Vignobles Berthier, 2020 Update

The Coteaux du Giennois appellation is one of France’s great lost vineyards. During the 19th century, prior to the arrival of phylloxera, the area planted to vines had grown to a remarkable 3,800 hectares, comparable to modern-day Sancerre, and dwarfing neighbouring Pouilly-Fumé. Centuries of varied patronage from the Templars, the local Cistercian monks, the occasional French king and even the Medici family had nourished the vineyard, so that it had grown to a considerable size and enjoyed some renown.

Once phylloxera had been defeated, or at least the solution of top-grafting onto American rootstocks had been developed, the local vignerons tried to turn their vineyard (and their fortunes) around. It was not easy work. The region was eventually awarded the status of Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure in 1954, even though at this time its reputation was close to non-existent; the wines did not even warrant a mention in Pierre Bréjoux’s Les Vins de Loire (Parisienne d’Editions Techniques et Commerciales, 1956), despite him waxing lyrical about all the other Central Vineyard appellations.

Vignobles Berthier

When the VDQS system was phased out the growers of the Coteaux du Giennois applied for and won a promotion to appellation status, and rightly so. This is today a good source of alternatives to more famed white wines made in the region. For many years I thought this success was based on a strong presence of Kimmeridgian rocks and soils in the region, although Clément Berthier (pictured above) tells me the appellation is 50% flint, 40% clay and just 10% limestone, so it is much less common than I had thought.

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