Wine heritage: vineyard lodges
If you follow us on social media, you have probably already seen posts about vineyard lodges. I love these tiny and cute houses, which are part of the vineyard history. Here in the Loire Valley, but not only. They can be found in other French-wine making regions, as well as in other foreign countries. They tell us about the past of common folks, peasants, anonymous people who have shaped the landscapes of these regions.
Places to rest, places to eat
Vineyard lodges take us back to the time when country people didn't own any tractors or cars and spent whole days working in the vineyard. The lodges were places where they could rest and find shelter in case of bad weather. The fireplace brought a little warmth and comfort. It was also the place to have lunch - the fireplace could then be used to heat up the meal prepared at home and brought to the fields. And finally they were used as storage places, where tools were left in the evening, before going back home. The larger ones sometimes have an attic and/or a cellar. They often have two rooms: one for men, the other for the horse, a precious assistant to the winegrower for his work in the vineyard. He too was sheltered in case of bad weather, and the room also allowed to store his food. We can say that vineyard lodges were social markers: the more money people had, the bigger the lodge they built and the more decorated it was (cornices, wooden laces, friezes, freestone door and window lintels, sundials...)
Various names for a widespread construction
These buildings are not specific to the Loire Valley: they are found in all French wine regions, and even beyond our borders (below, a vineyard hut in the Valais vineyard, in Switzerland). Depending on the region, they have different names: 'cabotte' in Burgundy and Beaujolais (below, a photo taken in Fleurie, in the Beaujolais vineyard), 'cadole' in Champagne, 'caburotte' in Poitou... In Touraine, they are named 'lubites' in the Cher valley, 'caburoches' in the Château-Renault area, 'choquettes' in Ballan-Miré, or even 'caves' in Crouzilles where they look more like dry stone huts. We sometimes simply speak of vineyard houses or huts. They are built with local materials: most often bricks and tiles, or tuffstone and slate. Some were made of wood and plants (such as dried vine branches for roofing), but they have all disappeared. Inside, a rustic but pragmatic layout: a table, benches or chairs, a wooden cupboard attached to the wall to store the dishes. Of course, no electricity or running water.
Buildings fallen into disuse
Vineyard lodges were built between the 17th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Those which have come down to us date from the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. They have fallen into disuse for several reasons:
- with the phylloxera crisis at the end of the 19th century, winegrowers turned to other crops, such as orchards. Some plots of vines have not been replanted. Today it is therefore common to find old lodges in the middle of fields or even woods.
- the creation of the first AOCs in the 1930s led to the redefinition of wine-growing territories: some wine-growing areas were not classified as AOC, and therefore not replanted with vines.
- technical progress and the mechanization of wine-growing work after WWII: we no longer need to spend the day in the vines or leave tools there at night.
Restoration and rebirth
Some lodges have been recently restored thanks to European funds. A rebirth for these charming buildings, which, if they could speak, would certainly have many stories to tell us! Do not hesitate to approach them and have a look at them - you may have the opportunity to see pretty mosaics on the facades - and at the inside. Some remain open and may well reveal little secrets, like graffiti left by lovers...