the most recent wine region in France – .

the most recent wine region in France – .

The green light for the billionaire’s Belle-Ile vineyard in Brittany comes as environmental groups call for the protection of the coast.

For years, Belle-Ile, the largest island in Brittany, has been a wilderness paradise, home to dozens of white sand beaches, ancient coves and turquoise seas. With its mild microclimate, this hideaway of green and rugged calm, located to the west of the city of Nantes, is attracting more and more tourists.

But some islanders and owners of second homes believe that their paradise is now threatened by big businessmen, including billionaire Christian Latouche, who plants one of the largest vineyards in Brittany on the island.

Latouche’s director of his Provençal wineries, Domaine de Vallongue and Domaine des Terres Blanches, Bertrand Malossi, first spotted the potential of wine production in Belle-Ile when he came across old vines while ‘he was cycling on the island more than five years ago.

Since then, Latouche has secured 25 hectares of land on Belle Ile (Enez Ar Gerveur in Breton) – including 11.7 hectares allocated to a vineyard, spread over several sites on the island. Latouche also owns the Breton island of Boedic.

In November, the local representative of the French state at the prefecture of the Morbihan department in Brittany announced that it had given the green light to the planting by Latouche of the 11.7 ha organic vineyard of Kerdonis.

The prefectural authorization specifies, however, that the Kerdonis vineyard would not constitute a substantial threat to biodiversity and complies with all legal and environmental regulations. It follows a previous environmental impact study, and a public inquiry held this year, in which its public commissioner ruled in favor of the Kerdonis vineyard. This year, the municipalities concerned by the vineyard voted unanimously in favor of the development.

“The vineyard will create jobs and allow the inhabitants to stay on the island. With climate change, we must diversify agricultural production, ”Dominique Rousselot, mayor of the municipality of Locmaria in Belle-Ile, told Wine-Searcher.

The French authorities have granted the authorization on condition that the criteria for preserving the environment are met. Under the EU Natura 2000 classification, aimed at preserving biodiversity, protected land can be developed for agriculture if the environmental conditions are met.

However, the vine plantations on the Kerdonis vineyard plots in the interior of the island, which began earlier this year, before receiving final clearance from the French state, have sparked fury from environmental activists. local. Last May, Malossi declared: “This year, we planted 2.7 hectares of organic Chardonnay and Savagnin sur Belle-Ile vines. We are going to make fresh, lighter still wines with a nice tension.

Local heritage and environmental groups, however, say that the new organic vineyard of Latouche in Belle-Ile threatens to transform the wild and rugged coastal landscape of the island and its surroundings. About 4 hectares of the 11.7 ha vineyard will be planted some 300 meters from the coast. France’s authorization for the vineyard could encourage large wine companies to establish vineyards near protected coastal areas elsewhere in Brittany, they warn.

Micheline Lockwood-Daumas, secretary of the Belle-Ile Gerveur Da Viken heritage association (Belle-Ile Forever in Breton), which fought against the development of the vineyard, declared: “We are not against the planting of vines, it is rather the establishment of certain plots on wild lands near the coast, as well as the subsequent development of wine tourism and associated buildings that will have an impact on the environment of the island.

For his part, Gilles Smadja, owner of a second home and president of the association La Bruyère Vagabonde, declared: “This authorization opens the door to the radical transformation of the wild coastal landscape. What would prevent other winegrowers from planting along this coast, which is one of the most unspoiled landscapes in Europe? “

Smadja said his association was preparing to file an appeal in a Rennes court against the French state’s permission for plantations near the coast. Even if Smadja wins his case, most of the vineyard will be planted anyway.

A wave of plantations

Driving up to Brittany’s beautifully rugged, rugged and unspoiled coastline, you won’t find a motorway or nuclear reactor.

In this Celtic nation, and former independent kingdom, located on the Atlantic edge of Europe, there are still signs of cultural and linguistic resistance to the central imposition of French sameness.

For the past 80 years, Brittany, named Breizh in Breton, has been better known for its cider, beer and chouchenn (mead) production and Celtic music, rather than its lost history of viticulture.

