Chirac's birthday present to son ami Tony
6 May 2003 by JR

Our prime minister turned 50 yesterday and our national newspapers today are obsessed by the present sent (or, reading between the lines, promised) by President Chirac of France in these difficult times.

Apparently it was six bottles of Ch Mouton-Rothschild 1989 and a smart decanter and there is much deliberation over its quality and significance. The Guardian's Paris correspondent writes up the story and takes his wine guidance from the new (post-Hachette) French bible Le Classement of Bettane and Desseauve who have long had a down on Mouton. So this provides a nice line about how Mouton is for the impressionable wine drinker rather than the true connoisseur (a rather out-of-date comment in view of recent vintages IMHO).

Our paper, the FT is rather more subtle. It makes much of the fact that the painting on the label is of a sheep/mouton. Is this a coded expression of Chirac's view of Blair's recent stance on Iraq?

In fact, Mouton '89 is a pretty impressive wine. Purple pagers can see from my October 2002 report on a blind comparison of 1989 first growths (from large formats) that Mouton is only bettered in my view by the famous Ch Haut-Brion and Ch Pétrus 1989, and rivalled only by Ch Margaux.

Well, I think it was a jolly nice present for Tone and Cherie in their retirement - even if they will have to pay to drink it because its value supersedes that allowed for free gifts in office.