Diary #5 of Laetitia Allemand, winegrower at the Domaine Allemand: Wine in the Hautes-Alpes?! It's hard to believe for many people, and yet! Laetitia Allemand comes back for us on the history of the vine in the Hautes-Alpes and tells us about the highest vineyard in the French Alps :
I am very often asked questions about the presence of vines in the Hautes-Alpes and I always answer enthusiastically: but yes of course there are!... before adding: And for a very long time... The vine is indeed a tradition that goes back to Roman antiquity... That's to say that wine is part of our history and our traditions!
In the Middle Ages, our department had more than 7,000 hectares of wine-growing. The vine was on all the slopes of our valleys. It was above all owned by the clergy, that is to say by the Churches and Abbeys. Certain sites, such as Théüs or Remollon, were renowned for the quality and excellence of their production but traces of this wine-making presence can also be found as far up the Durance valley.
I am particularly impressed by one site. It is called " la Vignette " ( or " la Balmette " ) and is located at an altitude of more than 1300 metres, above the village of Argentière. Disappeared with the Phylloxera at the beginning of the 20th century then rehabilitated in the 2000s by the association "Vignetto", it is considered to this day as the highest vineyard in the French Alps.
The vines are surrounded by old stone walls which are called "restanques" here. Cellars (or cellars) troglodytes, dug in the rock of the mountain, were used to store and preserve the wine. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were no less than a hundred of them! Some of them also sheltered curious counterweighted presses. One of them, the press of Encombrouze, has been restored and can still be visited today.
I love this place full of history. It reminds us how much the culture of the vine has been an integral part of the life of men in our steep mountain valleys. Producing wine, raising it, sharing it was both a food necessity and a way to create social bonds, conviviality already.
This site is still strange in many ways today. Historians and archaeologists have not completely succeeded in unravelling its mystery. For example, they find it difficult to explain why so much care was taken in the construction of these cellars, nor why they are so big and so numerous... This place is therefore worth a visit and I encourage you to come and visit it if you ever pass through our beautiful region!
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Laetitia Allemand (German Domain)
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