We stumbled across something of immense interest when interrogating the internet the other day. There is a vineyard in the St. Mont appellation not far from Lourdes with 190 year old vines still producing grapes in the care of the same family. As well as known varieties there are 7 unknown ones all planted next to eachother in squares so that ox ploughs could cultivate the soil.
The 6 ha. vineyard has become a Unesco World Heritage site: the first to be created from living vegetable matter as opposed to mineral (stone).
The unknown varieties and the remarkable layout are survivors from the pre-Phylloxera era - the only living examples to be recognised although more may come to light one day. Chance and luck have played a major part in the survival of this vineyard. The soil is sandy enough to have prevented Phylloxera from having taken a hold and the fact that there has been unbroken ownership for so many generations meant that when the French government offered a deal to grub up such local vines (Arrachage), M. Pedebernard preferred to keep the old vines rather than take the money. The 87 year old had been born in the house outside whose door the vines are situated and his grandmother had told him that her grandmother had told her the vines were "very old".
The vines in this plot are so diverse as to include no less than seven previously unknown varieties. The familiar ones include Tannat and fer Servadou. The unknown varieties have been christened Pedebernade 1 - 7. The respected local Co-operative, le Cooperative de Plaiemeont may even make an experimental cuvee of these one day.