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Cassis

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Some History

From the ancient grapes and the first written mention of a vineyard in Cassis shortly after the year 1000 up to obtaining the AOC label (term of controlled origin) vineyards have always been a part of the Cassis landscape.

Beneath the rocky summits, on the famous terraced hillsides which slope down into the calanques (coves), the vines plunge their roots into the cretaceous limestone searching for water, their leaves and grapes facing 3000 hours of sun per year and a mild climate without violent changes.

Grape vines have  existed in our region since 600 BC, when the Segobriges tribe (ancient inhabitants of Marseille),  appreciated the fermented juice of wild vine.
Then came the Greeks and the Phocaeans, founders of Marseille. Together with their viticultural knowledge they brought the white Ugni, a new grape variety which is still cultivated in Greece as well as in France .

The first written reference was found in a collection of old documents dating from 1199 in the Saint-Victor Abbey. which showed the existence of a vineyard. By order of the Archbishop of Arles, the Canons of Marseille had become owner of a vineyard close to the sea, at a place called Le Corton.

In 1380 a text mentions a vineyard at the seaside, in a place called L'Arène.
At a later time, after the secession of Cassis and Roquefort, the municipal records mention some new parcels in the inland (Le Pignier, le Revestel, le Bagnol, le Coulet, la Rostagne and le Plan). Therefore it is probable that viticultural development spread out from the south to the north, from the seaside to the inland. The produced wines were only red ones.

In the 15th century the Cassis vineyards represented 99 acres. Around 1520 the Florentine family Albizzi introduced a new grape variety, the Muscatel. It's under  the reign of Charles IX (1550 – 1574) that Cassis began to specialize in the production of white wine which was a novelty in Provence at that time. At the end of the 16th  century the Cassis vineyards dwell on 494 acres and produce about 1500 hl of muscat wine, the reputation  of which increases constantly until  the 19th century. Then in 1868 the Grand Larousse, famous universal dictionary in the 19th century, says about Cassis « In this little town by the seaside people harvest a syrupy wine with an importent alcohol content, the best in Provence ».

At the end of this century (1895 – 1897) the Muscatel and the entire Cassis vineyards were destroyed by the phylloxera. Thanks to the creativity of Joseph Savon who envisioned new plantations of vines grafted on American
woodstocks, the vines were ressurected  and white wine had preference.

 

On May 15, 1936  under its president Pierre Imbert, the Winegrowers Association of Cassis  had it's first claim to fame in obtaining by decree (together with the prestigious wines Châteauneuf du Pape and Sauternes) the first AOC label of France.

 

Today, the vineyards cover 470 acres and produce 7500 hl per year.

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