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Margaux Threatened by Bulldozers

Château owners protest plans to build a highway bypass through the Left Bank

Mitch Frank
Posted: June 16, 2006

Margaux winegrowers are banding together to fight a French government proposal to build a highway bypass through their appellation. The plan threatens to eliminate between 150 and 300 acres of vineyards in Margaux, along with hundreds more in Haut-Medoc and Cotes de Blaye.

The proposed stretch of highway would provide a detour around the crowded city of Bordeaux, part of a massive transportation project organized by the governments of the région of Aquitaine and the département of Gironde to ease traffic between northern Europe and Spain. The project has been in the works for three years. Plans released in April show five possible routes, three of which would cut through Margaux's vineyards, though it's uncertain as to which properties would be affected. Citizens have until the end of June to respond.

The vignerons' reaction has not been happy or quiet. Gonzaque Lurton, owner of second-growth Château Durfort-Vivens and president of the Margaux winemakers syndicate, has organized a petition and a Web site, objecting to the plan and to the government's alleged failure to consult with vignerons. "The project comprises a direct risk to one of the most incomparable terroirs in the world, to the ecological balance of the appellation and to the image of the region as a whole," said Lurton. "It will turn our appellation into one big piece of tarmac."

Lurton has secured both the support of several Bordeaux wine trade groups and also the signatures on a protest letter of the owners of more than 70 châteaus, including Château Margaux and Château Palmer.

Some critics have speculated that the planners chose a route through Margaux to avoid displacing residents in the far more populated areas east of the city of Bordeaux. The government planners have said that they will take all citizens' opinions under advisement. Construction would not begin for months, until after final planning has been completed.

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