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Wine ‘war’ in Sancerre as vines vandalised

A dispute over who should be allowed to grow Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire appears to have spilled over into vineyard sabotage after one grower reported losing 6,000 vines.

In what French media has termed ‘war in Sancerre‘, one wine producer in the Loire has complained to police after vandals sabotaged between 5,000 and 6,000 of young vines.

The vineyard attack is believed to be connected to a feud in the Loire over who should – and shouldn’t – be allowed to grow Sauvignon Blanc. However, a connection has not been proven.

Saboteurs up-rooted the hectare of young Sauvignon vines over the weekend in the commune of Saint-Satur, at a place called The Cabarette. They belonged to Jean-Jacques Auchère, a winemaker in Sancerre located in the village of Bué.

Damage has been estimated at 12,000 euros, but no suspects had been identified at the time of writing (19 July).

Tension has been running high in the Loire due to a dispute over vine planting rules outside of AOC vineyards.

Sancerre AOC producers in particular have been angered by what they see as overly-liberal EU rules allowing planting of new Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Pinot Noir, beyond appellation borders for use in IGP Val de Loire wines.

Winemakers in the Centre-Loire AOC group, including Sancerre, have said those outside appellation borders should look beyond Sauvignon and Pinot, to the 22 other grape varieties cleared for use under the IGP Val de Loire label – equivalent to the old ‘vin de pays’.

But, the wine union for IGP Val de Loire said concerns were exaggerated and that there was no widespread planting of Sauvignon Blanc outside of the AOC zones.

In October 2015 and February 2016, around 300 vignerons from Sancerre and Reuilly protested against a potential threat to AOC wines in Bourges.

Many in the region believe vandalism is too much. ‘We do not endorse these malevolent acts,’ Nathalie Prieur, director of the Union Viticole Sancerroise, told Decanter.com.

Chris Mercer and Yohan Castaing

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