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Jacquet, a grape variety steeped in history


By Hervé Garnier, Mémoire de la Vigne association, at the Chateau Pontus de Thiard lecture series in Burgundy.


In 1993, as a restaurateur in the Vallée de la Beaume in the Cévenne Ardéchoise, I had the good fortune to live and work opposite the valley's last hillside vineyard, carefully tended by two brothers, Paul and Jules. This vineyard was the last vestige of the valley's winegrowing past, after the abandonment of a multitude of terraces following the great frost of 1956, the mechanization of cultivation and the industrialization of society.

For me, this terraced vineyard provided something essential in a landscape with such a rich past, now covered in holm oaks and scrub. When the brothers died, an association was created to safeguard the vineyard's historical and landscape heritage: Mémoire de la vigne. Each founding member contributes €150, and the adventure begins.

Hervé Garnier

I learn that the Jacquet and Herbemont grape varieties are banned from sale, reputed to be dangerous to health: they're said to drive people mad! And yet, they are the mainstay of our vineyard. Jacquet and Herbemont are indeed part of a list of grape varieties banned from sale, created in January 1935, following the debate in the French National Assembly on December 24, 1934: Noah, Clinton, Othello, Jacquet, Herbemont and Isabelle are banned from sale, transport and planting.

It became essential to check the quality of the resulting wine, dangerous or not, and also to understand the origin of this ban. A detailed analysis showed that there was nothing dangerous in the wine other than the alcohol. Further analyses have since confirmed this result.


As time went by, I made a number of encounters that gradually shed light on the origin and composition of this list:

  • Professor Pierre Gallet, an international authority and author of several reference works, one of the fathers of ampelography, who taught me a great deal about this era.

  • Professor Pierre Basler, Swiss vine genetics researcher, co-founder of Piwi international (organization creating new resistant grape varieties).

  • The Fruits oubliés association from St Jean du Gard and its work to promote biodiversity.

  • A winegrower from Châteauneuf du Pape told me about the importance of Jacquet for the appellation's Châteauneuf de garde until it was banned in 1934.

  • Another from the Languedoc region tells me about the Aramon grape producing 350 hectoliters/hectare.

  • A former president of the Vaison la Romaine winery, a neighbor of Edouard Daladier (President of the French National Assembly in 1934), tells me that Edouard's brother owns a 140-hectare Carignan vineyard in North Africa.

  • I was also provided with Progrès agricole and Progrès viticole magazines and other period material.

It has to be said that at the beginning of the story, the wine-growing authorities (customs), understanding the small volume of wine produced, asked us to be discreet.

But the simple fact of saying openly that our vintage of yesteryear was produced with a forbidden grape variety will become an excellent subject for the press. Antenne 2, FR 3, the BBC, the Herald Tribune, New York Time, France Culture in the program "Terre à terre" will talk about our safeguarding action and finally, it will even be necessary to question Europe on the subject to be able to continue to produce our few hectoliters of Jacquet. The customs authorities want us to disappear.

Fortunately, although wine made from these 6 grape varieties is still banned from sale in France, it is still authorized for family consumption, and therefore available to user members of the association. For a long time, Europe banned hybrids, as they were not allowed to be called WINE. Today, however, reality has prevailed, and the product of hybrids is indeed wine. Member states are solely responsible for their choice of grape varieties, and creative freedom has been restored. Hybrids have been rehabilitated. And even in the days of prohibition, forbidden wines were still authorized for family consumption.


Director Stéphan Balay, on the trail of his father's beloved Clinton wine, followed him to the Cévennes and found a subject for his writing that took him from the Cévennes to Italy, via Austria and the United States. The resulting film, "Vitis prohibita", is an excellent portrayal of the current situation in Europe and the United States.

Stéphan Balay filming in the United States for the documentary Vitis prohibita

Lucie Morton, an American viticulturist consultant and ampelographer from Virginia, whom Stéphan met, comes to Ardèche. Following a study carried out in South Africa, where Jacquet played a part in the creation of the vineyards of this distant region, she brings me a very interesting version on the origin of Jacquet.

Jacquet or Jacquez or Lenoir or Black Spanish... is thought to be the origin of Cabernet franc. Imported from France by Huguenot winemakers fleeing persecution and settled in Virginia.

The Vendée Cabernet Franc was chosen for its resistance to winter frost, and it was here that the Cabernet was pollinated by the local wild vine (Vitis aestivalis). The first to recognize it as a new variety was a Spaniard by the name of Jacques. This would be the origin of its name, and this Spaniard would have deposited shoots with a nurseryman in Ohio before exporting them to France, where winegrowers were looking for a solution to continue producing wine when powdery mildew was destroying their crops (they didn't know how to treat vines at the time).

