The slagheaps of northern France warm up the production of Charbonnay

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HAILLICOURT, France, September 26 (Reuters) – Forget hiking or skiing, the latest trend on the slag heaps that litter the deindustrialized landscape of northern France is viticulture, made possible by global warming.

The closure of mines in the region’s coalfield, which stretches tens of kilometers west of the Belgian border, exacerbated the region’s plunge into economic decline at the end of the 20th century.

Today, the slag heaps are at the heart of sustainable tourism initiatives and a symbol of the rebirth of Pas-de-Calais.

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The vines were planted around ten years ago and in 2018 the first bottles of “Charbonnay” wine – a pun on the famous chardonnay grape and “charbon”, French for coal – were sold, mainly to locals and small shops.

With the heat this year – less scorching in the north than in the south of France – production should triple compared to the 10 hectoliters produced in 2021, even if this remains a tiny drop compared to the 45.6 million hectoliters expected at the national level. Read more

Winemaker Olivier Pucek said the climate in a part of France considered by many French people to be dreary and desolate had dampened the cultivation of vines, but things were changing.

“The summer heat has become more compatible with working the vines,” he told Reuters on a pile of rubble in Haillicourt, an hour’s drive south of the port city of Calais, as people harvested the grapes by hand.

Spoil piles, also known as “bone piles” or “slag piles”, are large piles of waste material extracted during mining operations.

A second vineyard has been planted in a neighboring commune and in neighboring Belgium, near the city of Charleroi, a vineyard planted in 2019 should give its first bottles next year.

A hectolitre is equivalent to 100 litres, or 133 standard wine bottles.

Ten years ago, UNESCO classified the mining basin as a world heritage site, a symbol of Europe’s industrial heritage.

“I’m sure it would make people who worked in the mines happy that we could produce wine – and good wine at that – on these slag heaps,” said Henri Jammet, a second winemaker.

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Reporting by Ardee Napolitano; Written by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Richard Lough and Ed Osmond

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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