A parcel of vines dating back to 1830 has become the first vineyard to be listed as a historic monument by the French government.
“It is a rare example of the wine-growing culture of our ancestors – notably planting vines on their own roots and in a square formation – which disappeared with the arrival of phylloxera," explained the prefect (chief government representative) in the Midi-Pyrénées region.
The vines are thought to have escaped the ravages of the disastrous infestation by the sap-sucking insect in the late 19th century thanks to the louse’s dislike of the area’s sandy soils.
The vines in the village of Sarragachies are believed to be 150 to 180 years old, with varieties that are indigenous to the area. “The 600 plants are planted in 12 rows with around 20 different grape varieties, of which seven cannot be identified,” the prefect added. Those that have been identified include tannat and fer servadou.
Eighty-five-year-old René Pédebernade has spent his working life tending the vines and jokes that even his great-great-grandmother, during her lifetime, thought they were old. Pédebernade handed responsibility for the vines, some dating back to 1830, to his son 20 years ago. But the frail old man, as hoary as the old vines, continues to help in the vineyard.
This is the first time a vineyard has been listed as a historic monument, and marks a departure for the French authorities. “It’s more common that we classify churches and buildings as sites of historic interest rather than living things," said Dominique Paillarse, the head of the region’s cultural affairs department (DRAC). But when Paillarse visited the vineyard with the department’s researchers, “we were so impressed we said, 'Let’s do it – it’s worth it.’”
Grapes from the old vines are sent to the Saint-Mont co-operative and blended with grapes from other sites. However, the Pédebernade family plan to ask the co-operative to make a special wine to commemorate the vineyard's new status as a site of historic importance.
-AFP with Wine-Searcher staff