France Grants National Heritage Status to Grape Vines

The vines were almost decimated by the 19th-century phylloxera

The French have always prided themselves on excellence in winemaking, though their recent decision to grant national heritage status to a plot of vines in the Ardour Valley reveals a new layer to their devotion to quality. These vines are related to an ancient grape that was nearly wiped out during the 19th-century phylloxera outbreak that decimated Europe's grapes. The infestation forced French winemakers in Bordeaux and Burgundy to borrow plants from Americans in order to allow the regions to continue producing. These vines are some of the only remaining vines in France that are truly 100 percent French.

And now, the government has chosen to honor that.

Realizing that these vines are indeed related to those decimated by phylloxera was not an easy task. It took scientists nearly 20 years to examine the vines and confirm their origins. There are 29 different varieties of grapes in the 40-acre protected plot, seven of which were previously unknown. But unfortunately for oenophiles, you won’t be able to taste the wine produced from these grapes any time soon. The vines are too delicate to undergo harvesting and their new national treasure status will continue to protect them.

A trip to the vineyard, however, may satisfy wine-appreciating tourists who would prefer seeing the unique square-shaped arrangement of the vines to exploring Versailles or Notre Dame. Those who decide to go will appreciate the unique layout that protected the grapes from infestation. The plot is in Saint Mont, an area of southwest France that received its AOC certification last year.

These aren't the only vines that evaded the phylloxera outbreak of 1855. Bollinger Champagne also has some preserved vines, as do Romorantin, in central France, and Reims. Their ages range from 150 to nearly 350 years old.