Monsieur Propriétaire grabbed and tried to force the door handle for a third time, his knuckles whitening as he did so.
“Ever since the deal with Jenebois Smirnoff fell through,” he muttered, “nothing seems to work around here”.
Jenebois Smirnoff had been Monsieur Propriétaire’s great hope. A Muscovite merchant with a huge chain of retail outlets, including Moscow’s largest wine store, Monsieur Propriétaire had spent much of last year courting Jenebois through his brother, Jebois, the television producer. But then war broke out; the channels to Jenebois went dark, and the international sanctions came in. No more wine could be sold into Russia. And as all the usual international payment systems had also been blocked there was no way for them to pay, even if the halt on trade could be circumvented.
Monsieur Propriétaire had heard the rumours about a Swiss route, of course. You sell your wine to a Swiss merchant, who then sells it on to Russia. Maybe straight to Jenebois. He had heard his neighbour was doing just that. But after being dogged by a run of scandals Monsieur Propriétaire had resolved to keep his nose clean.
“Let’s face it, the deal is dead,” he continued, talking to no-one other than the Medieval figures on the faded tapestries that decorated the antechamber of the château.
He gave the handle a final, fierce, frustrated and ultimately fruitless rattle. The door remained wedged in its frame, but his efforts made enough noise to attract the attention of his technical director, Aubin Jefaidesbulles, who had been observing the work in the vines from the patio. He came to help, and together the two of them eventually forced the door. Aubin knelt down to inspect the lock.
“The mechanism is jammed. Hardly surprising, it must be a hundred years old. I’ll telephone a locksmith.”
“Don’t worry, you have enough to do,” replied Monsieur Propriétaire, “I will sort it out later. Right now let’s go and take a look at our new project.”
Together, the two men headed out into the vines.
Five minutes later they stood together on the estate’s highest parcel of vines, Le Grand Mont (which as regular readers of Monsieur Propriétaire’s adventures will know, is an impressive 13 metres above sea level). There they joined the estate’s viticultural and vinification consultants, the highly regarded father and son team, Alain Terrieur and Alex Terrieur.
They were standing in front of a small cabane, built centuries before, to provide shelter for vineyard workers in case of sudden storms. From there they were overseeing the installation of the estate’s new anti-frost water aspersion system.
“So tell me again how this works,” began Monsieur Propriétaire. He knew he had asked this before, but having forked out a huge sum of money to have it installed across the entire vineyard, at the suggestion of La Famille Terrieur, he figured he had the right to be taken through it one more time.Please log in to continue reading: