Visit and discovery of the Charente-Maritime vineyards!

Le Château-d'Oléron
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Do you want to take a gastronomic trip to Charente-Maritime? Can you imagine this delicious seafood platter as a starter? If you are a connoisseur, you already know that, for the rest, you will accompany a dish of fish with succulent potatoes from the island of Oléron , simply sprinkled with a dab of Surgères butter and sprinkled with a flower. salt from the salt marshes ... And for dessert, a salted butter caramel sauce goes with everything, doesn't it?

But to get all this through, which drink will you choose? You will answer: a little Pineau as an aperitif and why not a cognac as a digestif ... But from starter to dessert, do you have any ideas? If the fame of Cognac is well established (nor that of Pineau, for that matter), the Charente vineyards conceal yet another little treasure, still little known ... A Vin de Pays , recognized by the appellation " Protected Geographical Indication " , is produced on the same wine-growing region as Cognac . For those who do not know it yet or for the curious who want to know more, we take you to discover this young production of Charente-Maritime.

Wine in Charente-Maritime, a whole story ...


Let us situate this turbulent history a bit. Charente-Maritime is above all a frontage on the ocean with 463 km of coastline and an archipelago of islands . Its oceanic climate is temperate, with mild winters and hot summers. It is also a slightly hilly and very sunny country. However, its soil does not lack water. On the one hand, thanks to the Gironde estuary and all the rivers and tributaries that feed it, on the Arvert peninsula and Haute-Saintonge . On the other hand, thanks to the Poitevin marsh which forms a network of canals, in the heart of the Pays d'Aunis and as far as the Val de Saintonge .

Its clay-limestone soil, silty and sandy on the coast, gives a land suitable for viticulture . Between marshes and pastures in salt meadows , the Romans were not mistaken. They are the ones who planted the first vines in the region. Archaeologists have, in fact, found vestiges of grape-crushing basins .

This vineyard is therefore very old, even if its history is a real roller-coaster ... From antiquity to the Middle Ages , wine production increased. Maritime traffic makes it possible to distribute Charentais wines, via the port of La Rochelle , to England and throughout northern Europe. Discovering the New World, La Rochelle oriented its trade towards other products. Little by little, Charentais wines fell into oblivion, in favor of those of Bordeaux. It is a new era for the vineyards of Aunis and Saintonge , which produce so-called “ burnt ” wines, before taking the name of “ Cognac ”.

New twist in the 19th century, phylloxera devastated the vineyards of cognac. The region will turn to agriculture and livestock. Cognac producers will take up this new challenge, until a new economic and societal crisis ... In the 1970s, between export blockages, the “ Evin ” law and changes in mores, sales of cognac are in sharp decrease. The domains are bound to evolve! This is how the first “ Vins de Pays ” cuvées were born, labeled in 1981. Since then, this young vineyard has come a long way. Today, it stretches from the Gironde to the Vendée and produces red, rosé and white wines .

In red and rosé, the grape varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot noir are used. The wines are very marked by red and black fruits. Between raspberry and blackcurrant, these are gourmet wines that complement grilled red meats or cold cuts, and why not some tapas ...

For white wines, we find Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin, Colombard or Ugni blanc. What characterizes these wines are their marine notes . They also have a very floral scent and a hint of lemon or citrus. Naturally, their iodine flavor will pair wonderfully with a seafood platter or fish.

Charente Maritime vineyard

Charente Maritime vineyard

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Other vine products


As an aperitif, we offer you a Pineau of course. This delicate beverage was born in the 16th century. It now has an AOC: “ Pineau des Charentes ”. It is a liqueur wine , that is to say that the fermentation of the grape is stopped, by the addition of alcohol. In the case of Pineau , it is a local brandy that is used, cognac . Then, we will let it age quietly for a full year, at least, in oak barrels .

Depending on the grape chosen, the Pineau will be red , rosé or white . The Pineau Blanc develops flavors of honey and spices on the palate, while the Pineau Rosé is more fruity. Traditionally, it is served as an aperitif, but you will be surprised by its happy marriage with melon or other fruits, foie gras and chocolate ...

Pineau des Charentes

Pineau des Charentes from Domaine de Beaulieu Source: Domaine de Beaulieu

We can't talk about the region's viticulture without talking about cognac . Already famous for a long time, the manufacture of this alcohol represents much more than economic wealth. This brandy is the result of ancestral know-how , which has been passed down from generation to generation. This story begins in the 15th century. The wine of the region is exported well, on the other hand it travels badly because its alcohol content is low. To overcome the problem, we will “ burn ” it, hence its first name of “ burnt wine ”. It will thus undergo a simple distillation . By storing this alcohol in oak barrels, traders notice that it improves over time and they decide to let it age. Then appears the technique of double distillation in a copper still , which brings finesse. They are more in the fashion of the 17th century.

The final recipe is protected by an “ Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée ”. From Ugni, a white grape, we make a white wine. The wine and the lees are distilled together for the first time. Then the “ brouillis ” obtained is distilled again to refine it. Aged in oak barrels for at least two years, the brandy takes on its letters of nobility at the time of assembly . The cellar master then combines beverages from different vintages and different ages to obtain a unique cognac with a character specific to each estate . Depending on the age of the youngest of the assembled eaux-de-vie, the cognac will be classified VS (2 years of aging), VO or VSOP (4 years), XO, old reserve, Napoleon or extra (6 years of minimum age) .

Cognac

Cognac and its amber color

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Our good addresses


In Charente-Maritime, each territory is well served.

In the archipelago of the Charente islands , the Ile d'Oléron and the Ile de Ré are producers of wines and pineau:

In the Arvert peninsula :

Producer of wines, pineau and cognac, the Domaine des Claires offers two atypical guided tours : “ from the terroir to the cellar ” and “ from the still and the aging cellar ”. You can also take a " wine tour with picnic " in the vineyard.

In the Pays d'Aunis :

The Wines of the Charentais region have their directory in the Pays d'Aunis. On this site, you will find information on the terroir, the wines and the producers .

In Haute-Saintonge :

  • The Maison de la Vigne et des Saveurs will allow you to better understand the region's viticulture, wines, pineau and cognac, on a free or guided tour .
  • The tourist office provides you with a tour of the region's vineyards : “ The Wine Route of Haute Saintonge ”.
  • The Vallein Tercinier family welcomes you to their vineyard, cellar and lodges . You can taste its cognac and its Pineau des Charentes there.
  • The Domaine de Beaulieu makes you visit its distillery and offers a table d'hôtes to make you appreciate all the local products.

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In the Val de Saintonge :

  • In Macqueville, the Cep Enchanté is a vineyard, which has been scripted to make you discover the vineyard in a fun and original way: educational course, swing golf, treasure hunt, escape game ... Something to please the curious of all ages !
Wine tasting

Tasting in the vines of Vignoble Vincent on the island of Oléron

This discovery of wines and other winegrowers' sweets from Charente Maritime comes to an end. We hope to have inspired you for a next gourmet getaway through this little-known vineyard. If you want to know more, do not hesitate to consult the tourist office website on this topic: Infiniment Charente .

To organize your stay more easily, discover our “Around me” option: Our geolocation service helps you find nearby tours and activities, a restaurant, or your accommodation .

Did you like our article? Find more on our Blog . Follow us on the Facebook page of the Guide de la Charente Maritime and on Instagram @guidecharentemaritime.

Article written by Stéphanie Tempier for the Guide de la Charente Maritime.


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