The imposing and historic port of Bordeaux, on the Atlantic coast of western France, gives its name to one of the most important, and expensive, wine regions in the world.

When Paul Cézanne’s painting ‘The Card Players’ nudged its way into pole position with a recent disposal to the Royal Family of Qatar for a cool 250 million dollars, Monsieur Cézanne may well have rotated a little in the modest graveyard near his former home in Aix-en-Provence.

It will not be the first time – and certainly not the last – where reasons behind the creation of works of art are swept aside by the contemporary ‘value’ they subsequently convey. Price often corrupts both quality and intent, inflating expectations of the former and camouflaging objectives of the latter. The stimulus his painting originally displayed bears little or no relation to the perception it latterly endures. At worst it appears as another form of real estate, an appendage to the grandiosity of the possessor.

A few such parallels bear down upon the perception many have when negotiating the labyrinthine landscape that passes for simple commerce in Bordeaux AC. Here within an area approaching a quarter of a million acres, up to 100 million bottles of wine can be produced each and every year. Some soar to heights almost unchallenged in the esoteric world that is fine wine, others fall, Icarus like, defying the exalted qualities foisted upon them by their less than selective marketers.

Finding a dependable route through to delicious, good value wine is no simple matter on the banks of the River Garonne.

The area around Bordeaux, ceded to Henry II (the same Plantagenet King who co-ordinated the demise of Beckett) after his marriage to Eleonor of Aquitaine in the 12th century, was under English control until the end of the 100 years war in the 15th century.

Deeply run the links between our two domains.

So much so that the former blending of both red and white grapes produced a wine described as clairet in French (meaning pale), which later mutated to Claret amongst early English wine merchants – a sobriquet that still retains common usage amongst some of the occupants of London’s traditional gentlemen’s clubs.

It is this history, as much as our inquisitive interest in stratospheric auction prices, apparently unattainable connoisseurship and tales of forgery and manipulation, that draw us to the opacity that frequently appears to surround the great reds of Bordeaux.

To offer any form of guidance, our plan has been simple, work alongside a negociant, deep in the heart of Chateaux country that is Bordeaux.

Negociant is the French term for merchant, the name deriving from the practice of negotiating with growers (to purchase wine, grapes or grape must) and wholesalers or customers (to sell the finished wine). Such a man is Luc Monnereau, (above right, during our visit to Saint-Emilion) a merchant dealing with over 80 properties within the Bordeaux region (alongside their associated vineyards). He is also a regular collaborator on behalf of In Search of Taste magazine and a man of great insight. It is to him we have turned so that we may immerse ourselves within the daily life of the region and seek out the reasons and rationale behind its provincial commerce as well as defining wines of quality and excitement.

We anticipate our first article appearing in Edition 1, followed by similar reports into significant wine regions across the globe. Burgundy, Chablis and Sancerre follow soon.