AN AUTUMN APÉRITIF

A man working in a vegetable patch still flourishing with fat leeks, huge cabbages and late tomatoes pointed to a path which he said would take me up through the woods and out of the valley. It did, but was so closely crowded with blackthorn that at moments I was strongly tempted to turn back.

Persistence was justified. Emerging at last from the thicket, I climbed on up to the brow of the slope, sat comfortably on a low bank, and in spite of being told by the map that I was on les Monts Damnés was glad to be alive on such a day. The autumn sun was warm, the sky blue and almost cloudless. Reaching to right and left below me were the downland,valleys,woods and villages of the heart of the Sancerrois; and beyond Sancerre itself on its isolated peak, beyond the channels and backwaters and islands and meanders of the river, were the vineyards of Pouilly. The  mists had dispersed. Further away still were the forested uplands of the Nivernais, and far in the distance the blue-veiled heights of the Monts du Morvan.

And now I drew the cork from a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé. Next to champagne, a very acceptable apéritif is a good white wine from the upper Loire.

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