Friday, July 18, 2008

In Vino with Difficulty

Surrounded as we are by vineyards, a sight that would bring a flutter to the heart of any oenophile, you would expect that buying the stuff would be a walk in the park, or at least a vineyard.
In Britain, you can wander into any plonk-selling establishment, pick up a few bottles, check on any BOGOF offers and depart in the flutter of a credit card.
But here, in the heart of the wine country, it’s not that easy unless, of course, you go to a supermarket.
Almost every vigneron sells direct to the public. But the first challenge for the public is to catch your vigneron, for most are one or two man or woman operations and, just when you want to place your order, there they, a few hectares away, pruning their vines and out of earshot.
The other day, we needed to re-stock our wine racks and sallied forth to our neighbour, Jacques, from whom we buy all our drinking plonk. He produces a complete range from a sparkling Saumur to a sweet, dessert wine, the Coteaux du Layon, all of excellent quality, from his 14 hectares of vines.
It’s only a hundred metres to his establishment and we are in luck. There he is, fiddling with one of the giant machines that now are involved in wine making. No more happy peasants dancing barefoot in barrels.
“You are busy, Jacques?”
“Ah, oui.”
“Can we buy some wine?”
“But of course.”
We are equipped with our order, duly filled out, and a bundle of Euro notes in the other hand.
“You will taste, yes?”
“No, Jacques, not necessary. You are busy and we drink enough of your stuff.”
He looks downcast, surveys our order glumly – and reaches for a bottle.
An hour or so later, and having sampled his entire range, we stumble home, 50 litres of good wine better off and 100 euros poorer.
Thinking about it, it’s much more delightful than buying from a supermarket even if it does take longer.
And sometimes there’s even a BOGOF offer or, more accurately, an AUOUL.


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