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High-speed train threatens vineyards

(First appeared in La Journée Vinicole, edition 207, 15 January 2010)

State-of-the-art technology and winegrowing do not always make perfect bedfellows as recent dealings between the French railway system (RFF) and château owners in the Graves region of Bordeaux have illustrated.

Plans to extend the high-speed rail network from Bordeaux to Spain would jeopardise the future of some parts of Graves.

The one-kilometre wide stretch of line would pass through land belonging to a number of châteaux, some of them highly illustrious.

Between eight to ten estates are located along the planned route, including Château Haut Selve in Saint-Selve, Grand Bos in Castres-Gironde and Château Méjean in Ayguemorte-les-Graves.

They are set to lose around 40–50 hectares of prime vineyard land with the remaining acreage cut down the middle by the new railway track.

“The line would cut a gash through the vineyard which already has to contend with strong pressure from urbanisation” stated the director of the growers’ union Jean-Louis Vivière in a recent interview with La Journée Vinicole.

Above and beyond the direct financial impact of the line, growers also fear that their unique landscapes will be irreparably damaged.

“The landscape aspect is of paramount importance, particularly to winegrowing,” Vivière said.

“Wine tourism has become an important source of supplementary income to growers.

“If you spoil the scenery, how will you attract visitors to the region and its wineries?

“It’s not just winegrowing at stake here, it’s the whole of the local tourist economy”.

The union is striving to persuade RFF to move its line slightly in the hope of ‘salvaging’ a few hectares.

Despite plans by the local authorities to conduct a further enquiry into the project, winegrowers are holding out little hope of a reversal of RFF’s position.

With the route through the vineyards the most feasible one for RFF, the odds are clearly stacked against them.



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