As a magazine editor I love all my contributors equally, just as I love each and every issue of Lodestars Anthology, but sometimes I do get one pitch in particular that I can’t help but fall head over heels in love with. It’s the sort of idea that convinces me the country I’ve chosen to dedicate an issue to is the right one - and that the people I’m lucky enough to work with could not be more perfect.
Case in point, the annual Grasse jasmine harvest; a story pitched by Maine-based photographer Greta Rybus, which she captured with writer Maggie Nugent. Reading that first email and getting a sense of Greta’s excitement, I knew we were on to something.
Grasse in France’s south is the definition of Provincial, “all terracotta roofs and faded wooden shutters that swing open every morning as locals greet their neighbours,” as Maggie writes. This postcard-perfect town, a mass of pastels and sun-kissed perfection, is the world’s unofficial perfume capital and the home of Le Domaine de Manon - a jasmine and rose farm run by Carole Biancalana that Greta and Maggie had chosen as their story’s focus (largely because Carole is a passionate environmentalist and utterly inspiring business woman).
Le Domaine de Manon is framed by mountain and the sea and is the ideal destination to visit if you wish to learn about terroir which, as Maggie explains, “describes the unique environs needed to produce goods that can’t be found anywhere else. Some aspects are practical - soil, air, altitude - but terroir also describes the certain je ne sais quoi of a region that allows it to grow, for example, aromatic flowers so magical that perfume giants like Chanel, Dior and Hermès flock to stake their claim.”
Come harvest, it is largely women that you’ll see dotted through the Le Domaine de Manon fields, wicker baskets in hand, their laughter carried on the breeze, the scent “crisp, fruity and floral.” Each day the blooms they gather are combined and sent to a local perfumery, with 2,000 baskets-worth of jasmine flowers needed to produce a single kilogram of pure oil. This is a process - much like Grasse itself - has changed little over time and remains dependant on weather, devotion and a respect for the romance associated with all things Provence. Try saying no to a story like that!