Last few days I’ve been on a bit of a road trip. First from London down to Saint-Émilion, a wine-o heaven village in Bordeaux in South West France, and then across to Piemonte in North West Italy. So apologies for the radio silence, but it’s given me a few extra thingd to think about. And one especially that’s got me stewing a bit!
My business partner’s wife, Isa, is a star tourist guide across the Bordeaux region, and spent a good few years doing tours in the village of Saint-Émilion itself. As much as I work there a lot I haven’t had a chance to get to know that much, so she took the wife and I (on her day off I might add!) round the village and filled us in on a few things.
Regardless of the ins and outs of the history of Saint-Émilion, it’s an amazingly beautiful village. All sandstone blocks hewn out of quarries under the upper bit. Ok it’s full of tourist and tourist traps too, but it’s still lovely. But walking round with Isa, she let us into a few dirty secrets of the village, and one in particular had me seriously pissed off.
There’s a building not far from the main square in the upper town that’s completely derelict. It’s a good few hundred years old, it used to be a hospital, a school house, and even a convent. Now it’s rack and ruin. Why? Because it’s owned by a conglomerate who couldn’t give a shit. They own the attached vineyards and sell the wines to co-op’s, who sell to supermarkets, who can offer “Saint-Émilion Grand Cru” for knock down prices.
Look, I’m all for supermarket own brands. I think they give a way in for wannabe wine drinkers to test the water at what you’d have to say are bargain prices. But where’s your Corporate Social Responsibility??? You don’t want the building? Just sell the fucking thing to one of the – what I’m hearing – are the multitude of lined up buyers!!!
Honest to God, I was stood there at what I could see being a 10 bedroomed, 5 star guesthouse that tourists would pay top dollar to stay in. As it is, it looks like a squatter’s paradise! You can’t seriously tell me from even an economic point of view that it makes sense to let it rot?!
I don’t want to name who it is that owns it just in case I’ve got it wrong and send a torrent of abuse in the wrong direction. But whoever it is, you’ve got one of the most beautiful eyesores I’ve ever seen on your hands. The village, those working their arses off in the region, and the history of the building itself deserve better. Sort the bastard out will you?