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You're spoiling us

Published:  18 January, 2007

Those wine writers who failed to respond to the invitation from the Ambassador of Luxembourg to attend a tasting of his country's wines at his house in Wilton Crescent this past June missed the most entertaining event of its kind
so far this year.

I spotted scarce few of the breed: Joyce Rackham, Christopher Fielden, Neil Fairlamb, Stuart Walton, Stephen Skelton, Stephen Brook and Tom Stevenson, and that was all).

The fact that not a single one of the 77 wines on show is on sale in the UK was hardly good reason to miss out on meeting the Ambassador, who turned out to be a vast, jolly fellow every inch the epitom of the great body sent abroad to wine, dine and lie for his country, and this non-availability of bottles added an extra piquancy to the afternoon.

The wines were available to purchase, priced per bottle in pounds sterling (including duty, VAT and transport for a minimum of a pallet), but 60 cases at one go is a bit rich for the average wine parasite's blood. I did offer to go halves with Stephen Brook on a pallet of the Cep d'Or Stadtbredimus Goldberg Pinot Noir 2004 at 11 a bottle. He demurred and, alas, soon departed, saying he had to fly to Vienna early the next morning and so needed

his beauty sleep.

The wines that most impressed me were Cep d'Or Stadtbredimus Primerberg Auxerrois 2004 (7.20), Krier Freres Schengen-Markusberg GPC Auxerrois 2004 (5.71), Schumacher-Knepper Wintrange Felsberg GPC Auxerrois 2004 (4.77), Cep d'Or Stadtbredimus Goldberg Pinot Blanc 2005 (7.40), Schumacher-Knepper Wintrange Felsberg GPC Pinot Blanc 2005 (5.17), Gloden & Fils Schengen Markusberg GPC Riesling 2004 (6.23), Hartmann Wormeldange Koeppchen La Chapelle Riesling 2003 (8.15), Gloden & Fils Schengen Fels GPC Pinot Gris 2004 (6.23), Schumacher-Knepper Wintrange Felsberg GPC Pinot Gris 2004 (5.70), Gloden & Fils Schengen Markusberg GPC Gewurztraminer 2004 (6.91), Hartmann Brut Cremant de Luxembourg (11.92) and the Pinot referred to earlier.

Relieved of the pressure to write about any of the wines, and finding no one else in the room who would share a pallet with me, I was forced to drink them, as well as to flirt and indulge in small talk, and so pleasant sport took place within the neat confines of the Ambassador's living room and roof terrace, as not only were a rich variety of humans on display but His Excellency had flown over La Linster, eponym and chef (for the past 28 years) of Luxembourg's most famous Michelin-starred restaurant. Such is Madame Linster's fame that Albert Roux turned up and greeted her with enthusiasm and reverence. Her recipes for potage aux legumes, quenelles de brochet and, above all, her unbeatable method of preparing and cooking madeleines are legendary, which I can affirm as I availed myself of each of these dishes several times in order to ascertain their precise compatability with the wines.

Now let us be clear here. By madeleine I do not mean the large, utterly ghastly English sponge cake, decorated (or should I say desecrated?) with glac cherries. I mean the real Proustian confection, small enough to grasp in two fingers, composed of sponge, to be sure, but having a thrillingly sensual undercurrent of lemon and orange within its compass and with slightly crisp trimmings to its shell-like shape. La Linster's madeleines were obviously vaut le dtour to old Albert, who doesn't get out of bed for any old cake, and I can tell you the six I consumed, each in a spirit of profound research, went down extremely well with several glasses of Schlink Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive 2003 (11.81 for a 50cl bottle), which I omitted from the previous list. True, this wine needs another decade to become truly sublime, but what's 10 years when you're having a good time?

Running through the afternoon and early evening were various conversational undercurrents, in several languages, which made the event outstanding and these were indulged in with unbridled vivacity. In sturdy JS Mill/

Edmund Burke/Rousseau/Kant fashion we discussed liberty, freedom and duty, the state of the Europe ( la Metternich), the rewards of living in London ( la Dr Johnson) and, most of all, we lengthily dissected the dishes, in the style of M Brillat-Savarin, which kept appearing under our noses.

I felt the least I could do was offer to make Madame Linster my fifth wife (the vacancy exists, as I am between divorces at present). She didn't say yes, but then she didn't say no. You may say mine is an extreme reaction to a chef's skills, but let me assure you that her soup, her pike dumplings and, above all, those madeleines were exemplary. Luxembourg has a secret treasure, and it is not only its wines.