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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Peter Bathe

Wine growers in the Ctes du Frontonnais in southwest France are fighting for the survival of their appellation, which is threatened by plans for a second regional airport. On 26 March they received support from Ren Renou, president of the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) and Pierre Feneuil, president of Confdration Nationale des Appellations d'Origine Contrles (CNAOC), both of whom attended a meeting of the growers to show solidarity'. Ctes du Frontonnais, granted AOC status in 1975, lies between Montauban in Tarn-et-Garonne and Toulouse in Haute-Garonne. It is a small appellation - 2,400ha - with 183 growers, but it is the home of the much-underrated Ngrette grape. Unfortunately, much of the land around the villages of Fronton, Labastide-St-Pierre, Villaudric and Campsas, where Ngrette flourishes, was formed as the flat flood plain of the Garonne - and, of course, this is also ideal land for building an airport. Fronton growers are not alone in their opposition to a proposed new airport north of Toulouse. Local councillors and other associations have been joining the anti-airport campaign that began last January, when the prfet of Haute-Garonne published details of eight sites, all to the north or northeast of Toulouse, and indicated that the Fronton/Vacquiers site was the preferred option. The need for a new airport has arisen because the owners of the site of the current Toulouse airport at Blagnac, Aerospatiale, will not be renewing the lease after 2020. Renou emphasised that the INAO was a public body, acting in an advisory capacity to Government, and couldn't oppose the airport project as such, but added: the law expects the INAO to be the guardian of the appellations'. He continued: Each time one amputates part of an appellation, one amputates part of the national heritage. A terroir is the result of the ecology and geology of millions of years and you can't reconstruct it. This is the real choice - once it's gone, there's no turning the clock back.' Not all of the Fronton appellation would disappear under concrete and Tarmac, although the airport site would occupy some 12km2 - 14,400ha. The CNAOC's Feneuil warned that taking any large slice out of such a small appellation would be a death sentence'. He added: Aeronautics is 100 years old, the vine more than 2,000. The two industries must work together for the good of the whole region.'