Hervé Garnier et Lucie Morton

From Ohio to France, Jacquet was found in Texas and massively introduced to the South, where it was also used as rootstock and enjoyed a certain success as a dyer and sought-after blending wine. Today, Jacquet, Jacquez... is still present in the regions where it is adapted: Cévennes Texas, Missouri, Azores, Peru, Brazil...

M. Lespiault, President of the Bordeaux International Congress in October 1881, wrote: "American vines, and Jacquet in particular, behave admirably in the dry, hot climate of the French Mediterranean departments, and even if phylloxera were to disappear, Jacquet would remain, in the south of France, as a new conquest in viticulture".

Back to the history.

Wine has been known and appreciated by early civilizations since antiquity. The Romans ensured its development all around the Mediterranean basin. Over the centuries, Vitis Vinifera has evolved into a growing number of varieties resulting from chance (seeds) or sexual cross-breeding by winegrowers.

In pome fruit, chromosomal variations can be found for each seed. In fact, this is the expression of biodiversity: nature proposes in all directions, the best wins and the plant evolves with its environment.

In the middle of the 19th century, when steamboats made it easier to cross the Atlantic, Europe was home to a huge variety of grape varieties, and it was at this time that fungi previously unknown in Europe arrived from North America. First powdery mildew, then downy mildew and black rot were to prove formidable predators for European vines. In wet years, wine would be scarce, and it would be some fifteen years before sulfur was found to combat powdery mildew.

In America, wild vines, in symbiosis with their environment, developed resistances that were used to create new varieties by marrying different wild vines together or by marrying European vines with American vines. This is how Noah, Clinton, Jacquet and Herbemont came to take their place in French viticulture. They became known as the American saviors. Unfortunately, with their roots came the phylloxera vastratis aphid. Phylloxera will destroy almost all Vitis vinifera: they will have to be grafted onto American roots.

From the end of the 19th century, viticulture began to rebuild itself. In France, numerous hybridizers produced a multitude of new varieties. In Ardèche, two of them, Georges Couderc and Albert Seibel, created new varieties resistant not only to phylloxera, but also to oidium and mildew. In France, many others crossed, recrossed and planted thousands of pips before selecting the best vines to offer to winemakers.


The vineyard was rebuilt with these new hybrid varieties or our grafted vinifera, ending in 1934 with an overproduction: 36 million French people and 90 million hectoliters of wine to drink.

Overproduction stems from the 19 million hectoliters of alcohol-rich wine from North Africa which, blended with Aramon from the Languedoc plains, produce up to 350 hectoliters/hectare at 6.5 to 7°. These inexpensive wines, blended in Paris Bercy, were redistributed under various brand names: Kiravi, Kinouri, Margnat, Cep Vermeil etc...

In 1934, wine was still widely drunk in France. Drinking water was not guaranteed at every tap. Pasteur spoke of wine as a healthy and hygienic beverage. I've even read that drinking wine will combat alcoholism. Commonly drunk wines are of low alcoholic strength.

In 1934, small farmers were still extremely numerous (32% of the population). These small farmers had the right to plant 30 ares of vines for family consumption. Prudent, thrifty and pragmatic (ecologists without knowing it, the word didn't exist yet), they naturally chose resistant vines. They require no treatment, are highly productive and adapted to a number of regions: this is the Noah and for us in Ardèche, the red version of the Noah: the Clinton.

It should be added, and I'm convinced this is of the utmost importance, that these small farmers don't vote for the current government.

Othello, a hybrid of Clinton and Vinifera Black Hamburg, will be added to the list. Curiously, Isabelle, found near Nice, will also be added to the list, although production is limited to a few trellises. The Isabelle grape variety is in fact the American wild vine Vitis labrusca. L'Isabelle is found all over the world, and is one of the main grape varieties in India under the name Bangalore.

Jacquet or Jacquez and Herbemont are on this list for entirely different reasons. Jacquet had a much better reputation, closer to the vinifera taste. It is one of the 13 grape varieties of the Châteauneuf du Pape grand cru, for example. Jacquet in blends wins agricultural competitions. It is sought-after and well-paid by merchants. According to Mr. Galet, Jacquet and Herbemont were added to the list to hurt Toulouse MP Albert Sarrault in the case of Herbemont, and Edouard Daladier of Vaucluse in the case of Jacquet.

