Thursday, September 21, 2006

Vinyards not happy at new motorway

Baron Geoffroy de Luze usually loves this time of year, when the soft rains fall on the grapes in Margaux just before the harvest. He can look out over his vineyards in the hope of another vintage year - but not this year.

The baron is filled with foreboding because the French authorities are threatening to build a motorway right next to his vines.

He is one of many winemakers in the region fighting back over plans for a motorway which they say will ruin the country's most profitable vineyards in the Medoc. It is an area of Bordeaux world-famous for the quality of its wines.

The Bordeaux authorities will decide this week which routes to put forward to the French transport ministry, and whether the Bordeaux bypass should be constructed next to the Margaux vineyards or elsewhere, further from the valuable vines.

Officials say the bypass is needed to minimise congestion on the motorway from Paris down to Spain and Portugal.

"The motorway would come within 70m (231ft) of my vineyards, and who knows what impact it will have on the wine and the soil? This is why we are very worried here in Margaux," he says, examining the grapes ahead of this week's harvest.

"From the projections, we will get 25,000 big lorries a day on a motorway that will be six lanes in total, so it's bound to affect our environment. And Margaux is a jewel. Would you run a motorway through the park of Versailles?" he asks rhetorically.

Baron de Luze insists that his battle is not a case of "not in my back vineyard" but a genuine fear that the motorway could prove a disaster in this finely balanced eco-system.

The wines produced here are among the world's best-known Bordeaux. Indeed, some of Margaux's top chateaux, such as Chateau Margaux, are commanding prices of up to £276 ($519) a bottle for their 2005 vintage.

No comments: