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Thousands of Medoc vines vandalised

About 2,000 young vines have been vandalised causing tens of thousands of euros damage at a Medoc estate.

One of Chateau Labat’s vines cut off at the stem

The plot of Merlot vines at Chateau Labat, a 7-hectare cru bourgeois estate in AOC Haut-Medoc, was attacked on Friday night, possibly by a gang, the owners suspect.

The vines, in the commune of Saint-Laurent-du-Medoc near Pauillac, were not located next to a main road, and accessible only through a main gate to the estate, indicating that the vandals may have specifically targetted the site.

The plants were cut between 8cm and 12cm from the base, with almost all of the shoots and buds cut off. Around one third may be able to produce fruit again, but the rest have been destroyed, meaning a huge loss in terms of lost plants, and manpower.

‘It is the symbolic value that is most shocking,’ owner François Nony, whose family have owned Labat since 1920, and who also owns the 38-hectare Chateau Caronne Ste Gemme, told Decanter.com.

‘We have been racking our brains as to who could possibly have done this. Clearly they were very determined. For one person alone, cutting this many vines would have taken around six hours of work, so I have to assume there may have been more than one criminal.’

The plot of 5,500 vines had been planted in 2011, and was due to be used in the wine next year, for the 2013 harvest. Between 1,900 and 2,000 vines – around 20 rows – were damaged.

A police enquiry has been opened in Pauillac, but there are no obvious lines of enquiry.

Nony is vice-president of the Alliance Cru Bourgeois, working to promote the wines of the Medoc. ‘As part of the promotions team, I deal with the good news, not the bad news, and can’t see why that would attract anger. We do have occasional staff issues at the estate, as does everyone, but again I can’t see that they have been so severe as to cause this anger towards my family.’

Although extremely rare, this is not the first time that vines have been criminally damaged in Bordeaux. In March 2006, the Cathiard family, owners of Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte, found 800 of their vines had been destroyed at their Chateau Cantelys estate in Pessac Leognan.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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