Amanda Lawrence - Author, White Stone Black Wine

Synopsis

White Stone Black Wine is a light-hearted look at my first three years as an Englishwoman in the depths of the Quercy Blanc - named for its white stone - a wild, sparsely populated area of rural France, squeezed between the great wine trading port of Bordeaux and the fizzing city of the south, Toulouse.

It's home to the goose and the grape, sumptuous foie gras, the mysterious black truffle and world famous Agen prunes. There are miles of walnut groves and, most important of all, acres of vines. The famed black wines of Cahors are amongst the oldest, and at one time most prized, in the world. This is an area famed for gastronomy and steeped in legend and ancient strife.

I introduce you to some colourful local characters, freeze from the kneecaps down whilst braving the famous winter truffle market in Lalbenque and throw myself with Gallic gusto into the numerous fetes that occur on every possible occasion on the flimsiest of excuses. Exploring the venerable hilltop bastides and cities of the area, I uncover traces of the luminaries who once called this place home. From Champollion, who translated the Rosetta stone - which for one startling moment I thought I was standing on - to the illustrious Eleanor of Aquitaine whose marriage to Henry Plantagenet brought the area to the English crown.

In between these activities I experience a hilltop barbeque that turns out to be deeply sauvage, and participate in the frantic activities of the vendange. I attend the rumbustious and highly renowned wine festival in my local village of Albas - population 400 - where each year 6,000 inebriated people crowd into the tiny cliff top hamlet to taste the new vintages of nine local chateaux, eat a vast five course lunch, dance to the many bands and try to avoid falling into the river below.

The book is quirky, lively and beguiling holiday reading and therefore pure balm.

Read a sample of White Stone Black Wine...