Classified grapes

For the first time in France, a vineyard has been classified as a protected historical monument. It is situated in Sarragachies, in the Gers departement, in the Midi-Pyrenées, deep in the south of France. It is in many senses a real freak when compared to today's vineyards, and gives a unique view on how the vineyards in France were in the 19th century.

Concerning its age, there is no paperwork to prove a birth date. It is certainly pre-phylloxera (thanks to the sandy soil phylloxera did not attack) and as this way of plantation disappeared in 1850, it's definitely older than that. Today's guess goes towards 1830 or earlier. It is a miracle it survives: phylloxera, the 1870 war, two World War's, urbanisation and the massive disappearance of cheap land labour in the 50ies when a big part of France's vineyards disappeared, but it is still there.

There are some curious things here. First of all, it is a complantation vineyard. About 20 different varieties are planted in the same vineyard, many now almost disappeared, some unknown and without names. These "field blends" still exist in the Douro in the older vineyards and in Austria (gemischter satz), but it seemed to be quite normal then. In fact it was a lot safer: when one variety got an illness the other were often immune, and even the different ripening fases contributed to the minimaling of risks. Secondly all vines are planted in couples and in squares (see the video), to facilitate the working with oxen in all directions, and the squares are quite wide from each other.

The cave des Producteurs de Plaimont currently studies the vines to see if some of these old varieties have potential. Unfortunately no wine is made anymore from the parcel, a pity I think, but it is great that something like this still exists. You can find the video here: http://videos.ladepeche.fr/video/325c985d3abs.html. It's in French but gives a good idea of the situation.