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This diplomatic peace offering, designed to soothe the Anglo-French relations that were so severely bruised by the war in Iraq, was accompanied by a touching personal note from the President expressing his “personal esteem” and “loyal friendship”. Much to the delight of Fleet Street’s Francophobes, it transpires that this gift of a “regional product” of the French nation (as Chirac put it) was not so generous as it seems. UK government rules limit ministerial gifts to £140, which means that to drink the wine the Prime Minister would have to pay the difference between £140 and the current market price.

If that market price is based on auction values Tony and Cherie will doubtless be fascinated to hear that five full cases of Mouton ’89 were sold at Sotheby’s (15% buyer’s premium) Bond Street on May 21 for prices of £1050 (on three occasions) and £1000 (on two). With premium and VAT this works out at around £600 per half case. This is rather less than the retail price of over £1000 widely quoted in the newspapers, but is still a clear blue Channel away from the £30 that would buy the same amount of Wooldings ’94.

According to Serena Sutcliffe’s tasting notes in Sotheby’s catalogue, Mouton-Rothschild’s 1989 vintage “charms everyone who drinks it”, although the Blairs can hardly be charmed by the idea of having to pay £500-1000 for the privilege of enjoying the President of France’s generosity.

And with the right-wing press breathing down his neck to postpone a referendum on the euro, the Prime Minister must be tempted to follow the Queen’s example by politely refusing the Mouton and sticking to a more affordable white.