Historical reconquest of hillslopes by the “Vins des Abymes” after the collapse of Mont Granier in 1248 (Savoie, France)

The vineyards extending between the hillslopes of ‘Apremont’ and ‘Les Marches’ that dominate the valley of Chambéry (Savoie, French Alps) define the terroir of the ‘Vins des Abymes’. The particularity of this terroir is directly related to the chaotic morphology of the hillslopes formed by one of the largest landslides ever to occur in the Alps. In November 1248, the collapse of the Mont Granier cliff, which lost nearly 900 m in height, caused the displacement of more than 500 million m3 of mud and rocks extending downslope over about 30 km2. This landslide entirely ‘reset’ the soils of the original hillslopes, but also generated chaotic morphologies (locally called ‘mollards’), over which vine stocks have been planted.
Even if vine-growing was attested before 1248, the terroir of the ‘Vins des Abymes’ is specific to the soils affected by the landslide which therefore only existed after 1248.

These hillslopes remained abandoned until the early fourteenth century, and were then gradually occupied by agricultural activities and by vine-growing. The study of the construction of this terroir is made possible by the first modern cadastral survey, ‘La mappe sarde’, an exceptional document drawn up in the then Kingdom of Savoy, in 1713. It shows the extension of the vineyards in the early eighteenth century and confirms that territorial organization is linked to wine-growing practices. It also highlights the presence of many temporary shelters scattered throughout the vineyard, called ‘sartos’ and shows that the geometry of the plots and the road network are adapted to the rugged slopes. The history of the construction of this landscape gives a strong identity to this terroir, from both geological and human perspectives.

Authors: Fanny BIASINI (1), Christophe PETIT (1), Amélie QUIQUEREZ (2)
with the collaboration of Ghislain GARLATTI

(1) UMR 7041 ArScAn, University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, France
(2) UMR CNRS 5594 ARTeHIS, University of Burgundy, France

Email: Christophe.Petit@univ-paris1.fr

Keywords: collapse, local wine, vineyard development, vineyard historical construction

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