AFTER passing an innocuous signpost near a small hamlet called Loupiac, in the Lot, I am en route for Les Domaine des Sangliers, vignoble biologique, in the Cahors valley, south west France.
Veering past a red rock face, upward through a leafy canopy to a hilltop driveway which opens out on to ten cars, several vans and mobile homes, writes Carol Miers.
I can see another sign to ensure there is no mistake, and as I walk toward some building works, I see a farmhouse and an open garage complete with grape picking troughs.
What I already know is that all hands are needed for the annual vendange, which will be a few days of grape picking at Kim and Lisa Stanton's organic vineyard.
They are an English speaking couple who've been producing wine for eight or so years, with help from their six children.
It is time to find out more, so I approach the relaxed looking chap in front of the garage, it has to be one of the owners, and is in fact Kim Stanton.
At first taken aback by my abrupt appearance, he is scooping pneumatic fluid from a tractor, but a few moments later he is extremely relaxed.
You would think this was just another day, with 48 vendangeurs of different nationalities expected for lunch, rain threatening every minute and half the grapes still to be picked.
Evidently, Kim like Lisa, his partner, rises to the challenges of this wonderful life working their Malbec grape vineyard.
So with grapes enough to pick, not another five minutes has passed before I am handed a pair of vine cutters, lightweight secateurs and am advised a white plastic chair is useful for your back, but fortunately I will probably be okay without one.
A young child runs past telling me that her mother is out the back.
Lisa Stanton is immediately engaging, friendly, with a hopeful 'are you going to stay for lunch?' issued with a smile.
Clearly loving the outdoor life, that is also wonderful for their children, the vineyard is more work than Lisa had expected yet she says, there is something enthralling about seeing the continuation every year, the complete cycle of change.
Here also in this vineyard, the locals love to help, being part of a large group around a farmhouse table, talking while hand-picking, unless it rains, that brings back pleasant childhood memories.
Lisa Stanton talks about the influence of the weather on this year's crop.
While they cannot yet say what the bouquet will be like this year, last year, Lisa said, it was fruity, complex and very open, being high in alcohol at 14%.
Again they expect a high alcohol level due to having smaller grapes with the correct sugar concentration levels.
Clipping and collecting the grapes, the chatting continues along the length of the rows of vines with children also helping. Other people are collecting the full plastic crates and leaving another ready.
This area is literally a part of the children's playground and that alone is reason enough not to use any pesticides, even with unusual weather patterns, Lisa says.
In fact as I left there were lots more children arriving, of different nationalities. They were making their way rapidly to the vines, with parents in tow.
There are bigger plans ahead for the vineyard, as Kim wants to take it to his native New Zealand, transporting it via the port in Bordeaux. This too will have its difficulties as the New Zealanders buy wine according to familiar varieties, with the Roman French Malbec not being one of those.
Yet the Stanton's future remains rooted here in the valley of Cahors, with Lisa and Kim becoming familiar faces at the local fairs and markets. Lisa clearly hopes to continue for many years, ending her days producing wine at Domaines des Sangliers.
With the leaves turning red and yellow, it is a lovely, tactile, pastime, cutting the grapes and getting a slight stickiness of the sweet juice on the finger tips.
Doing this, a warmth spreads up through your arms with the gentle work, perhaps not unlike the spreading glow from a tipple of their selection. Soon you will be able to take your pick from an AOC approved Stanton Black, Vin de Table, Rosé or the Vin de Pays du Lot.
Website: Domaine des Sangliers, Les Sarrades, 46700, Puy-L'Eveque
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