My first ever visit to meet Philippe Alliet was an enjoyable, memorable and yet, on reflection, ultimately a rather inauspicious occasion. It was more than a few years ago now, and thus I can’t recall how I arranged it; I have a feeling that I might have set it up through a middleman, perhaps a merchant or importer, having otherwise found it difficult to raise a response from the domaine. Whatever my method was, I do recall (thanks to my propensity to scribble notes on everything I do, purely for this website) that I ended up with an 11 am appointment. Thankfully the domaine is not difficult to locate, the cellars overlooking the road that runs close to the Vienne, on the outskirts of Briançon, upstream of Chinon. And thus I arrived uncharacteristically early……and my hunt for Philippe began.
The cellars and house, which once belonged to Philippe’s uncle, were open to the world and yet were completely deserted. Or at least that at first seemed to be the case; investigating further, deep within the house I found a bar-come-tasting room occupied by two dour-faced Frenchmen helping themselves to a glass or two of wine. Enquiring as to whether or not they knew where Philippe Alliet was, their uninterested responses could not have possibly communicated any greater disdain for my question – or indeed my mere presence in the room – than if they had put in an olympic effort. Just for a moment I felt like Sergeant Howie trying to extract information from the inhabitants of Summerisle (hopefully not too obscure a film reference). The pagans returned to their muttered conversation, as they continued to nurse their latest pours of Chinon, while I escaped outside, now nervously checking for wicker effigies as well as any signs of Philippe’s whereabouts.
Eventually I gave up the search, and telephoned Philippe on his mobile. His wife Claude answered – “j’arrive, j’arrive”, came the cheery reply – and a few minutes later she pulled up in a little white van. Together Claude and I had a look around the vines, and tasted some wine, from the hugely under-rated and very recently bottled 2006 vintage. Naturally we bought some bottles (alright, lots of bottles), Claude applying the labels and capsules before our very eyes, prior to packing them away in their boxes. I left perhaps an hour or more after my arrival. Throughout the entire visit, at no time had there had been any sign of Philippe.