Our party of wine enthusiasts started the first cold day of the season (14th October) in the noisy sobriety of the barrel-making factory, Tonnellerie Sylvain. It might sound boring, but in fact, for some at least it was the highlight of the day, using mainly manual labour to work centuries-old oak from France’s public forests into some 33,000 barrels a year, 70% for export. Of course, given that all had been arranged by Marion and Pip, we did not lack for an inventive and appetising lunch at Catusseau or miss a well-organised tasting of fine Merlot (plus a little Cab. Sav.) at Château Clinet with its new vats and energetic marketing.