Beaumont, France — The vines were once demonized for causing madness and blindness and were banned decades ago. French authorities have swung money and sanctions around and almost wiped them out.
But they were there. Forbidden crops flourished on the hillsides of winding mountain roads in a lost corner of southern France. One recent evening, Herve Garnier was relieved to visit his vineyards.
In the year when frost and illness in April reduced France’s overall wine production, Garnier’s grapes, an American hybrid variety named Jakes banned by the French government since 1934, were already red. rice field. With the exception of the cold weather in early autumn, everything was on track for the new vintage.
“There is really no reason to ban it,” Garnier said. “Prohibition? I want to understand why, especially if I find that the prohibition does not depend on anything.”
Garnier is one of the last struggers in a long struggle between a French wine company and its ally, Paris. For the past 87 years, the French government has attempted to tear Jakes and five other American grape varieties from French soil, claiming to be detrimental to human physical and mental health. Produces bad wine.
However, in recent years, climate change has caused havoc in vineyards throughout Europe, and the popularity of pesticide-free natural wines has increased, so the toughness of American varieties is a guerrilla wine like him. We are empowering manufacturers.
France promised to halve pesticide use in 2008, but it has continued to increase over the last decade. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, vineyards accounted for just over 4% of French farmland, but in 2019 they used 15% of all pesticides nationwide.
“These vines guarantee a rich harvest, without irrigation, fertilizer, and treatment,” says Christian Sunt, a member of Forgotten Fruits, a group fighting for the legalization of American vines. I did. “These vines are ideal for making natural wines,” he said, showing off forbidden vines, including Clinton and Isabel varieties, on land in the southern Cevennes region near the town of Anduze. I added.
American grapes have long played a central role in the turbulent and emotional wine history between France and the United States — alternately threatening and reviving French production.
It all began in the mid-1800s when vines native to the United States were brought to Europe, along with piggyback lice called phylloxera. American vines were resistant to pests, but European vines had no chance. Greedy lice attacked their roots, blocking the flow of nutrients to the rest of the plant, causing the greatest crisis in the history of French wine.
Lice destroyed millions of acres, closed vineyards and sent unemployed French to the French colony of Algeria.
After a quarter of a century of helpless watching over the collapse of traditional European wine culture, the highest spirit of the wine world came to light. The cure was in poison: American vines.
Some winemakers grafted European vines onto resistant American rootstocks. Others have crossed American and European vines to produce what has become known as an American hybrid, such as Jakes.
The endangered French wine industry has recovered.
“It left an impression today,” said Thierry Lacombe, a grape variety scholar or grape expert who teaches at the French university Montpellier Spagro, which specializes in agriculture. “It wasn’t the only American friend of ours who came to save the French.”
The French wine world has split between grafted and hybrid grape advocates.
The transplanters continued to produce wine from Pino, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other classic European grapes. American hybrids smelled like fox urine, which they often said.
Still, American hybrids thrived throughout France. It was especially popular in rural areas like Cevennes because it is strong and easy to grow. The family planted them on the hillside where no other crops could grow. They grew on arbor and cultivated potatoes under it as a way to increase productivity in every corner of the land. The villagers used a common cellar to harvest and make wine together.
If Pinot Noir was part of Burgundy’s identity, Jack became part of the folklore of northern Cevennes, including the village of Beaumont.
And in the southern part of the Cevennes Mountains, Clinton (pronounced Kleinton) reigned.
“Here, if you drink a glass of Clinton at the bar, people will jump at it,” said retired Forestry Corps Santo, 70. “If Clinton becomes legal again, it can be said that if a winemaker writes Clinton on a bottle, it will sell 10 times more than if he wrote Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Today, American varieties make up only a small percentage of all French wines. However, due to grafting and hybrids, production grew rapidly throughout the country at the beginning of the last century. Algeria will also be a major wine exporter to the metropolis of France.
With France flooded with wine, lawmakers urgently addressed the issue around Christmas 1934. To reduce overproduction, we have outlawed six American grapes, including hybrids like Jakes and pure American grapes like Isabel, mainly because they produced poor wines. Production for personal consumption is acceptable, but not for commercial sale.
The government had planned to follow up on the ban on other hybrids, but stopped due to a backlash against the first ban, Mr. Rakum said. After that, the war brought another amnesty.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that the government actually began cracking down on the six banned vines-when hybrids were still grown in one-third of all French vineyards-Rakum said. Told. It provided an incentive to tear the problematic vines and then threatened growers with fines.
He then accused American grapes of being harmful to the body and sane, “it’s not entirely honest to try to calm the situation away from the government,” Lacom said.
“In fact, the current defenders of these vines are right to emphasize all historical and governmental contradictions,” he added.
Clinton and Jakez could have died quietly since the 1970s without the back-to-the-land movement that took people like Garnier to Cevennes.
Originally from northeastern France, Garnier, now 68, a former long-haired high school student, traveled to see concerts by Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin. Half a century later, he asked to meet a psychologist, refused to eat with others, and after just seven hours at a generally annoying base, he was fine with how he avoided military service obligations. I remember.
A week after leaving the hospital, he was taken to the village of Beaumont in the Cevennes Mountains in 1973 on a purposeless hitchhiking and soon decided to buy the abandoned land.
A few years later, he started making wine almost by accident. The two older brothers asked him to harvest Jakes grapes in exchange for half the wine production. He learned the history of forbidden vines and eventually bought his brother’s vineyard.
Today, he produces 3,400 bottles of dark fruity “Cuvée des vignes d’antan”, a wine from old vines annually. He circumvented the ban by establishing a cultural and non-profit association, the Memory of the Vine. A membership fee of 10 euros, or about $ 12, produces a bottle.
In response to rising climate change threats and opposition to pesticide use, Garnier has legalized banned grapes, opening the door to a new generation of hybrids like Germany, Switzerland and other Europe in the French wine industry. I hope that. The country already has.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.