Hugues Garnon who is now 85 and lives in the quiet village of Chateauvieux in Touraine south of the Cher river, is the man who long time ago made one of the most qualitative massal selections of Côt, at a time when the French viticulture was still fine-tuning its replantings following the phylloxera disaster that spread havoc a few decades before. I discovered this little-known aspect of the post-phylloxera era while visiting a winery near there, La Chapinière, where they have a very beautiful Côt cuvée named Côt Garnon. This story is a tribute to his contribution for wine and viticulture advancement.
Hugues Garnon comes from a lineage of vignerons, some being also coopers (his grandfather) or nurserymen (his father). Hugues Garnon was himself a grower, winemaker and he also managed a nursery. From the dining room of his house with view on the Chateau up there on the hill overlooking the village, he told me of these old times when there was some 75 vignerons in Chateauvieux, a long way from today's 6 wineries. He says that at that time (before WW2 and shorthy after) farmers were growing grapes along other crops and kept farm animals too.
In these years, Hugues Garnon was managing his own winery along the nursery business, and his replanted Côt earned him medals and recognition in the 1970s', through Côt wines that were particularly qualitative. And his Côt selections were used by the Chambre d'Agriculture to provide the French growers with top-quality grafts.
He stopped the nursery business somewhere in the 1970s' (even though he kept doing it at an artisanal scale for himself or friends) to make wine only on his 9 hectare estate, then he regrouped with three other growers of the village to make wine under the ombrella of a GFA (an agriculture entity). The name of the regrouped winery was Domaine de Péguignon, the concept was close to the one of a négoce : the mother winery which was managed by a 5th person had the money to invest for additional plantings and the 4 growers would deliver their respective wines in bulk.
We also passed a vintage filtering machine working with clay (the red thing on the side). Hugues Garnon also found several of the tools used at the time when the vineyard was tilled manually, long before the tractors appeared. Horses were used also but many vignerons still used hand tilling to work the ground, and this fork-type spade was a very common tool between the rows. Being quite heavy for a tool, the worker nedded to be strong and resilient.
The natural, strata-like accumulation of winery tools from times so far away from each other made this impromptu visit passionating. It helped also Hugues realize that he had real treasures in there, like the wooden jar and miniature cask and he told me that his daughter was interesting in preserving lots of this stuff.
After that, he walks to a row of Gamay and prunes the vines. Lets remind that Mr Garnon is 85.
An History of the Chateau de Chateauvieux (in French).
An interesting document (printed in 1985 in French) about the history of Touraine wines.