François Chidaine, 2010 Update

Many of us have I suspect, at one time or another, discovered what it is like to be an outsider. The distinction between ourselves and our surroundings might be philosophical, religious, intellectual or cultural, but whatever the nature of the defining difference it in some way sets us apart. It is an experience that can be disconcerting or even distressing, or on the other hand it can be rewarding and informative. On occasions it can even be all of these things. Happily I have never found myself set apart from my peers or my environment on the basis of any deeply rooted beliefs, but I have certainly held the outsider’s perspective in some situations.

Inter-city rivalry is alive and strong in the UK; I have seen how Liverpudlians view Mancunians and experienced how Mancunians react to the inhabitants of Liverpool first hand, having once lived in the latter city and worked in both. And cross-border enmity can be even more apparent; the most memorable interview question ever fired in my direction was from an aged Edinburgh academic who, having looked me up and down, enquired as to what the “locals” might make of someone “from south of the border” if I were appointed to the post. It was an interview I had prepared well for, but I hadn’t seen that one coming.

François Chidaine

François Chidaine (pictured above) also has a good knowledge of such rivalry. Only here the divide is not a few of Lancashire’s fields, or the border between Scotland and England, but the Loire itself, which draws a meandering boundary between the two Touraine outposts of Montlouis-sur-Loire and Vouvray. On the left bank sleepy Montlouis-sur-Loire, where François and his wife Manuela run La Cave Insolite, perhaps the Loire’s best wine-shopping destination; on the right bank, conservative Vouvray, its fine expanse of vineyards and its attractive church (below), with its spire just peeking out above the vines. The Chidaine family had long tended vines in the former of these two appellations, to the south of the river, François having followed his father Yves into the family business.

But whereas Yves, like every other Montlouis-sur-Loire vigneron, restricted his activities to Montlouis-sur-Loire, François has branched out, taking on the old Poniatowski vineyards across the river in Vouvray. And this makes him almost unique; Jacky Blot also has a foothold in both appellations of course, but the difference here is one of origin I think. Blot was undeniably an outsider, a négociant from Tours, but Chidaine was from Montlouis-sur-Loire. Montlouis born and bred in fact, and his acquisition of Clos Baudoin and other prestigious vineyards was seen by some of the inhabitants of Vouvray as an affront, a reaction akin to that expected from my Edinburgh academic on learning that a conglomerate of English businessmen had swooped in overnight to buy up Edinburgh Castle, the Wallace Monument and Loch Ness in a three-for-two deal.

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