Last weekend, the ‘In Vino Verit’Arz’ association planted Pinot gris, Pinot blanc and Chenin blanc vines a few metres away from the water’s edge, just around the corner from Les Glénans.
Island vineyards date back centuries
Written evidence has been found recounting the presence of vineyards in the area as early as 1032. In the 19th century, there were as many as 2,000 hectares under vine! The wines were obviously used for mass, as Arz island was home to a monastery, but above all for distillation purposes. The American hybrid Noah was extremely commonplace but its high methanol content made it a no-go as methanol can cause blindness. The last wines were therefore made in 1973.
Re-introducing vineyards can be ascribed to climate change and is based on a strict scientific approach, explains Daniel Lorcy, the association’s chairman. The soils provided by the village council do not have much of a gradient but they do have good drainage – it has been known to rain in Brittany after all! The soil contains granite, gneiss and mica schist. After studying the terrain, an Alsace laboratory therefore recommended use of suitable rootstock 3309C and 1103. Sunshine levels are good at over 2,000 hours a year and the reflection off the waters in the gulf of Morbihan should be beneficial. Also, average temperatures are in the range of 12°C and wind is moderate - Morbihan’s microclimate is a well-known fact. Although research by Ludivine Guinoiseau, a student from the agricultural college in Angers, suggests that the climate may be suitable for growing red cultivars, the association chose to focus on white or blush varieties that require less sunshine.
The vines were planted effortlessly last Saturday after the ground had been tilled in the days before. Now comes the wait whilst the plants grow and develop roots before yielding their first crop in autumn 2019 at the earliest. The harvest is expected to produce around 700 bottles, provided, that is, the island’s many pigeons don’t develop too much of a taste for Breton grapes!