“Meet us at the railway station at 10am”.
Superficially these instructions seemed clear enough, but I noted that there was no indication as to how I should identify myself. In all the best spy novels contact must be made cautiously and surreptitiously, in the manner of Harry Palmer. Should I wait beneath the station clock? Must I wear a red carnation in my lapel? Will there be a codeword? Should I ask my contact if I could borrow a match? The email seemed short on detail thus far, but to be fair I hadn’t finished reading it. My eyes scanned the next line of the missive.
“We will be parked outside with a white minibus”.
Oh, alright. That’s settled then.
I arrived at the railway station at the allotted time, my lapel unadorned, which I have to confess did induce a brief twinge of regret. And there, sure enough, was the minibus. One minute later I found myself aboard the bus, and it was not much longer before we were lurching along country roads, although I had no clue as to where we were. You might think, returning to my original theme, this was because I had been coshed over the head before being blindfolded and bundled inside, but the truth was rather more mundane. The windows were misted up with condensation.
After half an hour or so on the road, we came to a halt, and I slid open the door and jumped out.
Waiting for me there, standing outside a little house just on the edge of the Roche-aux-Moines in Savennières, were the masterminds behind this adventure. On one side was Jo Pithon (pictured above) once of Pithon-Paillé, and on the other financier and wine enthusiast Ivan Massonnat (pictured further down the page) the proprietor of Domaine Belargus. And far from having been abducted or coerced, I was here at their invitation to learn about Ivan’s new venture in wine, which has grown from the remains of the old Pithon-Paillé domaine. In this profile I explore these origins, the domaine’s portfolio of vineyards, and of course its wines.