This is because in 1941, the French Vichy regime, supported by the Nazis, brutally cut the Pays Nantais de Bretagne, the homeland of Muscadet, from the region. Lowered Brittany thus lost its largest vineyard and Nantes, its former capital, as well as around 30% of its economy. The French partition of the region is controversially supported by Paris to this day.

However, the liberalization of vine plantations by the EU in 2016, which ended France’s ban on producing wine for commercial purposes in Brittany, resulted in a sharp increase in the growth of the vineyard.

Rémy Ferrand, secretary general of ARVB, the association for the recognition of Breton wines, indicates that 223 ha of vineyards should be planted in Brittany over the next two years, with production focused on dry and sparkling white wines.

Edouard Cazals, a young professional producer from Val de Rance, south of Saint-Malo, should release the first Breton sparkling wine in early 2023. It is called Glaz ‘, a Breton word for shades of blue, green and gray.

© Tourism Brittany
| The wild and unspoiled Breton coast could be threatened by the development of the vineyard, some fear.

Climate change, which drastically affects sugar and acidity levels in French vineyards, is quickly attracting professional winegrowers to Brittany, where it is believed that the growing demand for fresh, less alcoholic wines can be met.

Although the Kerdonis vineyard shared opinions on Belle-Ile, the planting of vines was widely praised in Brittany. Currently, there is no opposition to new vineyards planted on agricultural land in mainland Brittany, away from environmentally sensitive areas.

The Bretons create a new group

In November of this year, young professional Breton winegrowers including Aurélien Berthou and Loïc Fourure, who this year planted vines in Theix Noyalo, (Teiz Noalou in Breton) in the south of Brittany, created the AVB, (Association des Producteurs de Vin Breton) a sister organization of the ARVB. Its members are prohibited from using synthetic pesticides.

Associative winegrowers, who planted vines in Brittany before EU liberalization in 2016, demonstrated how to make wine without chaptalization, a method by which sugar is added to wine to increase the potential alcohol level. “The wines of Quimper reach between 11 and 12.5% ​​depending on the site and the vintage; there is no need for chaptalization ”, specifies Ferrand.

Breton winegrowers are considering the project of creating a flexible Brittany wine appellation that would protect winegrowers and stand out from the generic Vin de France label.

Sarzeau, Sarjav in Breton, a historic place of wine production located on the Rhuys peninsula in the Gulf of Morbihan, is one of the municipalities that diversifies its agricultural production with the planting of vines. Lenaïck Chevalier, responsible for the environment and heritage at the town hall of Sarzeau, said the municipality was investing 1 million euros ($ 112.75 million) in the creation of a total of 9.5 hectares of vines and a wine estate which is expected to produce 35,000 bottles of organic products. sparkling and still wines every year.

After winning Sarzeau’s public tender for the production of organic wines, Guillaume Hagnier, former Champagne producer, planted the first Chardonnay, Chenin and Cabernet Franc vines in May 2020.

With below-average regional rainfall and mild microclimates, parts of southern Brittany, its islands and eastern Brittany have become the most suitable areas for wine production, according to Professor Valérie Bonnardot, climatologist at the geography department of the University of Rennes.

“As a peninsula, Brittany benefits from the moderating role of the ocean, which prevents nighttime and winter temperatures from dropping too low, and daytime and summer temperatures from rising too high,” said Bonnardot. “Frosts are rare, and our vineyard data in April shows that temperatures in Brittany are not as low as in neighboring regions like the Loire Valley,” she added.

Back in Belle-Ile, environmental groups fear, however, for the long-term impact of the Kerdonis vineyard, in a context of increasing costs of housing, development and tourism on the island.

During the summer months, the island’s population (over 5,000 and 5,000 owners of second homes) increases tenfold to over 100,000 each month. Flights to the island from Rennes should start next year, to strengthen maritime links to the island and increase the number of tourists above 400,000 annually.

“The neo-colonization of this island by large financial groups, including that of Christian Latouche, is a threat to the wilderness, heritage and environmental health of the island,” said Lockwood-Daumas.

“We feel that we are invaded. The premises are overpriced, ”she said. “Small agricultural projects should have been given to young local families rather than a billionaire. “

This situation in Belle-Ile is seen by many as a microcosm of what is happening, and what could happen, elsewhere along unspoiled coastal sites in Brittany.


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