Retour en haut de la page
< Back to news
Oak

Gazeteer of France’s great oak woods – Bitche, national and communal

21 February 2019

The massif of Bitche in the Moselle comprises 19,000 hectares (almost 47,000 acres) of national forest and more than 1000 hectares (2470 acres) of locally held forest.

Published in October 2018, the book The oak in majesty, from forest to wine highlights the concept of forest terroir: a specific soil, aspect, and rainfall, as well as a particular exposure to sunlight, to which should be added the species or variety of tree, the density of plantation, as well as average age, all of which will influence the grain and quality of the wood. The value of a mature high forest will thus depend on both the terroir and in the way in which it has been “led,” as French winegrowers say, or managed, in the words of the forester.

The book, fully illustrated with photographies, compile, through a gazeteer with a lot of details about geography, mesoclimate and history, a list of twenty-six beautiful oak wood forests, as the forest of Bitche.

 

The massif of Bitche in the Moselle comprises 19,000 hectares (almost 47,000 acres) of national forest and more than 1000 hectares (2470 acres) of locally held forest. This is a recurrent configuration in eastern France. Many communal forests exist in the country (2.5 m. ha, or 61.7 m. acres, or 16% in surface area), managed most of the time by the ONF. “Bitche is in fact made up of seven forests extending east to west that form part of the Natural Regional Park of the North Vosges. Oak, the overwhelming majority sessile, holds its own here (30%), before beech and pine,” declares Franck Jacquemin, ONF director at Sarrebourg. The quantity of conifers is not only explained by the annexation by Germany in 1870, after which Lorraine was occupied and foresters from the other side of the Rhine planted fast-growing species, but also by the poor, sandy soils intermixed with Vosges sandstone.

With an average altitude of 350 meters (1150 feet), the abrupt hills are carved out by many rivers and receive c. 960 mm (37¾ in.) of rain per annum. “It is a very beautiful forest,” one buyer remarks, “they are but little units, and only one or two trucks of wood are taken a year. But, when you hammer in the wedge, the oak splits like a dream.” An oak wood of the continental type, in which the acorn season is unpredictable, it possesses an intermediate Atlantic profile. The peat bogs teem with so many game animals such as red deer and wild boar that hunting barely holds them in check. Though the mayor of Eguelshardt (from the Old German Hard, “forest with pasture”) was unsuccessful in his application to the ONF for “exceptional forest” status, the Pays de Bitche is classified as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. An experiment undertaken in 2002, within the framework of the Cooperage Oak 2000 program, found that oaks from Bitche are “particularly well suited to ageing Syrah.”

 

Find out the entire gazeteer of France’s great oak woods, and much more, in The oak in majesty, from forest to wine written by Sylvain Charlois and Thierry Dussard.

Monthly Archive