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Nathalie Gaillard, CING:

“This year’s harvest of Grenoble walnuts will be very large and particularly fruity!”

While it is difficult to predict the exact volumes of Grenoble walnuts that will be harvested this year, the first feedback from the producers suggests that the harvest will be quite exceptional.

“We are expecting a very large harvest, with 30 to 40% more volumes compared to a normal year. In addition to this, the quality of the walnuts is exceptional, as a result of the drought which has limited the pressure from pests and diseases, and reduced the amount of waste during the sorting of the nuts,” explains Nathalie Gaillard, coordinator of the Interprofessional Committee of the Grenoble Walnut (CING).



A PDO at the service of a traditional expertise
The PDO, previously AOC, was created in 1938 to defend this great quality. The AOC Walnut of Grenoble was the first fruit AOC created in France. “Since then, the specifications have changed little, which shows the desire to preserve a traditional know-how. Of course, mechanization in the 1980s and technical progress have relieved the producers and improved the drying techniques. But contrary to other crops, walnut production in France remains a relatively traditional family affair. Most of the farms are small and do not cover more than 5 to 10 hectares.”


An extensive crop that favors environmentally friendly management
Despite being a small production on the global scale, the French walnut stands out from its competitors thanks to this unique quality which has been favored over productivity. “The production of French walnuts represents 40,000 tons. A small amount compared to the United States which produces 700,000 tons each year. In order to survive in the face of such competitive pressure, the walnut of Grenoble is relying on quality. This great quality is the result of a unique terroir, traditional know-how and rustic varieties, with no extensive cultivation system.

"In France, 100 trees are planted per hectare, compared to 300-400 trees on the same surface area in the United States. Their walnut trees are smaller than in France, but this great proximity inevitably leads to a greater pressure from pests and diseases, and thus a more frequent use of phytosanitary products. 30% of the producers of Grenoble walnuts (21% of the surfaces) are committed to organic agriculture. And the other producers all have this desire to produce in the healthiest way possible. 90% of the orchards are grassed and therefore subject to mechanical weeding. In general, everything is done to reduce chemical treatments and favor alternative solutions such as massive trapping or sexual confusion."



A taste quality that seduces the finest gourmets
Besides the cultivation aspect, consumers of Grenoble walnuts and great chefs around the world were all first seduced by its taste qualities.

“The flavor of the walnuts of Grenoble is so special, thanks to the choice of rustic varieties, as well as the land on which they are produced using traditional practices. A combination of factors that give them this distinctive taste, with particularly fruity flavors this year. Its taste is much more pronounced and preserves a certain bitterness that is much appreciated by walnut lovers. American varieties like the Lara have the advantage of giving higher yields but they do not have these flavors which are characteristic of good traditional walnuts.

"The walnut of Grenoble clearly stands out from its South American and Californian competitors. We recently welcomed a great pastry chef from Japan who has been working with Grenoble walnuts for 30 years. On this occasion, we had him try a Lara walnut from America which he defined as “bland” compared to our Grenoble walnuts. We also realize that besides the PDO certification, some foreign clients from Germany or Italy look for products from the Isère valley in particular because they are familiar with the know-how and the quality of the walnuts from the region.”


A production that remains stable
In recent years, the production of walnuts of Grenoble has changed very little. The volumes remain relatively stable (12,674 tons last year) and the surface areas decreased slightly in 2019.

“I think that this is probably due to the storm of 2019 which destroyed 60,000 trees. Not all the trees have been replaced which resulted in a loss of 300 ha. We also observe a decrease in the number of producers due to retirements and insufficient number of new installations. But overall, the volumes remain stable. The renewal of orchards is not so frequent since walnut trees have a very long life. And even if the productivity of a tree can decrease after 70-80 years, many producers prefer to produce a little less and keep trees that were often planted by their grandparents, rather than removing them.”


A growing reputation
The Interprofessional Committee of the Grenoble Walnut was created in 1968 in order to bring together all producers of Grenoble walnuts and to define together the strategy that would make this walnut shine in France and abroad. In parallel, the organization works to make the Grenoble walnut known in France and around the world. To do this, the committee has multiplied its marketing and communication operations in recent years.

"We conducted a consumer survey last year, which highlighted the fact that the Grenoble Walnut has gained 10 points in awareness in 10 years. This proves that our efforts in terms of promotion have paid off and that this nut is becoming better known. I recently visited a store in our region that sold 8 different types of walnuts of Grenoble. It was the first time I saw so much choice available in a store. We now hope that this extensive offer will meet a corresponding demand."


For more information:
Nathalie Gaillard

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