Saint Mont AOC Celebrates 60 Years

by Paige Donner

Saint Mont is one of France’s newer appellations, created in 1957, but one that harbors some of the world’s oldest known vines of near-extinct grape varietals.

photos by Paige Donner copyright 2017 

 

In 2013 Saint Mont’s pre-phylloxera vineyard parcel was given the distinction of historical monument (the first one in France). On this plot of land there are 20 different varietals planted that date back to the 18th c. Red and white grape varietals are planted side by side as was customary in that era. And there are even 6 different varietals planted there that have not yet been identified.

photos by Paige Donner copyright 2017 

 

Here in this wine appellation of the Gascony region they take preservation seriously. You can find hundred-year-old vineyards in Saint Mont where pre-phylloxera vineyards date to 1871; Sarragachies pre-phylloxera vineyards that date to 1810; Limaris that were planted prior to 1910 and then over 130 hectares planted before 1970; and the jewel that is La Madeleine, planted 1880.

The Manseng Noir varietal is considered a “gift to Gascony” by the appellations’s vine conservation center. In 2000 one vine was found, by 2002 there were 20 vines in the conservation center; In 2012 you could find .8 hectares planted in Lectoure which yielded its first wine in 2014. By 2016 there were 7.6 hectares planted and now 2017 there are 13.6 hectares in total, a tally that includes the 2 hectares planted in Aignan.

One of the reasons the region and its vineyard owners and vintners are so devoted to vine preservation is that they recognise the importance of bio-diversity. In 2012 the 20 most prominent grape varieties accounted for 91% of vineyard area. This is compared with just 53% in 1958.

In Saint Mont we have decided to combat genetic erosion and varietal concentration.

 

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Saint Mont wine tasting, Paris. February 2017. photo by Paige Donner copyright.

saint-amont-paris-wine-tasting-photo-by-paige-donner-copyright-img_6495

Saint Mont wine tasting, Paris. February 2017. photo by Paige Donner copyright.

This is, of course, no small undertaking. In the world of agriculture where diversity is under attack by large-scale agro concerns, uniformity is often the argument that wins out. But in a hundred years, in a thousand years, if all we are left with is one type of tomato, what will happen to our genetic treasure chest? The recent meltdown of Samsung phones is a good illustration of what can happen when something is copied (cloned) and faults appear. It can spell diminishment of quality, and even mean extinction  – and quickly.

There is wisdom, then, in Saint Mont’s dedication to the preservation of diversity.

Tasting wines made from pre-phylloxera fruit is transportative. It takes you back to an era that can no more be recaptured than time in a bottle.

The region produces reds, whites and roses. One outstanding white is L’Empreinte 2014. And you are sure to pleased by anything from La Madeleine, Saint Mont Monastery as well as anything vinified by Eric Fitan or Veronique Terrade.  For 2017 Plaimont Producers were chosen as the Cave de l’Annee by La Revue du Vin de France.

Maison de Vins de Saint Mont  http://www.vins-saintmont.com

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