A Visit to Famille Lieubeau, 2020

We parked up at the edge of the vineyard and all three occupants of our car – our chauffeur for the day, none other than the inimitable François Lieubeau, his brother, the talented Vincent Lieubeau, and me too of course – hopped out. Surveying the landscape I could see we had stopped at the edge of an expansive vineyard, and some distance away there stood a small elevated platform (pictured below, in the haze beyond the vines), which appeared to be listing ever-so-slightly to one side. As we set off into the vineyard on foot, it soon became clear that we were heading for it.

I would say we were heading straight for it but in truth our route was determined by the state of the ground; blocking our way at various points were puddles of murky water deep and wide, and the occasional oozing expanse of muddy slime. It was the end of the first week in December 2019, and after three months of near-constant rain the soil was beyond saturation. I was suddenly reminded of the time, a few years ago, that I went on a moonlit tour of the Bourgueil vineyards with Aurélien Revillot. The ground was so soft and slick with mud that before long his little van was stranded, and we had to get out and push; it was only at this point did I realise that Aurélien had absent-mindedly left his house with only soft moccasin-style slippers on his feet.

Famille Lieubeau

Of course there were no such footwear issues today. The Lieubeau brothers were wearing sensible boots, and I had wisely left my stiletto heels (which I usually reserve for the Bordeaux primeurs) in my hotel room in favour of something more sensible. Even so our progress was sporadic, as we hopped from one grassy knoll to another, until we made it safely to the tower, Ascending the steps to the upper level I found two large tanks, their sides streaked with green. “The tanks were once used to prepare the copper sulphate for spraying on the vines”, explained François, and it was the ancient copper residues which had turned green with time.

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