The wines of Brittany! Bretagne!! Breizh!!!

Ok do you like the title? yes unique and rare! lol! I guess most if not all after reading the title will tell me wines in Brittany??? Well nowdays the region is known for its beers, and ciders, and even whiskies but wine; You ask? Indeed, France has a long history of wine making and taking the best soils and regions to produce it but there are others….And wines is one of my passions… culturally speaking with moderation…

At first sight Brittany (modern era) does not appear as a wine-growing land. Until January 1, 2016, it was even forbidden to produce and sell wine. Yet some enthusiasts managed to cultivate vineyards thanks to a tolerance, allowing to grow a maximum of 200 feet per plot. Thus we find vines still maintained in Saint-Suliac (35), Quimper (29) and Uzel (22) with a production mainly of white wine.

Some sources speak of the first wines appeared in Brittany in the 3C with the arrival of the Romans, then the vine grows with the Christianization. But wine production fades from the 10C with the competition of wines from elsewhere, cheaper and often better. The weather, the nature of agricultural land that is not conducive to this culture and political decisions ordering the uprooting of the soil will eventually end the exploitation of the vines. In the 18C, there are still some plantations around abbeys and ria, where there is a micro-climate. The writings attest to the presence of vines in the Val du Rance (Dinan, Dol, Plouër, Saint-Sulliac etc.), in the Morbihan ,Rhuys peninsula, and around Redon.  The Topology shows track of this viticulture, especially in Val de Rance. However, the cultivation of the vine has never completely disappeared. The monasteries especially indulged in this culture, some traces of which have even been preserved to this day. Thus, in 1848, the official statistical documents still counted 800 hectares of vines registered in this former province!

From the beginning of the 20C, the interest for the vine in Brittany is reborn, and at the beginning of the 21C, a renewal of wine-making activities in Brittany.  In 1996, an old vine, the black Magdalene des Charentes, parent of Merlot, was discovered in Saint-Sulliac. The law of last January 2016 opens new horizons by replacing planting rights with more flexible planting authorizations. Several projects are underway on the islands of Groix, Arz and Illur ( Morbihan dept 56). In the communal or associative vineyards the most commonly planted varieties are pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot blanc, chenin blanc. The vineyards of Brittany are an old vineyard, almost entirely disappeared between the 16C and 20C in four of the five historic departments of Brittany  (thus outside the Loire-Atlantique dept 44 where is produced among others the Muscadet of the Pays Nantais.

Sarzeau, a small town on the Rhuys peninsula in the Morbihan, has made available to a happy elected a dozen hectares of land formerly planted of vines. Indeed, the name “product in Brittany” and the Gwenn Ha Du (Breton flag) are selling a lot. Some communes had already tried to reconnect with their wine history, like Quimper.  In 2009, winemakers  planted Chardonnay and Pinot vines. For example you will find in Ille-et-Vilaine dept 35: the Haut-Quineleu of Sainte-Thérèse district in Rennes since 1992; in the town of Saint-Suliac: Le Clos de Garo (white chenin blanc and red rondo) planted since 2013, whose first harvest took place on September 23, 2017; Mont-Dol  ,(Renac local grape variety and Chardonnay).  In Finistère dept 29: Coteau-du-Braden in Quimper since 2006, Quillien (Argol), Treffiagat, Morlaix. In the Côtes d’Armor dept 22: The Quillio (variety Foch and Le Plantet) .In the Morbihan dep 56: small vineyards in Bohal (varietal verdot), Cléguérec projects in Belle-Île-en-Mer, Groix, islands and the peninsula of Rhuys.

Of course, historically, Loire-Atlantique dept 44 (now part of the region of Pays de la Loire) was also an integral part of Brittany, so the Pays du Vignoble  Nantais, where Muscadet and Gros-Plant are produced. The vineyard of Nantes, treated on the vineyard page of the Loire Valley, is the only one in the historic Breton country to count today professional winegrowers (about 800), and to enhance its wines by official labels quality (AOC, IGP). The Les Vignerons-Artisans de Bretagne ,and the Comité des Vins Bretons  (winemakers from Nantes) are asking for the creation of a label “Vin Breton” which would allow them to market under this brand.”Breton wines”

The group Les Vignerons-Artisans de Bretagne webpage here:

And the Comité des Vins Breton webpage here :

From this one of my house staples is the Domaine Poiron-Dabin, which I have written before in the Loire wines post in my blog. Lovely wine and great folks. For reference their webpage is here:

Some local efforts on wine making already !

