The famous scientist Louis Pasteur was born in the Jura town of Dole, and grew up in Arbois, something acknowledged in both towns through the naming of their public buildings and streets. As an educated French man it was inevitable that he would love wine, and indeed much of his research revolved around wine, leading him to comment that “wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”
This year the illustrious French Academy of Sciences is marking 150 years since Louis Pasteur was elected to the academy just ahead of his 40th birthday on 8th December 1862. The election acknowledged his remarkable work that began in the field of crystallography, and continued with his studies of microbiology, and was much inspired by his research into wine and vinegar.
In September, the academy launched the Fondation Maison de Pasteur whose aims include encouraging childrens’ education in the sciences, and campaigning for Pasteur’s body of research to be classified by UNESCO. This weekend (14th and 15th December) in Arbois, together with the Maison de Pasteur in Arbois, the academy launches a project to create a scientific heritage interpretation centre, named Terre de Louis Pasteur. In part to encourage donations and legacies, the Arbois event Louis Pasteur dans sa Vigne includes a series of lectures by members of the academy, visits to Pasteur’s original vineyard and cellar, and a tasting of the wine made in the tiny vineyard.
Pasteur is known by most for his pioneering work on vaccines and his explanations surrounding germs, leading of course to the stabilization process that became known in his honour as pasteurization. The contribution he made to health today is huge, and much of it was influenced by his work in and around Arbois, in particular studying the local vines and wines between 1860 and 1864, which led to his published work, Etudes sur le Vin. It was through this work that Pasteur was able to prove that microbes were naturally occurring in the atmosphere.
Pasteur’s Vineyard – Clos de Rosières
The family of Louis Pasteur owned vines and made wine non-commercially for their own use as did all families in the region at this time. In 1878 Pasteur bought his own vineyard on a site named Rosières on the edge of Arbois, near Montigny-les-Arsures and built a laboratory there too. In 1892 three years before his death he was able to extend the vineyard to nearly half a hectare (just over an acre) and around this time it would have been re-planted with phylloxera-tolerant grafted vines.
By 1942 the vineyard was all but abandoned, and with permission of Pasteur’s descendants and local official bodies, the prominent wine producer Henri Maire took over the running of the vineyard and re-planted it. Since 1992 it has been owned, along with the house of Pasteur and his laboratory, by the Academy of Sciences, but the Henri Maire company continues to manage the vineyard and make the wine. It has all five of the Jura grape varieties co-planted there and around 2,000 bottles of a blended wine are made. If anyone reading this is able to attend the weekend’s events and taste this wine, please do add a comment to this post with your impressions on the wine!
“A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.” is another quote attributed to Pasteur.
Notwithstanding this, in case anyone was wondering what happened to my project of writing a book on the wine region, then let me assure you that the plans are laid and I shall be focusing on writing and checking details on the ground for the first half of next year. With the help of some experienced photographers, editors and designers I plan to see this book through in 2013 with the aim of launching it in early 2014. The book will include profiles of Louis Pasteur and Henri Maire (who died in 2003), both hugely important in the history of Jura wines. Early next year, watch out for a Kickstarter project to raise some funds, this can also be considered as a campaign to encourage advanced purchase of the book and to give me the incentive to finish it on time.
Below is a video of the harvest at Clos de Rosières in 2009, with some science students from the local Collège de Pasteur who have reproduced some of Pasteur’s experiments on the vines. Featured with the students are Marie-Christine Tarby, daughter of Henri Maire, and Roger Gibey, retired scientist and local historian who has written about Pasteur’s work on the local wines, and who also features in my story of the 1774 Arbois wine.