Camargue sand

In the Camargue, Domaine Listel sits on Mediterranean coast. There, the vines grow in the sand, and there is a diverse variety of protected plant and animal species… The coastline along the Gulf of Lion is made up of barrier beaches ‘built’ over the centuries from sandy sediment that travelled down the Rhône and got caught in sea and wind currents.

This unique soil texture spared the Sables de Camargue vineyard from the Phylloxera invasion in the 1860s. Phylloxera is a small aphid-like insect that attacks vine roots. This insect was unknown in France until 1868, when it began to wreak havoc on vineyards. Within a few years, French wine output plummeted to between one-third and half of normal annual production.

Since it went untouched by Phylloxera, this exceptional vineyard’s unique vines are referred to as franc de pied, which means they were not grafted. The vineyard produces authentic, uncompromising pre-Phylloxera wine, rich in the minerality that the ‘French roots’ of non-grafted Grenache are perfect for.

 
 

The soil

From a geological perspective, the soil is made up of ‘raw mineral sands of the Rhone brought by sea and by wind’. The sediments transported by the Rhône, when they reached the Mediterranean, got caught up in East-to-West marine currents. The largest particles were carried away and deposited on the coast, in particular in the area between the Pointe de l’Espiguette and the Cap d’Agde. Barrier beaches formed parallel to the coast. There are currently four of these barrier beaches, separated by ponds.

The average coast is 1 m above sea level, and the water table varies between 0.70 and 1.20 m from the ground’s surface. It is extremely salty, except on the surface, which causes a natural barrier—the vines’ roots cannot go too deep, since vines are sensitive to sodium chloride—comparable to the rocky physical barriers seen in Champagne for example.

As a consequence, the vine roots are very superficial, only reaching 0.20 to 0.70 m below the soil’s surface. There is practically no clay or silt, and there are low levels of organic matter (nitrogen, potash, phosphoric acid, magnesia, etc.). The soil has average limestone levels. This texture means that there are low reserves of usable water. In addition, the nematode that causes infectious degeneration of the vine (due to a virus) is absent from the sand. 

 
 

The climate

The climate is of course Mediterranean due to its latitude, but the close proximity of the sea and the salt marshes in Aigues-Mortes moderate the Mediterranean influence through an ‘oceanic’ effect. Temperatures are cooler in the summer, with an average August temperature of 20.8°C.

In winter, however, air masses cause a milder climate, and it is rare to see temperatures below freezing or spring frosts. Relative humidity (the percentage of water vapour in the air) is high year-round, so the air saturation deficit is low. In mid-summer, the root stock does not suffer and keeps photosynthesising sugar, which helps the grapes ripen and the branches grow. Rainfall totals 750 mm per year, mostly in autumn.

This sandy region gets all the natural conditions necessary for making high-quality wine: superficial, nutrient-poor soils that are dry in summer, heated by the sun, and coarse in texture; a climate that is warm but not ‘scorching’ and is tempered by the sea, preventing ‘stress’ to the root stock. Winemakers have made the most of these natural conditions, adding other favourable factors, such as varietal selection and growing, winemaking, ageing and bottling methods. The result is top-quality wine.

 
 

The vine

Planting methods

The vines are usually arranged with at least 4,000 plants per hectare. This high-density arrangement is favourable to quality, since it makes the plants less vigorous.
To make mechanisation and the use of high-clearance tractors easier, each plot is large, measuring an average of 20 hectares. The ground is levelled to be completely horizontal, since the ground is so close to sea level. Each plot is surrounded by drainage ditches known as roubines so that rainwater can run off quickly. The soil is ploughed, tilled, and hoed according to traditional methods.

Grain sowing

In late September, the entire vineyard is sown with grain (barley, rye, white oat, etc.) to protect the soil when the vines do not have any leaves (from November to April). Otherwise, winds would erode the land and form dunes. The grains are ‘cut’ by grazing sheep and then buried at some point in April. This practice is an environmentally-friendly method of fertilization.
In the past, the soil was protected by sticking dry rushes into the sand, a method known as ‘rushing’.

 
   
 

Domaine Royal de Jarras

Pink Flamingo

The near-mythic pink flamingo embodies all the richness of the Camargue and the elegance of Vin des Sables. So, it was not by chance that Domaine de Jarras decided to call its new Gris de Gris cuvée ‘Pink Flamingo’. The great finesse of Vin des Sables, its elegance, and its pink colour are taking flight.

 

Champagne

Provence

Camargue

Portugal

Sparkling Wine

 

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