Will Brittany one day produce wines of high quality? From the point of view of climate and soil, nothing prevents it, say scientists from Universities of Rennes 2 and Angers who have placed the region under their magnifying glass. In the lot, geographers-climatologists and students from the University of Rennes 2, supported by specialists from the School of Agriculture (ESA) of Angers. They have equipped a handful of plots with weather stations, at the request of individuals, associations, local communities, farmers in the process of diversification in Saint-Suliac, Saint-Jouan-des-Guérets, at Mont-Dol (Ille-et-Vilaine), at Muzillac (Morbihan), soon at Paimpol (Côtes-d’Armor). To measure temperature, rainfall, wind, humidity, sunshine

Depending on the orientation of the slopes, they can even recommend moderately late varieties such as chenin blanc and cabernet franc. Brittany, however, offers a climate more conducive to white wines than red: . Other climatic assets for Brittany: the number of days of frost, devastating for the vine, is very low. And temperatures are not too extreme: even for a Mediterranean type of culture such as vine, a mercury at 45 ° C recorded this summer in the south, is a source of high heat stress. The Breton rain, on the other hand, is as much an asset as a weakness. An asset, when it allows to put an end to a period of too great drought and water stress; a weakness when it falls at key moments such as bloom and harvest. Another negative effect of the rains is a greater risk of diseases, such as late blight or gray mold

On the heights of Quimper, Coteau du Braden is both a reference and a pioneer figure for the younger generations. This 2,500 square meter plot, planted with half chardonnay and half pinot gris, can also boast an exceptional 2018 vintage. By planting 5,000 m2 of treixadura, a Galician grape known to be resistant, in Treffiagat, in the Bigouden country, as climate change has been a determining factor similar to Galicia Spain. At Groix island, off the coast of Lorient, on the isle of Locmaria, where was just planted a hectare of chenin blanc facing south to the ocean, the farm covering half a dozen hectares, half of which should eventually be devoted to the vineyard. With a shallow soil and shaly soil with golden reflections , Groix island, which does not know the frost, could be an ideal haven for such an enterprise. Further in Saint-Jouan-des-Guérets, near Saint-Malo,  two hectares are particularly suitable for viticulture. Not quite a surprise if one refers to the registration of the plot in the cadastre under the name Long Vines, suggesting ancestral practice. Planted in May early varieties such as Grolleau, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at first, an organic sparkling wine upscale style, without prohibiting more or less long term the big jump to a red wine later on.

A bit of history I like that goes with the wines very well indeed ! My adopted Bretagne/Brittany as locals says Breizh!

It was in the 9C that Brittany became as known today. Thanks to the victory, during the battle of Ballon in 850, won over the Franks, by the Breton king Nominoë. But it is precisely in  August, 851, that the birth of the present limits of Brittany can be attributed. It is the son of Nominoë, Erispoë  who won the battle of Jengland  against Charles the Bald in 875. The latter was the grandson of Charlemagne and future emperor of the Carolingian Empire. This victory definitely seals the borders of Brittany by integrating the counties of Nantes and Rennes.(All of Brittany today in addition to dept 44 Loire Atlantique).

Few countries in Europe can claim such stability in their territory. The positioning in the far west of the European continent, a peninsula bordered largely by the coastline, partly explains this geopolitical stability. It was then the 1st Duke of Brittany Alain Barbe Torte who, after driving out the Vikings, made Nantes the capital of Brittany in 925.(and why you have in Nantes the castle of the dukes of Brittany!!!).

The Breton wines (meaning Nantais)  are already at the time export wines. They will remain so until today with good times and dark periods. Depending on the political and military contexts of the times. The Breton vineyards of southern Brittany (Loire Atlantique dept 44), which Cabernets and Pinot Noir. But,also Grolleau, Gamay and Malvoisie. This Breton vineyard, the largest European vineyard of dry white wine also produces red wines and rosés, to discover and taste. But the best known are Muscadet and Gros Plant. However, I have already a post on the Nantais wine and some communities such as Clisson so will stop here for that.

A fascinating story to be continue as the Breton search to find their wine making roots again in the upper part of Brittany... north of Nantes… Hope you enjoy the story and maybe one day grab a bottle whether in Brittany or the Loire-Atlantique::) In Vino Veritas!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

5 Comments to “The wines of Brittany! Bretagne!! Breizh!!!”

  1. The word “Bretagne” can mean Breton, Welsh, and even Pictish! 😎

    Liked by 1 person

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