SAVIEZ-VOUS? (DID YOU KNOW?)
Picardie – A Taste of Its History and Its Wines
Picardy (Picardie as written in French), lying between Paris and the Pas de Calais area, is a relatively unknown region of France, even for the French. Nestled in one of the most significant centers of Western Europe between Paris, Amsterdam, and London, Picardie was the site of some of the most famous battles of French and European history. Over many centuries, parts of today’s Picardie have been ruled at varying times by the Spanish, the English, the Habsburgs, and ultimately of course the French.
The province of Picardie consists of three “departements”, or what we in the US might call counties – the Oise, the Aisne, and the Somme, and is the home of Compiägne, Raleigh’s Sister City, and our magnificent Château. Note that Compiägne rests almost at the center of Picardie (see map below).
Picardie is considered to be the birthplace of Gothic architecture, which is magnificently represented in six of the world’s greatest examples of Gothic cathedrals. Amiens is the provincial capital, and its Cathedral is one of the largest in Europe. Exacting measurements reveal that Amiens Cathedral could encompass Notre-Dame de Paris two times over, and was built in only 50 years.
Today, the northern part of Picardie is largely agricultural, mainly centered on grains and vegetable crops. Picardie also leads France in the production of sugar beets at 37% of total national production – France is the world’s largest sugar beet producer.
And now – Picardie’s wines and wine production? If we were visiting our Château, Compiägne, or anywhere else in the region, what might we expect to be tasting and enjoying? While Picardie is no longer an “official” wine region and does not appear to be a winelover’s paradise, it has a rich history related to grape growing and winemaking, and has recently been showing somewhat of a viticultural revival. Forty of Picardie’s villages are part of the Champagne area, and several small recreational vineyards were established in the last 20 years in Coucy le Château, Gerberoy, Gouvieux, and Clairoix, and other towns and villages. The communes producing Champagne are foremost CondÇ en Brie, Château-Thierry, Charly, Soissons and Vailly, located in the Aisne Departement. At this time, Picardie produces 10% of France’s output.
Gerberoy (mentioned above), officially named by France’s Tourism Bureau as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”, is known for its flower gardens and relaxed way of life, and has a small but blossoming viticulture. In addition to Champagne and a variety of rosÇs and reds, a new gem has joined its jewel box: a lovely Picard Pinot Noir. Taken from vineyards comprising 900 vinestocks planted on the west-facing heights overlooking the village, this new wine has been well received. Le Clos Gerberoy, an association of volunteers, members and sponsors, have begun this nascent winemaking revival using vineyards originally donated by Etienne Le Sidaner, grandson of painter Henri Le Sidaner, who lived in Gerberoy from 1901 to 1939.
- Popular over the centuries and still enjoyed today are the following unique Medieval wines, available directly from Le Trebuchet, a local Picard wineseller.
- The Hypocras is a red wine melt with honey, cinnamon and many other secret ingredients. It remains a much appreciated aperitif in Picardie.
- The Saugette is a white wine with honey and sage.
- The Claret is a white wine melt with cinnamon and other ingredients, normally drunk as a dessert wine.
The ability to purchase Picard Champagnes and other wines here in the U.S. appears to be limited at this point, but that will likely change as Picardie’s wine community continues its revival. We will monitor this and provide new information as it becomes available. For those interested in contacting Clos Gerberoy (Champagnes and other wines) or Le Trebuchet (Medieval Picard wines and others) directly, see the information below
18 rue du Logis-du-Roy, Gerberoy
Tel: +33 (0)3 44 82 36 63
2 rue du Four, Lappion
Tel: +33 (0)3 23 79 63 47
By Meg Segal