armand heitz tire avec son fusil sur une bouteille de roundup

How to solve the problem of pesticides in viticulture?

Posted by Armand Heitz on

Noah, Clinton, Othello: no, today I'm not going to talk to you about tennis, American politics or Shakespeare, but about viticulture. Add to these 3 names Isabelle, Jacquez (or Jacquet) and Herbemont, and here you are with the list of 6 grape varieties prohibited for sale since 1935. A decree of 1955 obliged the uprooting of the vines. The reason ? They produce wines that drive people mad and blind. My eye yes!

Poster of the prohibition of forbidden grape varieties in 1956

This health argument was fallacious. He was accused of a too high methanol level that could damage the optic nerve. My second eye! Studies have shown that there was less methanol in these wines than in a cider and much less than in an alcohol obtained by distillation. Does it drive you crazy like absinthe used to? Gilbert Bischeri, a passionate and militant winegrower, owns a conservatory plot in the Gard. It produces 600 bottles each year with 70% Clinton. He has been drinking it every day for 46 vintages. I invite you to discuss with him in order to verify that he is not crazier than you and me.

In 1955 France produced too much wine. The vineyard must be restructured. The fashion is for industrialization and AOCs. The choice is made to reduce peasant production so as not to compete with the policy put in place by the INAO (one of the many organizations that I love so much). Moreover, after the Second World War, American industry recycled itself by producing pesticides. France contracted a large debt with the United States to finance the war effort. Debt that France will repay by buying pesticides from manufacturers across the Atlantic. Result: we made the business work without knowing the damage that the pesticides were going to cause. Noah, Clinton, Othello, Jacquet, Herbemont and Isabelle are resistant to diseases, have no dependence on phytosanitary products and produce large yields. With all the reasons we have just mentioned, it then seemed obvious that we had to get rid of these 6 grape varieties.

prohibited grape varieties bunches from the Gilbert Bischeri conservatory plot

Still, it's a beautiful piece of Noah. When Matthieu, who assists me in production, showed me photos of his grandfather's field where these branches are located, I was immediately charmed. It is a variety resulting from a natural cross between Taylor (Vitis Labrusca x Vitis Riparia) and Vitis Riparia, with very sweet and acidic white grapes. The clusters are very small, airy, numerous, and the grapes fall on their own at maturity. In short, it is difficult to imagine nature expressing itself so fully.

I was very curious to be able to taste a wine made from this grape variety, I had never had the opportunity. A major smear campaign on the taste of these wines had taken place during the ban. It was a question in particular of "foxé" taste, which many hear as "fox pee". I invite you to watch the documentary Vitis prohibita and you will discover that this legend was built on a translation error. In reality, foxé does not imply a taste of fox pee at all, but rather a slightly wild side. The aromas that can be detected are those of wild strawberries and spices. It's very amusing because it's an aromatic palette that I love to find in my wines made from whole harvests.

Armand Heitz handcuffed with his bottle of Noah prohibited grape variety

Beyond the taste, the agronomic aspect should encourage institutions to review their copy and wine connoisseurs to look into the injustice suffered by these 6 grape varieties. Viticulture as it is practiced today requires the use of machinery and pesticides. Our resistants, Noah, Clinton, Jacquez, Isabelle, Othello and Herbemont were banished for political and economic choices. It is incredible in view of the ecological crisis that we are experiencing that they are not at the center of the debate for sustainable viticulture. Even today, our institutions maintain their ban. These grape varieties are irrefutable historical proof that they prefer to pollute our planet and our health for economic purposes.

Thanks to the Noah grapes harvested by Matthieu on Sunday September 18, 2022, we were able to produce the Noah 2022 cuvée. A production of 50 bottles, rarer than Romanée-Conti! The fair price of this bottle would, in my opinion, be to assess the damage caused to our land and our health by 60 years of viticultural pesticides. I'll let you estimate the cost of the repair. Anyway, I have no right to sell it to you. For those who still wish to defend the interests of nature, you can contact us on this email

Armand Heitz

Photos © Jib Peter / Yvette Charret (image of the 1956 prohibition poster) / Gilbert Bischeri (clusters of prohibited grape varieties from his conservatory plot in the Gard)

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