The large south-facing slope of the middle-Var river, from Tournefort to Entrevaux, is the second wine-producing region after that of Bellet. Villars-sur-Var is unquestionably the "capital" of this domain the production of which is named : " Vin de Villars ". It is the only one in the Alpes-Maritimes to bear the controlled naming of " Côte de Provence ". St Vincent, whose oratory can be seen at the foot of the vineyards, is the patron saint of the local wine growers. In the village, a double alignment of big stony columns, not dressed, often sought the imaginations; some saw in them the ruins of a gallery of the castle of the Grimaldis of Beuil*. They are in fact the supports of a vine arbour as one can still see in Northern Italy, in the valley of Aoste in particular; they appear so on the engraved view of Villars of 1682 for the Theatrum Sabaudiae; identical ones can be found on the engraving of " Nice and Savoy " of 1856 in Sospel. In 1821, Fodéré reported the wines of Villars as the best of the County. During all the XIX-th century, they were exported towards Nice, andt also, with those of Touët and Massoins, to the valley of Tinée, from St Sauveur to St Etienne. Puget-Théniers provided the valleys of Cians and Roudoule. In 1836, Entrevaux possessed 150 ha of vineyards; a part still remains on the terraces at the east of the fortified town. Farther, St Benoît counted 113 ha of stocks, a surface more important than that dedicated to grains. Bonifassi, in 1828 , classified the wine as being the first product of Massoins.

The vineyard also had its importance in all the high valley of the Var and until heights which amaze us today. If the vineyards of St Léger (important in the district of Vignasse), Sausses and Daluis (those of Vignaret in particular), of which some still remain today, were the continuation of the wine domain of the middle-Var, one will underline that their surfaces were equal also there to those of the cereals. In 1836, Sausses dedicated 73 ha to its vineyards for only 74 ha to cereal. Numerous farms possessed a domestic wine-press, until the slopes of Barrot; the farm of Roua, in the red pélites for example, keeps its own. These wine-presses were numerous in Daluis where the settlement was very scattered. It is there that lives the ultimate public distiller, to whom the local producers bring their marcof grape for the making of the " brande ", a particularly appreciated marc brandy. These vineyards, situated downstream of the red gorges, quenched the thirst of their populations and also allowed an export towards the upstream.

In the North of the gorges, nevertheless, the vineyard far from disappearing, still occupies vast surfaces. Documents of the XVI-th century show that many grapes were then harvested in Sauze. The vineyard developed on the Southern hillsides up to the road of the gorges ; discernible vestiges remain. The vineyards of the valley of Cant were renowned. And, fitting between the fields, the vineyard also extended over the plateauof Sauze, notably around Sauze-Vielh. In Laurent Nicolau's will, lawyer Anthoyne Guibert drafted on March 15, 1562: " Et de vin sieys copos chacun. Et si ero cas que fasso grant carestio de vin per calque mencament de la reculhido, que sos heres non en reculhisson en sas vignos, en aquel cas non sian tengus de ly en baillar que tres copos per an "

Other vineyards could still be found up to St - Martin d' Entraunes where a district of Vignal testifies of it. It is exactly in the forest of another Vignal of Villeneuve, about 1 200 m of height, that one finds on a stony block with this famous registration, boorishly engraved: " JHS / Maria / 1665 - on April 13 / began / to plant the vineyard / Jean-Louis Arnaud "

But the only big vineyard of the high valley was that of Guillaume where, in 1821 , Fodéré austerely claimed that it aroused here idleness. Spectacular, it staged on the south-facing hillside of the valley of Riou, over the sanctuary of Our Lady du Buyei, between 800 m and 1 050 m in height and on more than 2 km in length. For the most part, families living in St Bres maintained these vineyards on steep hillsides covered with gravel of Trias and benefiting from a prolonged period of sunshine. The production could exceed 50 hl per hectare, allowing every owner to obtain between 1 500 and 2 500 liters of wine. It was very insufficient because the consumption reached then 4 to 5 liters per person and per day. The supplement was bought in Provence, inhabitants of Guillaume, as communities of the valley of Entraunes consuming " only French wine ", what underlines a statistics of 1852. Annot served so as wine-producing market selling its own production and the imported complements from the region of Lorgues- Les Arcs.

The grape harvests took place in the second half of October. Today two or three owners still cultivate their vineyard and produce some bottles of an authentically local wine. Guillaume keeps as a relic, an old wine-press which appears also on one of the stained glasses of the parochial church (realized in 1931):, one sees carpenter Joseph at his workbench in front of this symbol of an activity which is disappearing.

Luc THEVENON

 

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