Vezelay wine: An exclusive link to ancient past

Tue May 4, 2010 10:08am EDT
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By Marcel Michelson

VEZELAY, France (Reuters Life!) - Vezelay is best known for a hilltop Basilica whose architectural genius is revealed by a dazzling display of sunlight at summer solstice.

Less well known is the local wine from this northwestern corner of France with its own AOC classification, a bit of spice, a fruity taste that is less "buttery" than a Meursault and fewer mineral tones than nearby Chablis due to soil differences.

One of the oldest wine-making areas in France, Vezelay's current abbey -- once a top draw for pilgrims seeking the relics of Mary Magdalene -- was preceded by a monastery established during the Gallo-Roman times of the first century.

Although its saintly reputation failed to protect the area's vines from being completely obliterated by the Phyloxeria vine illness from 1884.

Replanting began in 1975.

The allowed planting area is some 333 hectares (823 acres) around the villages of Asquins, Saint-Pere, Tharoiseau and Vezelay that in 1997 obtained the right to label their white wines Bourgogne Vezelay.

A similar request for red wines is pending.

Only about a third of the planting area is in use by a few dozen winemakers, most of them producing for the local cooperative Cave Henry de Vezelay.   Continued...