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo in 1864. The hotel literally provided the best of everything that the world had to offer, though its wine cellar was a simple room housing only a few barrels of wine. It was François Blanc’s wife, Marie Blanc, that invested her personal fortune into building a cellar worthy of the exceptional establishment her husband had created. Nearly 100 workers spent some 18 months digging the cellar 33 feet down out of the rock beneath the Hôtel de Paris and Hôtel Hermitage and realizing Marie Blanc’s dreams of modeling her cellar after the great cellars of Bordeaux. Today the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo wine cellar, which isn’t open to the public, is a treasure trove of more than 500,000 bottles and is the largest hotel wine cellar in the world.
The Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo wine cellar is so exclusive that is it managed by a head cellarman with the support of a team of just 10. Its doors are only opened to royalty, some wine producers, and a handful of discerning guests who have booked a private tasting or event. Aside from this team that does an impressive job of inventorying weekly, a Wine-Tasting Committee of buyers, cellarmen, and head wine-waiters meets in the cellar once a week to taste about a dozen wines and keep track of the maturing of wines in the cellar.
The cellar in the rock provides the perfect conditions for conserving wine. The aired, dark cellar is keep at a temperature which varies very little between 11° and 13° Celsius and a consistent humidity of 75%. Serving as the supply source for all the SBM establishments (five 5-star luxury hotels and 26 restaurants, bars, and a discotheque), the wine never sees the light of day until it destined to be drunk by one of SBM’s guests.
As we toured the central cellar and small “museums” of the rarest vintages, we listened to the stories of one of the most legendary wine cellars in the world. We imagined a wall of empty bottles piled up by a cellarman. The dusty pile concealed a room with prestigious bottles like Château Bel Air Marquis D’Aligre 1850 and Château Gruad Larose 1865 from looters during WWII. The room was restored in the 1990s and is now the Marie Blanc Museum, where the rarest vintages are stored.
Down another passage, we marveled at the “Cellier”, which houses the oldest vintages featured on the wine menus at SBM restaurants. Here you’ll find the most expensive bottle SBM sells to guests, a Château Petrus with a price tag of €12,000.
Another glass case holds dusty bottles that were drunk at the 20th wedding anniversary celebration of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace, held in cellar’s private dining room of course. Yet another locked cellar is home to vintages that are literally priceless. They are preserved for the memories, as some are so old that they wouldn’t be drinkable today.
You won’t just find wine in the cellar. Here the special cognac of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo sits in its cask. One is 100 years old, the other cask 120 years old. The cognacs are still bottled here in the cellar. The oldest vintage cognac in the cellar is from the 18th century
As for the wines, 90% are French wines and are organized by wine region and then further organized by year. Less than 20% of the stock in the cellar is younger than 20 years old. If you were line up the racks, they would stretch for an incredible 1.5 kilometers.
To say that touring the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo wine cellar is a jaw-dropping experience is an understatement. What an incredible collection that we feel privileged to have been invited to tour.
Disclosure: Our trip to Monte Carlo was hosted by Monte Carlo SBM in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.