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Cadillac (Municipality, Gironde, France)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by ivan sache
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Flag of Cadillac, two versions - Images by Ivan Sache, 8 June 2014

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Presentation of Cadillac

The municipality of Cadillac (2,617 inhabitants in 2011; 544 ha; municipal website) is located in the region of Entre-deux-Mers [Between two Seas, here rivers Garonne and Dordogne], on the northern bank of river Garonne, 40 km south-east of Bordeaux and 13 km north-west of Langon.

Cadillac was founded in 1280 by members of the Foix-Béarn lineage as a "bastide", that is a new town established by a charter prescribing the rights and duties of the new colonists. Like all the "bastides", Cadillac was organized according to a geometrical plan centered on a square with arches; the town was surrounded with thick walls, most of them having been preserved until now, as well as two fortified gates.
The castle of Cadillac was built in 1599 by the architect Pierre Biard for Jean-Louis Nogaret de Lavalette (1544-1642). Nogaret, one of the closest favourites of King Henry III (1581-1589), was one of the richest men of the time. The Duchy of Épernon (written Espernon at the time) was erected for him in 1581. Nogaret married Marguerite de Foix- Candale in 1587, and moved to Cadillac in 1622, when appointed Military Governor of Guyenne by Louis XIII. The castle of Cadillac was designed as a royal residence: Louis XIII stayed there in 1620 on his way to Béarn, while Louis XIV stopped in the castle in 1659, on his way to Saint-Jean-de-Luz where he would marry the Infant of Spain. Nogaret was succeeded by his son, Bernard de Foix de la Valette (1592-1661), 2nd and last Duke of Épernon, who increased the castle, which was subsequently sold to several successive owners.

Cadillac is the cradle of the red wines labelled "Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux" ("Premières Côtes de Bordeaux" until 2009; website). The area of the Cadillac vineyards is 1,100 ha, divided between 80 wine growers. The overall production is 49,200 ha, sold only in bottles; bottling at the winegrower's estate is mandatory. The wines are made using four grapevine varieties: Merlot (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Cabernet Franc (15%), and Malbec (5%).
The white syrupy wines labelled "Cadillac" (protected since 1973) are produced on 180 ha divided between 60 growers. The wines are made of three grapevine varieties: Sémillon (70%), Sauvignon (20%), and Muscadelle (10%). Like the more famous Sauternes wines, the Cadillac white wines wines are produced with the help of the microscopic fungus Botrytis cinerea. Causing in most cases the "grey rot" that prevents the use of grapes for wine-making, the fungus induces in some particular conditions the "noble rot", naturally increasing the sugar content of the grapes. Accordingly, the botrytized syrupy wines are made without adding sugar after harvest.

The wine-grower Georges Cazeaux-Cazalet (1861-1911), Mayor of Cadillac from 1896 to 1911, was worried by the fungal diseases that devastated the Bordeaux vineyards in the second half of the 19th century. Black rot, caused by a fungus introduced from America to France in 1885, was at the time a main disease of grapevine; it was generally believed that the recommended applications of copper had little effect on disease development. Cazeaux-Cazalet experimentally demonstrated that the efficacy of copper depended on the time of the application, recommending to apply cooper "when atmospheric conditions are conducive to the development of germs causing the disease".
To improve knowledge on the disease-weather relationships and to train the wine-growers to spray only when necessary, Cazeaux-Cazalet founded in 1898 in Cadillac the Plant Pathology and Disease Warning Station. He hired the agronomist Joseph Capus (1867-1947) as the head of the station. Taking also into account the influence of temperature on the growth of grapevine, Capus was able to predict the more suitable time period for copper application. The accuracy of the predictions released in 1910 is very high: Capus recommended five applications, which were all required and on time. The warning system was extended in 1913 to the neighbouring departments and to the grape downy mildew, and, progressively, to diseases attacking a wide range of crops.
The Cadillac station was the first organized structure in France dedicated to the study and control of plant disease. The station was relocated in the 1920s to Villenave-d'Ornon, today the main site of the INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine center. Capus also developed a grafting system of his own, known as the Cadillac graft. Elected Representative (1919-1928) and Senator (1930-1940), Capus was appointed Ministry of Agriculture for a few months in 1924. All along his political career, he struggled for the improvement of grapevine cultivation and wine quality. Together with the wine-grower Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié, from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Capus elaborated the concept of protected designation. The Decree-Law of 30 July 1935, known as the Capus Law, established the Comité National des Appellations d'origine des vins et des eaux-de-vie, which was renamed on 16 July 1947 Institut National des Appellations d'Origine des vins et des eaux-de-vie (INAO; today, Institut National des Origines et de la Qualité).

There is no link between the town of Cadillac and the Cadillac Automobile Company. The Detroit Automobile Company was renamed Cadillac in 1902 during the commemoration of the bicentenary of the foundation of Detroit by Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac (1658-1730). Born as Antoine Laumet in Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Grave, a village located north of Toulouse, Lamothe-Cadillac forged his new identity in 1687, as "Antoine de Lamothe, écuyer, sieur de Cadillac". Cadillac is a quite common name in Gascony; Laumet appears to have coined his new name for an old feudal domain located near his birth village.

Ivan Sache, 8 June 2014

Flag of Cadillac

The flag of Cadillac is horizontally divided red-yellow, sometimes charged at fly with the municipal coat of arms (photo).
The arms of Cadillac are "Quarterly, 1. and 4. Or two pallets gules, 2. and 3. Or two cows gules" (Quarterly Foix and Béarn).

Pascal Vagnat, 8 June 2014