I expect we all have our own mental image of the ‘ideal’ wine estate, and I expect we all lean towards the romantic more than the practical. On the left bank of Bordeaux, for example, the more prestigious the name on the label, the more grandiose the château we might picture in our mind’s eye. This isn’t always the case of course, but I think it is fair to say that, with images of Château Margaux, Château Pichon-Baron and Château Cos d’Estournel popping into my head, there are plenty of romantic models to choose from. On the right bank we probably expect less extravagance, with many famous châteaux really little more than exaggerated farmhouses, and I suspect the same is true in Burgundy to some extent. In California we would probably expect to find something more modern, a cross between the Old and New Worlds perhaps, whereas further south in Chile and Argentina the ‘ideal’ winery probably attempts to make just as much of a statement as the ‘icon’ wines that are made there.
Whatever our image of the ‘ideal’ wine estate, the environment is almost certainly rural. We expect to see a sweeping vista of vineyards, perhaps some distant pasture where cattle lazily chew the cud, and maybe some snow-capped peaks in the very far distance. What we don’t imagine in this pastoral idyll is an autoroute bisecting the vineyards, slicing its way through the countryside, bringing noise, pollution and an unavoidable reminder of our speed-and-technology-obsessed civilisation. But for Pouilly-Fumé this is the reality; what was once the Route Nationale 7, the trunk road that ran from Paris down to the Italian border, has in recent years been upgraded to autoroute status. Once holidaymakers stopped off here for lunch, and maybe to buy a few bottles of the local wine as they headed down to the Mediterranean for a well-earned break. Now they streak past at ever faster pace, foot to the floor, their passage thankfully screened from view – to some extent, at least – by concrete barriers and a soundproofing wall.