Les Vins de Pays Charentais
A brief history, the Charente region
Wine production in the Charentes region is much older than the production of Cognac that has made the region famous. Thanks to the coastal and river ports, and the vicissitudes of history (especially the “favorable” period of the 100 Years War) which helped the Charentais exploit to the full their advantageous geographical and commercial position in order to market and in particular export their production on a large scale. During the second half of the XII century, after becoming in a certain manner subjects of Henri II Plantagenet, they saw greater and greater opportunities, extending up to the North Sea countries, where their reputation lasted until the XVII century.
It’s in the 80s, that diversification really started, the profession structures and professionalizes itself. With the help of viticultural and oenological specialists and educators, combined with the amelioration of technical facilities, producers decided to take the initiative. Work on the selection of the varieties of grapes and new oenological know-how enabled production to increase. The possibility to exploit favorable climatic and geological conditions with the choice of soil types adapted to lower production levels also helped the development of production of Vins de Pays Charentais.
Vins de pays Charentais… the word ‘Charentais’ englobes the ‘terroirs’ of both departments concerned: Charente and Charente Maritime.
A ‘terroir’, meaning “all the natural factors (climate, soil, subsoil, rainfall) and human factors (know-how and agricultural traditions) of both viticulture and wine-making”, stretching from on the West, the banks of the Gironde, the Ile de Ré and the Ile d’Oléron (included) and on the East, out to Saint Sornin, 20 kilometers past Angoulême. The vineyard is an integral of the Charentes, its rows of vines highlight the landscape’s curves. The Vins de Pays Charentais offer huge diversity thanks to these varied types of landscapes and their soils. We can distinguish three main types: the Champagne soils (shallow clay-calcareous marls on soft chalky limestone from the Cetaceous period), the ‘groies’ (shallow red clay and calcareous marls, stony and based on Jurassic limestone), clays (up to 60 % clay on the surface), sitting on clay mixed with sand resulting from the erosion of the Massif Central.
2009 IGP Vins de Pays Charentais (an European quality symbol)
In 2009, the “vin de pays” designation officially disappeared.
Producers decided to choose the PGI designation, Protected Geographical Indication.
Today, the PGI Charentais corresponds to a guarantee that the vines were implanted on a predetermined geographical zone. The bill of specifications stipulates a regular control and monitoring process.
Today, over 1 500 ha are dedicated to the production of Vins de Pays Charentais.
Today, we can see the results of the years of investment and the work of the 600 wine producers who are proud of their vineyards. Regularly rewarded in the most prestigious competitions “Concours National des Vins IGP de France”, “Chardonnay du Monde”, “Concours Général Agricole” … they have become a product of high value for the Terroir Charentais. The constant progression of the quality of the wines comes alongside production of 90 000hl (around 12 million bottles) evenly split between red, white and rosé.