Tradition’s a by-word for much that happens in the Lot Valley with its thousands of years of wine-making history. The secret to any tradition’s longevity, is that it must cherish the past whilst also embracing modernity and creating new norms that’ll become part of the future’s own history and traditions.
Traditional wine-growing in the Cahors’ region has re-invigorated itself over the years. Natural disasters, including disease and extreme cold, have caused re-thinks and fresh starts. The modern-day producers, who are often descended from the early wine-growing pioneers, are challenged with leaps in technology and importantly the globalisation to their trade. However, at the roots of all this there’s the same land, worked by the same families, producing the same crops for centuries. All nurtured by the passed-down knowledge and a combination of personal passion and pride.
Château Saint-Sernin, Parnac 46140 has all the history, with papers showing the purchase of land and some vines in 1619 by a Mr Fournié. The family, who later became Fournié Cavalié, has carried on dedicated themselves to wine production on this same land whilst adding to the hectares and overcoming many of nature’s great challenges.
Fast forward to 1965, Domique and his wife Marie took over the management of the family vineyard. Their plans for development, launched the vineyard forward and fitted well with the Cahors region obtaining the title Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. The vineyard flourished.
Forward again to 2005, their daughter, Anne Swartvagher officially took on the continuing relationship between their land, nature and wine lovers! Anne and her husband Heifara, have been propelled further by their passion and professionalism. These new-age winegrowers now manage 36 hectares producing Cahors AOC wine and a further 8 hectares producing Vin de Côtes du Lot IGP (Indication d'Origine Contrôlée), both red and rose.
Heifara was born in Tahiti to a Polynesian mother and when he (a special needs teacher) met and married Anne (a Maths teacher) a fusion of cultures was inevitably going to bring new traditions to the ancient vineyard. Enhancing and enriching whilst taking nothing away from the historical knowledge and ways. Surely this is how some of the most enduring of traditions are given constant new life.
The vineyard produces many classic cuvées, labelled with an image of the Château. However, the great grapes of the region are now being encompassed by Heifara’s artwork on the bottles of their Varua Maohi cuvées. The labels for which have been designed using Polynesian drawing techniques and create a wonderfully joyful presence.
I do wonder whether a ’chic’ design company could have, or would have, come up with anything better. The contrast with the historic French grape varieties, the ancient artistry of the Polynesian Islands and the vibrancy of modern design shows that this family’s traditions are the very best of innovators.
The artistry does not end when the colourful bottles leave the vineyard. For the 6th year Château Saint-Sernin will be hosting its summer celebration of Barriq’ART. The vineyard provides wooden barrels which are then used for individual artistic works. These can be works done by painting, sculpture, floral-work, iron-work, indeed anything at all that you can imagine doing to a wine barrel.
The completed works are then displayed over the summer period in the vineyard’s Chai. There is a vernissage on the 4th June (from 17.30) and the works will be available for people to go and see throughout the remainder of June, July and August. Artists can sell their works during this period. Anybody who’d like more information about taking part should contact Anne on email@example.com
So if you are in the region during the summer months and would like to combine an interesting artistic treat with a chance to try some great wines and perhaps find out more about the wine-making process. Do not hesitate to make your way to Château Saint-Sernin; you’ll be most welcome.
From 1619 when the family first purchased the land, the progress has been marked. A family driven by a love of what they do, a family embracing new ideas and cultures, fusing continents and now selling their ‘bottled’ tradition to each of the 4 corners of the world.
Château Saint-Sernin Les Landes, 46140 Parnac Tél : +33 (0)5 65 20 13 26