Sancerre Vineyards

The now- famous Sancerre 'appellation' came into being in the middle of the 20th century, and includes 14 villages around the hilltop town of Sancerre. Clustered in tiny south-facing chalk valleys scoured out by ice-age glaciers and meltwater thse villages have been home to the same families since the middle ages. Big changes followed on from the recognition of the uniquequalities of the flinty-dry, aromatic sauvignon blancs of these valleys with the granting of 'appellation controllée' status. Since then the land has become extremely valuable and covered with vines within the boundaries of the Sancerre name.

Intensive cultivation, in many ways similar to that of the Fens but on a miniature scale, imposes a geometric grid on this hilly landscape, which it radically transforms to meet human demands. In this case not so much a modern landscape, though machinery is now involved, but one with centuries of tradition and close-knit communities behind it.

Much of the cultivation is done by hand, some winemakers are returning to 'vendange à la main' - hand picking – and the use of machines and chemical treatments is reducing in the more valuable 'appellations' like Sancerre.

This means there is work in the vineyards and employment for young people, so the impact on local communities is more benign than the factory farming of the East-Anglian Fens and the wheat belt of France. But the impact on the landscape is just as dramatic, if more localised.