Meymac-by-Bordeaux is the tale of a small commercial lie which took root, like the vines, you could say, and led to the local people of Meymac and the surrounding areas becoming important merchants of Bordeaux wines.
The curious individual at the heart of the story is Jean Gaye-Bordas. Born in 1826 near Meymac, he abandoned the land and its poor yields in favour of earning his living as a door-to-door peddler, umbrella salesman and hawker of lamps and lamp oil.
In Bordeaux he came up with the idea of becoming a wine merchant, selling to Belgium and the north of France. He took up selling door-to-door in these rich industrial regions by masquerading as a Bordeaux winegrower, with his calloused hands and Occitan accent. He gave as his address, “Meymac-by-Bordeaux”. The two towns lie some 300 km apart, but this went unnoticed in Belgium. Dressed in merchant’s garb, he filled up his order book, asking clients to themselves write their names and addresses so as to not reveal that he was in fact illiterate.
Once back in Corrèze, he shipped them good Bordeaux wines and didn’t take payment until his next trip some six months later. Thanks to the relationship of trust he built with his clients, he retained a loyal clientele and made his fortune in just a few short years. He had several houses built, including one in Bordeaux and a large turreted house in the centre of Meymac. Sadly, Gaye-Bordas was his own ruin. After spending outrageously, he died impoverished in 1900.
Nonetheless, his success inspired a number of local peasants to follow in his footsteps. Following his example, they prospered and perfected his techniques. While they were not able to maintain the illusion of Meymac-by-Bordeaux, they certainly became true professionals of the wine trade. Some bought vineyards and set themselves up in the Médoc and Libournais regions, where, to this day, their descendents have kept these businesses alive.
This is the story of local man, Jean Gaye-Bordas, who developed a very unusual business in Meymac in the 19th century, all based around a geographical fib! !