Amoungst les vignes

Last month our annual family holiday led us to the Gironde region of France, specifically the windswept Atlantic west coast just North of Bordeaux. It’s a well known haunt for surfers, but also has endless sandy beaches, and thus was the perfect location to crack on with some serious sandcastle construction. Thankfully we were able to slot some exploring into our beach packed itinerary. So it twas on the third day we hopped into our woefully under-powered Fiat 500L hire car and set out in search of some vines. I’m involved with wines as part of my day job, so I was eager to see first hand the infamous rolling hills of the Medoc region and as always, keep an eye out for any interesting pieces of architecture.

may 035The first thing that struck me as we headed through various small rural settlements enroute to the grape growing areas was the water towers. Huge imposing concrete beasts that dominate the otherwise quaint towns and villages. Each one seemed to have a slightly different design to the next, with some more impressive than others. One would assume they’re of mid-twentieth century origin going by the overall brutaslist appearance. I’m sure they were a godsend, providing running water to dwellings and irrigation to the vines, but I couldn’t help but think of H. G. Wells ‘War of the Worlds’ when staring up at their menacing form. Unfortunately, being the designated driver meant I was only able to photograph this one, a fine (but not outstanding) example in Hourtin.

As we drove further into the heart of Haut Medoc I was expecting a feast of picturesque chateau’s with long alluring tree lined driveways, and it didn’t disappoint. What I wasn’t expecting, plonked right in the middle of the region, was this….

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Apparently empty for some years this delightful piece of inter-war architecture looks to have been used by a now defunct co-operative called Cave de Vertheuil. The facade is reminiscent of an art deco cinema or garage and one wonders what the locals must have thought of it when it was first built. It appeared to be structurally sound, but not in use? It’s such a crying shame when buildings like this are abandoned and left to fend for themselves. If I were the entrepreneurial type with bags of cash I’d be tempted to buy it and convert it into a swinging jazz age restaurant and wine bar. A beacon of sophisticated 20c modernity in a predominantly rural area. With the existing strong tourist industry there surely must be a market for such a place? Or maybe it’s just me?

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We also saw a lizard lounging in the sun on some steps. So that was good too!

Some post holiday research has revealed further examples of this type of architecture being used by co-ops in the area, and has also unearthed this photo of the building in period before later extensions were added to both sides.