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Albert and Charlene closer than ever on a visit to wine lovers' paradise

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Arms linked during a trip to Bordeaux, which mixed official duties with the pleasurable business of winetasting, the couple spent a happy afternoon at a ceremony, at which Albert was made an ambassador for the local vintners association
 Photo: © PA

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Though he admitted to drinking wine only occasionally, the prince looked thrilled with the traditional honour and said he was hoping to "perfect his knowledge" of the region's speciality
 Photo: © PA

22 JUNE 2009

He may have insisted he plans to "follow his own path", avoiding immediate pressure to marry, but there's no doubt that Prince Albert of Monaco has a special place in his heart for Charlene Wittstock.

That the feeling is entirely mutual was clear at a traditional ceremony welcoming the Monegasque sovereign to a new honorary role as an ambassador for the society of vintners in the Bordeaux wine region.

The attractive South African swimmer - who's become increasingly sophisticated in her sartorial choices since the start of their courtship in 2006 and had opted for an off the shoulder LBD - spent much of the day with an arm linked lovingly through her companion's.

Charlene watched with pride as her beau, wearing a white faux fur-trimmed red robe, joined some 40 notable figures from the French-speaking world in being declared a "protector of the jury". The position requires him to promote the region's celebrated wines.

She listened as the royal's many achievements were highlighted by the association president, who spoke of his support for the environment, and the fact that he's "the only head of state to have visited both the North and South Pole".

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