The Sancerrois

Bué, a small wine-making village in the centre of France, where we live for a chunk of the year, is part of a different but equally 'working' landscape to that of the East Anglia Fens. These pages are my diary and notebook asI explore the area around the hilltop town of Sancerre.

Sancerre means wine to most people, but the larger Sancerrois area is known locally as the 'Pays Fort', or strong country. A mix of vineyards on the the chalk hills - the same chalk ridge that gave rise to the cliffs of Dover in the UK and runs southwards across France - with rich pasture on rolling hillsides and large fields in the plains given over to cereals and root crops. The area is also famous for its little goats cheeses or 'crottins de Chavignol'.

In the past this was an area of mixed farming on often very small holdings, where people kept a few goats and other animals, grew crops and tended enough vines for themselves plus a little to sell. Now, with its two famous appellations for wine and cheese, the land is very valuable and cultivation far more intensive, many of the small woods and patches of grazing have been cleared or incorporated into larger holdings, and most of the goats are kept indoors for much of the year.

Despite all this change however, much of the land has remained in families for many years and most of the winemakers still have just a few hectares made up of small parcels of land.