The July air hung heavy and still over the bluff.
There was no escape from the dry, suffocating heat; even here on the plateau it felt unrelenting, but in the valley below it was a simmering furnace. The cool waters of the river that ran there, the level uncharacteristically low, a reflection of the historically low rainfall endured by France during the summer of 2022, could do nothing to temper the rage of the fourneau Ligérian.
Among the vines close to the edge of the plateau stood two figures, their forms dark silhouettes against the sea of effervescent emerald green vines.
On one side stood Mademoiselle Agricultrice, the proprietor of this small parcel of vines. She looked as though she had been carved from the land on which she stood; her boots were covered in dried mud, the same deep ochre hue as the dusty clay soils on which they were planted. Her denim jeans were time-worn, her t-shirt the same, the design on her chest – a skull and cross bones over the words Sulphites Tuent – now barely visible. Her face and forearms were tanned to a shade which almost matched the ochre soils, her hair jet-black and unkempt, half-heartedly gathered at the back by a clip which seemed to have a rather laissez-faire approach to the job that had been asked of it. The extra strong Gitanes sans filtre, which dangled from her bottom lip, seemed to have the same attitude.
The second figure was Agathe Zeublouze, a visitor to the region and to the domaine. Her feet were shod in sturdy black work shoes, and she wore a cheap business suit, the same midnight blue two-piece she had worn to her interview a few months before. It seemed only appropriate that she should dust it off for this, her first-ever vineyard visit in her new role as INAO inspector.
“So tell me, Mademoiselle Agricultrice, what is it about this particular parcel of land makes it grand cru material?”
Mademoiselle Agricultrice produced her rather battered packet of Gitanes with a small flourish, as a magician produces a dove from thin air, and she went through the well-practised motions of lighting up as she gave the question appropriate consideration. She seemed oblivious to the fact this meant she now had one cigarette in her hand as well as that which still rested on her bottom lip.
“To make clear why this should be,” she replied, “first let me tell you a little about my domaine.”Please log in to continue reading: