Vins de pays Charentais, our regional wines
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 kilometres 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.
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.
The Dutch and their important consumption of Brandy changed everything during the Age of Enlightenment. This “burnt wine” super-ceded the rest of production and turned the local vineyard production towards what soon became, Cognac.
In the Middle Ages, Charente and Charente Maritime had a significant role in helping France become the most important wine exporter. In even older times there are no doubts that the Romans, who where then living in Charente, also appreciated our local wine.
The early 80’s, the wine producers structure their activity
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.
In parallel communication axed on the summer tourist season was developed.
2009 IGP Vins de Pays Charentais (a 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. Production is carried out on carefully selected plots. The wine producers seek to obtain grapes rich in sugar and respect a 90hl/ha yield. The bill of specifications (decree from September 2000) 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.
Vins de Pays Charentais, pride of their territory
A strong emblem of this territory, the Vins de Pays Charentais reflect the richness of this region caught between land, sea, and rivers.
Wine and Charentais culture
The Vins de Pays Charentais have always been honoured to represent Charentais culture. This is visualized by their presence at the most important cultural events of the region ( Blues Festival in Cognac, the Grand Pavois, the Francophone Movie Festival, Humour & Vignes,...). And to illustrate this Charentais culture, the Vins de Pays Charentais have chosen a logo uniting Charente and Charente Maritime in a heart, represented by the 2 territories. From 2011 onwards, the Vins de Pays Charentais have presented a modern and contemporary campaign audaciously representing the Charentais Culture. At first visible in the region and on internet, this new identity will become the echo of the Charentais culture which is not sufficiently well known.
Wine and Charentais gastronomy
The white wines “Les Vins de Pays Charentais” are dry, light and subtly flavoured. Often savoured between 8°C and 10°C as an aperitif, these wines can also be enjoyed with a fish dish or Charentais sea food, white meat, goats cheese or fruit tarts.
“Les Vins de Pays Charentais” rosé have varied shades and are particularly delicate. They please gourmets who like finding fresh fruity wines for their summer meals. Usually enjoyed chilled (8°C to 10°C) they go very well with salad, grilled food, exotic dishes and fruits salads.
The red wines “Les Vins de Pays Charentais” are elegant and full bodied. They reveal themselves best after being in the bottle for 6 months to a year. Ideally served at around 16°C, they go with delicatessen foods, red meats, pies, cheeses and other products from the Charentais terroir.
Men and Women of the “Vin de Pays Charentais”
From grape growers to wine makers : 600 names as a guarantee of quality
In Charente, cultivating the vineyards and producing Vins de Pays are undertaken by growers who are proud of the craft and their production of regional wines. The quality and the diversity of the PGI Charentais is the result of the time and passion these wine producers have put in to their work.
“We wine growers share our pride in preserving the Charentais identity and to see it protected by our PGI, which underlines our origins, efforts and the quality of our work.”
space of time have managed to make important choices, giving guidelines to ensure high quality wine which they promote through moral and financial commitments, putting in common their methods and thinking about their wine in a collective approach.