Among the rich cast of characters he meets during his year of exploration is Virgile, a young local wine-maker who offers to initiate Patrick into the mysteries of each season's work in the fields and in the cellar. Virgile is passionately committed to perfection, though he operates on a shoestring. At the other extreme is Manu, Patrick's dipsomaniac neighbour, a diehard traditionalist producing a private wine-lake of unspeakable rouge. With Manu as his self-appointed guide, Patrick embarks on a tour of the region's wine makers - a succession of lively encounters with growers as varied as the wines themselves. Interwoven are digressions into the history of the region and its wine-making, from the earliest plantings by the Greeks and Romans. Meanwhile, the author struggles to deal with his dilapidated inheritance - an unfamiliar and unpredictable world where the brambles have grown as tall as the olive trees, the water supply has just dried up and there is a ferocious animal under the roof tiles.