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Environmentalists block Rhone plantings

Environmental activists have dealt a severe blow to future vineyard projects in the Seyssuel vineyards, north of Vienne, in the Rhône valley.

Le Conseil Général de l’Isère is threatening to block any new plantings in the commune.

Ecologists, notably local pressure group Gère Vivante, are fighting against the grubbing up of woodland on the Coteaux de Seyssuel, claiming it destroys the natural habitat for certain rare species of flora and fauna.

They have made a formal application for the commune to be classified as a ‘zone biotope’: a legally protected ecosystem.

Seyssuel is an ancient viticultural area that has recently been replanted by producers such as Ogier, Chèze, Paret and Les Vins de Vienne.

Stéphane Ogier and Louis Chèze are optimistic they will be able to extend their vineyards next year. Ogier agrees that certain areas of woodland should be left untouched, but holds out against a complete ban on new plantings.

At Les Vins de Vienne they intend to increase their holdings by another 4.5ha.

‘I’m not against legally delimited protected zones. Here, although we don’t have organic cultivation, we respect the environment and only use chemical means when all else fails,’ a spokesman said.

The final decision will be taken later this year. The environmentalists don’t doubt that the region will be declared a protected zone, but the boundaries have yet to be defined.

‘The outcome could be that certain producers are left paying for land that they can’t plant,’ one observer said.

Written by Lyn Parry

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