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Tuesday, 13 March 2012 14:03

Planting Rights and Wrongs!

Planting Rights and Wrongs!

In our veg patch we plant tomatoes and chillis, and in our orchard we have peaches and figs.  We don’t have to ask permission to plant, nor pay for the privilege.  Transferring this to a larger scale, you would have thought that owning a wine Domaine with viticultural land meant that you could plant whatever vines you wanted on it, whenever you wanted?  In the new world wine producing countries, you would be right.  But in France this is your first planting wrong!  In order to have the privilege of planting vines in your vineyards, you require planting rights, and if you do not own any (though pulling up existing vineyards), then you have to purchase them.

Planting rights are created by the Ministry of Agriculture, distributed by France AgriMer (another government body) and managed by the French Customs’ Viticulture department (Douanes).  Once you have your planting rights, (which will set you back a cool €1000 Euros per hectare and must be used within the following 7 years or else they expire), you then need permission from the aforementioned Douanes department to plant vines using these rights.  Permission is only given if you are planting the varieties that are ‘allowed’ by the IGP or AOP system that you adhere to, i.e. how you classify your wines once produced.  Only when you have all this can you actually get on with the work itself!

So why do planting rights exist?  Essentially it is another means (along with the restrictions on yield) of controlling wine production.  This one could understand in the days of the European wine lake when over-production and over-cropping caused a massive oversupply of wine.  But those days are gone, there have been hundreds of hectares of vines pulled up and those who still want to produce are being encouraged to restructure (i.e. Replant) their vineyards with better quality varieties.  Times have changed so much so that the EC Council ruled that the system of planting rights should be abolished by 2015, with the possibility of keeping them at a national level until 2018.

Great, we think, only a few more years and then this bureaucratic process will disappear!  Not so!  Nicolas Sarkozy, under pressure from a multitude of protectionist wine bodies, most notably the INAO, has opposed the suppression of planting rights claiming it will lead to disaster!

Hence we grin and bear it and put it down as another one of those challenges of running a wine business in France!  Planting those Chardonnay vines a few weeks ago was a breeze compared to the bureaucratic hoops we jumped through to earn the right to plant!

Published in Wine talks
Thursday, 09 February 2012 13:26

Planting Chardonnay 2012!

Minus 4 and Planting Chardonnay!


On a bitterly cold Sunday morning, the planting team arrives at Sainte Rose, ready to plant 4 hectares of Chardonnay.  It is the coldest day of the winter so far, at minus 4 degrees Centigrade and no one looks very enthusiastic!  The sun is out however and once moving, the team makes excellent progress using their GPS-guided tractor to plant perfectly straight rows of young vines.  Happily it has not been cold enough over a sufficiently long period of time to freeze the soil.  The planting machine is also capable of giving the young plant 3 litres of water and to administer a small amount of herbicide around the foot of the vine to avoid early competition from weeds.  Given the temperature however, neither of the above was possible as the water would just freeze!  And as the temperature keeps dropping here, there are unlikely to be many weeds in the vineyards for quite a while!


We are planting more Chardonnay because it is such a useful and flexible grape variety.  Picked early and vinified in tanks it can be fresh, fruity and vivacious.  Picked later and barrel fermented or barrel aged and it will be expansive and luxuriant.  Chardonnay is a key ingredient in our very successful ‘Coquille d’Oc’ white wine, providing the structure and backbone in what is quite an unusual blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat.  Chardonnay is also an important variety in ‘Le Vent du Nord’ providing vivacity and aromatics that lift the Roussanne with which it has been blended.  Finally in the very best years, we have made Le Pinacle, a barrel fermented and barrel aged Chardonnay, which in blind tasting has been mistaken for a wine from Chassagne Montrachet and other much more expensive and well-known Burgundian appellations.


Our established Chardonnay vineyard has a very different aspect to this new plantation, so we are looking forward to seeing what this new vineyard can produce.  Watch this space .....

Published in Wine talks