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Winemakers : a tradition passed from father to son

Is the Lafarge family one of Lugny’s oldest families in the area? Indeed, the well preserved parish registers of the Lugny archives, dating from the XVIIth century mention this inheritance, in particular Philibert (de) Lafarge, the oldest of the lineage settled in Lugny, who was born in the very beginning of the XVIIIth century, and married in Lugny on February 4th of the year 1727 and was a wine grower in the hamlet of Collongette.

Nearly four centuries later, this family whose members, for the most part, have been cultivating the land (and, today, the vineyards) is one of Lugny’s most prominent families. Among these members you will find, Joseph, Robert and Anthony (who happens to be the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of Philibert). Three generations of proud wine growers with more than half a century of traditions.

Joseph, born in 1925, was knighted into the brotherhood of the Tastevin on the feast of Saint Vincent, celebrated on January 24th of the year 2009 in Macon. Seen standing next to him, his son Robert and his grandson Anthony.

Robert, born in 1950.

Anthony, who took over the family domain was born in 1985, and is shown with his girlfriend Sandrine.

In 2002, Joseph explained that the vineyard work which he had known before the war, a time where agricultural mechanization was not what it has become today, was cultivated almost exclusively by hand. “Our main work was of course that of tending the vineyards. Everything started at the end of the year, just after the grape harvest, by the “buttage”, an operation that consists in covering the base of the vines with soil to protect them from the frost using a plow called a “buttoir”. Then came the pruning, which took almost all winter – and the “sarmentage”, which consisted in cleaning with a pitchfork all the vine shoots left in the middle of rows and putting them into piles next to the plot in order to burn them. Then we would prepare the vines for what we call folding, pulling wires and replacing some posts. After that came the time of folding the vine sticks, and that had to be accomplished before the vine started to grow. Then you had to start the “débutage” which consists in moving the soil that had been covering the vines for many months, using a plow. The soil of the vine rows, which was turned by the passage of the plow had to be leveled by what we call an “extirpateur”, a tool equipped with five plow legs that enabled leveling the land. Then we performed the “mondage”, which we do by hand and consists of taking off what had grown at the foot of the vine (bad buds), in order to give more strength to the vine. We then had to raise the vines, an operation called “accoler”, by attaching it with wickers prepared during winter evenings. Then, using gardening shears, we had to evenly cut back the rows. After that only, could start the “vendanges”, or grape harvest, most of the time between the 10th and the 15th of September, and which would sometimes last for a month. Regardless of all this work, about every ten days, it was still necessary for us to treat the vine with sulfate. We had about six to eight treatments per year, knowing that we would stop treating the vine by the end of the month of July. This was originally done with a knapsack sprayer (famous copper cans from the Berthoud or Vermorel brand), but just before the war appeared the inter-line sulfate sprayer, which, pulled by a horse, made it possible to mechanically treat two rows at a time. My father bought one just before the beginning of the war, which helped facilitate the task ! Since the “vendanges” was the harvest of one year of effort, it held an important place in the agricultural calendar. The procedure was ritual. Once their buckets were full, grape pickers would pour the content into the “hotte” (basket carried on the back) carried by the “hotte” carrier. That person would then empty its content into tubs which, once full, were transported in a cart to the cooperative wine cellar to be emptied into little wagons with a pitchfork. The ingenious spilling system of the “douille” (huge bucket) didn’t exist yet. The “vendanges” would end by the famous “r’vole”, traditional evening meal served for the occasion where the family and the harvesters celebrated the end of the harvest with waffles and white wine. The “vendanges” were a time where a certain mix of population took place. Grape pickers were often foreigners (from Bresse, Montceau-les-Mines…) and more than once it happened that a young man from the area married a beautiful “vendangeuse” (woman who worked in the vineyards during the harvest). At home we housed about eight or so harvesters, which once added to my family, meant we were about fifteen pickers in the fields. During the three to four weeks that the “vendanges” lasted, Lugny was unusually animated. In the evening the pickers would stroll along the roads and meet each other in the local “cafés”.
Excerpt taken from “Lugny, mémoire de pierres, mémoire d’hommes” written by Frédéric Lafarge and Paulette Berthaud and published in 2004 by Lugny’s public library.

Grappe harvest (or vendanges) at the lafarge during the 2nd world war. Joseph, with his “hottes” on his back, climed on the cart, which carried the “tub” used to transport the “vendanges” towards the cooperative wine cellar… were it will be emptied with a pitchfork.