Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 9 April 2012

Val de Loire patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO, paysage culturel – oenotourisme: really!

'Paysage culturel ... et vivant!' (above and below)

A living landscape!?

Many parts of the Loire, including some of the the vineyards, are very beautiful and along with its historical cultural heritage justifies the valley (between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes) being classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site

But could you include the vineyards above, denuded of all life except for the vines, as 'a World Heritage' site? Although the photos used in this post were taken last week in some of the vineyards of St-Georges-sur-Cher, they could have been taken in a number of Loire vineyards. Nor are they a carefully selected minority – it is all too easy to find these desperately sad and shocking sights.

They mock and render hollow the resonant World Heritage citation:

'Paysage culturel ...
« Les paysages culturels sont des biens culturels et représentent les « œuvres conjuguées de l’homme et de la nature » mentionnées à l’article 1 de la Convention. Ils illustrent l’évolution de la société humaine et son établissement au cours du temps, sous l’influence des contraintes physiques et/ou des possibilités présentées par leur environnement naturel et des forces sociales, économiques et culturelles successives, externes aussi bien qu’internes. » 
... évolutif ...
Un paysage culturel évolutif « résulte d’une exigence à l’origine sociale, économique, administrative et/ou religieuse et a atteint sa forme actuelle par association et en réponse à son environnement naturel. » 
... et vivant
« Un paysage vivant est un paysage qui conserve un rôle social actif dans la société contemporaine, étroitement associé au mode de vie traditionnel et dans lequel le processus évolutif continue. »' 

Blitzed ecosystem....

...but the cheapest form of weed control

The real cost of cheap wine
Of course there are many producers who look after their vines with care and how have moved away from using weedkillers indiscriminately. Some stopping using them altogether, while others restrict their use. Despite its often difficult climate, the Loire is one of the leaders in France of organic and biodynamic viticulture. Over the past 15 years or more there has been a growing move to grassing over vineyards or tilling the soil or a mixture of both.      

It is not a surprise that there is a keen interest in developing oenotourisme (wine tourism) throughout the vineyards of the Loire. At the recent Vinocamp Loire we were all given a copy of an illustrated booklet called 2012-2013 Invitation dans le vignoble de Loire – Vignoble du patrimoine mondial. The booklet is a useful guide giving addresses of vignerons who are happy to welcome visitors.

The booklet's introduction claims: 'L'ensemble des appellations de Loire peut revendique aujourd'hui avec fierte le patrimoine historique et culturel de la région.' (All appellations of the Loire can claim with pride today to be part of the region’s historic, cultural heritage.)

Look through the booklet and there are no photos of blitzed rows of vines. Instead there are plenty of grassed over, living vineyards. Yet the reality in parts of the Loire is that the majority of the vineyards have been blitzed by weedkiller leaving the vines isolated without any ecosystem to provide a natural balance.     

It is, of course, all too easy and unfair to castigate producers who choose to use weedkiller indiscriminately as the cheap weed control option. We all bear a responsibility from the négociant who buys as cheap as they can, to the professional wine buyer who screws the price down only concerned to get cheap bottles onto retail shelves for us consumers who happily lap up cheap wine and think we have got a bargain. 

Not forgetting the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine) who appear to be more concerned to ensure that all Touraine white wines should be Sauvignon Blanc based or to stamp out 100% Pinot Noir in newly granted Loire appellations rather than tackle the indiscriminate use of weedkillers. It is good to see, however, that the new regulations for Savennières Roche aux Moines bans their use and Saumur Le Puy Notre Dame imposes restrictions.

Equally writers, photographers and publishers of magazines and books tend to play a part in portraying the pretty side of viticulture and ignoring this:

'Empruntez, avec cette brochure*, la route des vignobles, et voyagez à travers une mosaïque de terroirs et des paysages majestueux'! 


We are all of us complicit in this chain of Faustian pacts!

* 2012-2013: Invitation dans le vignoble de Loire.



Luc Charlier said...

Jim, lots and lots of comments come up, but no time.
One thing though: hand-labour in the vineyard has a cost (human and financial), especially if you’re a small estate and try to do most of the job yourself. When people persist in seeking the cheapest possible wine and buy it in supermarkets, yes you are dead right: its is a kind of complicity with the chemical industry.

Jim Budd said...

Luc. Perhaps some more comments when you have time. The indiscriminate use of weedkiller is clearly the cheapest form of weed control and that hand-labour is time consuming and expensive (at least in most of Europe).

If you are being paid peanuts for your wine, then blitzing your vines may be the only financially viable recourse. There needs to be a widespread change of attitude across many sectors of the production and retail chain.

Luc Charlier said...

Jim, of course the retail system is « guilty », but should the end-consumer – including you and I – not try to have his own impact on it by buying what is right, at the right price and in the right place ? If your PC comes from a supermarket, and is made with third class components, little wonder it will break down soon and you’ll get no assistance. If you buy it from a specialist, and the “tower” is constructed with top-quality items, custom-made, it’ll be less likely to fail you and will be easily repaired if this happens to be the case. Ok, you’ll pay marginally more for it. That’s always been my option.