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Sauternes threatened by high-speed train

Plans for a high-speed train risks “vandalising” top Bordeaux vineyards and causing irreparable damage to the “peculiar microclimate” of Sauternes, according to French winemakers.

Chateau d’Yquem vineyards in Sauternes

The Les Vignerons de Sauternes et Barsac (ODG) have called for a halt to plans for two high speed train lines between Bordeaux and Toulouse, and Bordeaux and Dax which could see 5,000 hectares of land bulldozed.

Cutting through the Vallée du Ciron, south of Bordeaux, the network will have an irrevocable impact on the climates of top Bordeuax appellations including Barsac, Graves and in particular Sauternes, they claim.

Famous for its sweet wines, Sauternes depends upon a “peculiar microclimate” provided by the valley.

Trees currently protect the river keeping it cool when it reaches Sauternes allowing for condensation, fog and noble rot – vital to the production of the region’s wines.

If the plans go ahead, these trees will be ripped out exposing the river and destroying the Sauterne’s delicate microclimate.

Winemakers have for years opposed the plans, which could see a high-speed line built between Bordeaux and Toulouse by 2024, and Bordeaux and Dax by 2027, but to no avail.

Speaking to, Philippe Dejean, owner of Château Rabaud-Promissaid, explained: “[Ciron] is a wet, wooded area and the microclimate participates in the formation of morning fog in the fall, which in turn promotes the creation of botrytis, the famous noble rot.”

The line would run for 70km and will stretch 100m in width – an infrastructure that Dejean said would “profoundly alter the climate of the area.”

In a statement highlighting the threat posed by the plans, the Les Vignerons de Sauternes et Barsac (ODG) and the Conseil des Crus Classés said the plans would result in the “devastation of the Ciron Valley and its tributaries.”

It said the plans would not only create a large amount of waste, but will pollute the area and destroy the habitats of wildlife and would only make journey a “few minutes” shorter than they already are.

The ODG has called upon members of the public to make their voices heard by participating in a public consultation that will run until 8 December.

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