Winemakers with a quirky sense of humour

For the past 8 years, the winemakers of Saint-Marcel-d’Ardèche have been ageing some of their wines at the back of the village cave located in the heart of the Gorges de l’Ardèche. It has been an extraordinary experience which has created a competitive spirit within the group and given rise to an explanation full of humour.

Around 12,000 years ago, a tribe called Vino Habilis inhabited southern Ardèche. Its members bred female aurochs which ate grapes and turned them into wine rather than milk. The Vino Habilis took refuge in the caves to enjoy their renowned beverage. Everyone had their own role in the tribe: artist, potter, innkeeper, dowser, gardener, sage, magician, nature sisters and even a small group protecting them from the neighbouring Malabilis tribe.

The Vino Habilis are purported to be the ancestors of today’s winegrowers. The idea for this story was born in the imagination of one of them, Raphaël Pommier. “The inspiration came from the prehistoric presence in our region. A female auroch is drawn on a wall in the Grotte Saint-Marcel. She has a glow around her mouth. When I saw this, I immediately thought she was eating grapes!” he says with a smile.

This cave painting gave rise to the myth of the Vino Habilis and its related characters. “All our characters have a link with our culture, our way of life or a place which is dear to us,” explains this active member of the association.

“My character is the artist. He painted hands all over the walls. I use my hands to create the labels for my bottles. There’s an almost genetic connection with my character.”

This self-deprecating explanation has brought the group of winegrowers closer together. “We created this story together,” says Emilie Veyrier from the Cellier des Gorges de l’Ardèche. It allows us to present winegrowers in a different light. It shows we can be quirky and humorous. It makes our world seem less old-fashioned and serious.”

Today, the vintages of Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages and Côtes du Rhône Village Saint-Andéol red wine benefit from optimal ageing 80 metres underground in the cave, protected from any noise or light pollution. This combination gives the wine quite a powerful structure and concentration. It softens the tannins and intensifies the preservation of the aromatic palate, resulting in an explosive fruitiness in the mouth.

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Vino Habilis

To find out more about Vino Habilis this summer:

– Sunday 9 July, 9.00 pm: as part of the off programme of the Les Cordes en Ballade festival, a tasting at the Domaine du Chapitre in Saint-Marcel d’Ardèche after the concert by the Atulaa Quartet.

– Tuesday 11 July and Tuesday 8 August (7.30 pm-midnight): pop-up wine bar at the Grotte Saint-Marcel

– Friday 14 July (evening): Vino Habilis banquet in the grounds of the Château de Saint-Marcel-d’Ardèche

– Wednesday 19 July (6.00 pm to midnight): pop-up wine bar as part of the Jazz sur un Plateau music competition in Saint-Just d’Ardèche

– Saturday 5 August: pop-up wine bar at Domaine de Couron in Saint-Marcel d’Ardèche as part of the Ciné Vignes festival

– Thursday 17 August (6.00 pm to midnight): La Chouette picnic at Saint-Marcel-d’Ardèche

Pierre-Marc Allègre from the Domaine de la Pierre Laine is the new President of the Vinohabilis association. His character, the dowser, refers to the springs on his estate (the most important in the village of Saint-Marcel) and to his grandfather who had the gift of finding them!

Avatar Domaine La Pierre-Laine

The Vino-Habilise tribe

Cellier des Gorges de l’Ardèche

Cellier du Moulas

Domaine de Champs Vermeil

Domaine du Chapitre

Domaine de Couron

Domaine de Cousignac

Domaine de la Pierre Laine

Domaine Saladin

Mas de Libian

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