Issue #34 January, 2022
Last year at this time, you may recall (or you’re trying to forget) we paid tribute to Agatha Christie, the great mystery writer, who died in January of 1976. Our tribute came in the form of a silly, little wine murder mystery. While Dame Agatha likely wouldn’t have thought much of it, incredibly many of you did.
So, here we are a year later and what the heck, let’s head down a murderous path once more with this month’s wines imbedded in another short, old-fashioned murder mystery.
Get comfortable around the old oak tasting table as last year’s characters Uncle Seymour, Aunt Edwina and their sleuth-by-chance nephew Douglas return in…
Murder in Languedoc.
I had never been to France. Of course, I’d read plenty about the country. But when my elderly Aunt Edwina said to me, “Douglas, you must come with me to Languedoc.”, I had no idea where that was.
Each day of the year I am her only nephew but every second Saturday I’m her driver, getting her to wherever she needs to go. Usually, one of her required stops is the wine store. She loves a good Sancerre. She often says to me, “I loved my dear husband Alfred, but a good part of my heart has always belonged to Sancerre.”
It was on one of those Saturday errands, that she announced her (I should say, our) plans.
“My dear Douglas. Your Uncle or rather, my reclusive and sometimes repulsive brother Seymour has invited me for a visit to his Chateau in the south of France.
While I could do without spending more than a meal with him, I do love that part of the world. I think we should go.”
And that was that. Her suggestion was charmingly as always, a decision made.
So, off we went to the region of Languedoc for our visit with Uncle Seymour.
My uncle stood before us swirling his wine glass. “It was built in the 1700s; a damn drafty old place actually. I’m not sure it was a good idea to buy it but my arguably-wise accountant told me this pile of stones was too good to pass on. Isn’t that right, Barth?”
The accountant Uncle Seymour was disparaging happened to be standing beside me in the great hall of his Chateau. Mr. Bartholomew had been managing my uncle’s affairs and putting up with him for years.
Aunt Edwina bristled. “Seymour. For heaven sakes, I dare say without Barth you would be as short of means as you are of magnanimity. Try to be nice, just once.”
“Dear sister, how did you get all that moral high ground in your carry-on?”
Uncle Seymour had greeted us as expected with his somewhat grim disposition, but he sweetened our arrival with a glass of delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine in the Loire Valley. Touraine sits just west of Sancerre in the valley and produces a delicious and more affordable alternative.
Domaine Bellevue Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2020
Loire Valley, France
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#: 82305
A few paces away, a smallish man stood gazing up to the massive tapestries hanging in the grand gallery that circled above us. Oddly, he was the only one of us without a glass of wine.
Uncle Seymour led the rest of us through the library to the rear of the castle. “If you can tear yourself away from whatever has captured your attention, Monsieur Boucher, we’ll be out on the terrace for supper.”
As we walked, my uncle filled the air. “Boucher is our local wine merchant. He comes by often, more than I’d like actually. But he usually bears gifts of wine. I think he secretly brings hopes of finagling this place from me one day.” He chortled at his little joke. “Today he brought along quite a nice red from a neighbouring Chateau.”
Fortant Grands Terroirs 2018
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#: 20713
We sat on the flagstone terrace under a large ivy-covered pergola overlooking moonlit rows of vines stretching into the darkness.
Partway through our mussels and that tasty, elegant blend of Syrah and Grenache, my uncle looked up and exclaimed, “Where on earth is Boucher?”
Edwina sarcastically added, “Perhaps loading all your earthly possessions into his car.”
Ignoring the comment, my uncle looked to his accountant. “Barth. Have a look for him, will you? And while you’re at it, grab my specs from my room above the great hall.”
On a mission, like he was looking for a tax shelter, the accountant went off to find Monsieur Boucher and Uncle Seymour’s glasses.
I’m certainly not a suspicious person. I can chalk that up to having had a lot more good than bad cross my path. But I can usually sense when something isn’t what it seems. Aunt Edwina said to me one time, “Douglas, you seem to know what’s on my mind before it’s wormed its way in there.”
I was halfway through my frites when I felt I too should have a look for Monsieur Boucher. It was so strange that a wine merchant didn’t seem interested in a glass of wine. Giving my Aunt a look, I rose from the table. Her instincts were good too. She knew to make something up.
“Oh, you must pardon Douglas. He’s gets leg cramps. They come on so suddenly. He simply must walk them out. Started getting them as a teen. Growing spurts likely. Bless his heart. Now Seymour, are you going to offer me some of that wonderful-looking Shiraz from South Africa that I see you’ve brought out, or shall we arm wrestle for it?”
Piekenierskloof Six Hats Shiraz 2019
Swartland, South Africa
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#: 21193
The great hall was still. The quiet seemed to accentuate the damp air. Lanterns on the stone walls cast shadows throughout the cavernous space. There was no sign of Barth nor the mysterious Monsieur Boucher. I stood quietly and listened for sounds of footsteps coming from any of the adjacent rooms off the hall; a parlour to my right and what looked like a study on my left.
A door closed 30 feet above me. I looked up to the gallery. It was Barth. I assumed he was coming out of Uncle Seymour’s room and was about to call up when the large tapestry adorning the wall behind him suddenly lurched forward and forcefully pushed Barth to the railing. The unsuspecting accountant frantically flailed and grabbed at the tapestry, pulling it and the human shape behind it with him. The two of them, along with the woven wall-hanging cartwheeled over the intricately carved, mahogany rail.
Frozen, all I could do was watch as Barth landed with a horrible thud at my feet. He was instantly dead. But his last act was that of a break-fall for Monsieur Boucher, who along with the tapestry had landed directly on top of him.
Uncle Seymour and my aunt heard the thuds of Barth and Boucher along with my involuntary outburst of shock. They entered the hall to see the poor number cruncher and the pitiful, dazed wine merchant.
True to form, my uncle, blurted before he thought. “Good God! Barth said that tapestry was damned valuable!”
“Seymour!! Now Douglas, what on earth happened?”
The answer came from the bent wine merchant lying at our feet. He twisted his head to look up at menacingly at my uncle and spat out, “This chateau had been in my family for generations. It was to be mine! Until you! You marched in with your bags of money and made an offer my greedy mother wouldn’t refuse.”
“Perhaps Boucher, but why would you kill Barth?” queried my uncle.
I answered. “He wasn’t planning to. Boucher waited upstairs for you Uncle, hiding behind the tapestry outside your room. He didn’t account for the possibility that it might not be you he was blindly pushing over the railing.”
“He should have stuck to pushing wine,” said Aunt Edwina.
So, it seems that Uncle Seymour had an instinct too. He somehow knew his wine merchant wanted his Chateau. He just didn’t realize Monsieur Boucher would kill for it.
I never would have thought that in one of the great wine regions of the world we would discover such a deadly case of sour grapes. And witness the moment when a dedicated but unfortunate accountant’s final number would come up.
I hope you didn’t mind beginning the year with a rather nasty ending for poor Barth. But most of all I hope you do get a chance to enjoy the wines we met this time in the cellar.
See you in February when we’ll get back in earnest to our usual search for and discovery of great, affordable wine. Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.
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