Pierre Galet in the documentary Vitis prohibita

For my part, I'd say that Jacquet was a competitor to Algerian wines and that, over time, it showed a susceptibility to chlorosis on calcareous soils. As its productivity dropped steadily in the Bordeaux region, its banning benefited certain vineyards, which received a premium for uprooting diseased vines. With these two grape varieties planted in the South, the government found a way to rebalance a law that initially affected only small farmers and not professionals.

These grape varieties were called American vines, whereas a large number of hybrids from French nurseries were kept, at least until 1956, when all hybrids were downgraded in favor of grafted vinifera (on American roots). In 1955, a catalog of grape varieties authorized for sale was drawn up, forcing winegrowers to make their own choices. A few voices of opposition were raised, such as those of professors Jean Branas and Pierre Galet, but to no avail. For Jean Branas (Professor and Chair of Viticulture at the École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier), "the winegrower has gradually been deprived of one of the essential privileges of his profession: the choice of variety. To remove this power from the winegrower is to lower him to the level of a labourer".

The ban on six grape varieties was maintained and, more generally, hybrids were gradually eliminated from the vineyard. The French government chose to commit to the grafted varietal sector. With the creation of the EEC, hybrids were ousted. Many wanted to free themselves from the American vine: wine should only be made from Vitis vinifera. Hybrids, which had been adopted for their resistance to disease, some of which produced highly appreciated wines, became useless in a context where the chemical industry was developing and seemed capable of dominating nature.

Cévennes winegrowers, where Jacquet on acidic soil thrives, have been severely penalized by this scurrilous law, designed to benefit investors from the colonies and to the detriment of France's small farmers.

Today, ecological pressure, i.e. the need to reduce fungicides and pesticides in viticulture, will offer some of them and others (hybrids from INRA, creation of Piwi international) new prospects. Some "French" hybrids: Villard blanc, Villard noir, Couderc 7120... are once again authorized for planting.

Recently, professional winegrowers have called for the ban on these 6 varieties to be lifted. Clinton has a distinctive taste, of course, but what right do we have to ban it? What are we to think of those who love it? There was nothing scientific behind this ban. The future of viticulture lies with vines that require little or no phytosanitary treatment. First-generation hybrid bans deserve respect, and it's time to restore their image.


Finally, a tasting of Jacquet by a sommelier:

  • Garnet-red in color, with violet highlights and deep coloring.

  • Immobile state: clean, pleasant, well-developed bouquet of jammy black fruit, blackcurrant, blackberry.

  • Aeration: violets, peony, sweet spices, vanilla and licorice.

  • Complex, nuanced nose of great richness.

  • Attack: roundness, fatness, beautiful enveloping structure in the mid-palate, finish: tannins coated by the velvet of the material.

  • Perfect harmony of acidity, alcohol and tannins, a balance of exceptional quality.

  • Serve at 16° with refined, tasty cuisine.


Jacquet 2017 and 2009

Association Mémoire de la Vigne




Tél :  +33 6 80 65 87 58

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"And you will drink the wine of the unchanging vine Whose strength, whose sweetness, whose goodness Will cause your blood to sprout immortality". Verlaine


Purpose of Mémoire de la vigne association

  • Save a hillside vineyard by sharing the wines it gives us, vinified by ourselves.

  • Our grape variety is not on the list of varieties authorized for planting.

  • We can share it with our members.

  • To taste the nectar, fill in your membership form or come and see us.


Its history

It's a love story.

Love of the landscape created by these impressive stone walls stretching for miles.

Love of the history of this country and its courageous farmers.

A love of history that deserves to be revisited.

In 1993, this heritage vineyard (classified by Unesco) was about to disappear. At the first meeting, there were five of us, but it wasn't long before around fifty founding members brought in a little money and Vallée de la Beaume Mémoire de la vigne began its life, supported by friends, local personalities, professional winegrowers (domaine de Chazalis, domaine du Mouton Noir...), the ICV laboratory in Ruoms, the PNR and even the customs department, sensitive to the heritage and anecdotal aspects of the production.

No sooner had I started than I was told that wine was forbidden and dangerous to health...

And so began a long and fascinating investigation into the truth, along with the discovery of the grape variety and its vinification.

Today, thirty years later, while the situation of hybrids has evolved, the unfortunate first arrivals in France are still reserved for family consumption.

Join us in this great family!

Our grape variety loves warm summers, its qualities are optimized, and recent vintages have been superb.

Hervé garnier

Association Mémoire de la vigne


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