The Troglodyte village of Turquant is on tufa rock and most of the houses on this part of the Loire are built of this stone. Below is a pic of some studios one of which sells tapped apples. Back in 1887 the Eel worm Phylloxera showed up in the grapevines and wiped out the existing stock. It was able to eat through the cambium layer in the roots of the vines and for a time untill a solution could be found the people of this area started making a type of alcoholic desert using apples. The preserved fruits were hit with a hammer before being bottled. Their long shelf life meant that the industry took off. Only one business remains selling tastings but it was interesting to think about how the people of the region adapted.
Before the vines were wiped out to produce a new plant one simply took hardwood cuttings and put them in the ground. Now all the vines grown are on American root stocks that have a thicker cambium layer which the eel worm cannot penetrate. Todays varieties are grafted onto these rootstocks. Ironically the eelworm came in from America as did the solution.
In the man made caves beneath this village and surrounding countryside muchrooms are grown comercially and every so often among the vines you see a ventilation shaft.
The variety of grape grown is mainly Cabernet Franc from Bordeaux. Below is a picture of wall.The grower Piere Cristal once grew vines through long stone wall.The vines were planted on the cooler north side and as they grew they were trained through small holes about a half metre from the ground.This meant that the fruits could benefit from full sun as well as the heat that stored in the wall. It reminded me a bit of how when your walking along a road and you find some tasty blackberries growing by a south facing stone wall.
Traditionally these vines would have been hand picked and destined for Bordeaux. Reflecting a little on the landscapes we have seen such as the fields of Corn, Brassicas, and especially the vines its easy to get seduced into the notions of tradition that signboards in villages focus on. The good old days when the work was done by hand, when the patterns of planting where scattered, very different from the order which allows for machine harvesting today. There is no getting away from the fact that these are enormous monocultures reliant on chemicals to keep pest and disease at bay. Here I came across a perhaps disgarded vine growing as part of a hedge which I find far more interesting.
Moving south from the Loire the landscape is almost entirely monoculture. In the fields off in the distance large corn harvesting machines are followed by tractors and those tall vine harvesting machines move down the rows to waiting trailors. It seems it is no longer possible to take part in the traditional handpicking harvest. Traditionally spanish pickers moved between the vinyards helping at harvest time. Below is a pic of what is left when the corn has been harvested.