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The eventful history of the steep Corbières terroir
The first traces of viticulture in the Languedoc-Roussillon region date back to the 2nd century BC. The wine production settled durably under the Roman occupation. The wine produced in the Narbonne region was so good that it overshadowed the Roman producers. To ensure peace in the Empire, the Emperor therefore limited the production of wines from Languedoc to satisfy the "Italian" producers. At the end of the Roman Empire, invaders and barbarians of all kinds passed by, and the grape growing was not allowed until the 18th century, except during the time of Charlemagne. The advance of the Black Prince in the region, during the Hundred Years War, even provoked the harvesting of vines.
It was not until the arrival of the Canal du Midi in 1681, that the Languedoc wine growers were able to enjoy a certain tranquility.
However, it was not until 1985 that the appellation Corbières was finally recognized as a full-fledged AOC, after the winegrowers of the region had gathered at the beginning of the 20th century to rehabilitate their land and cellars, which had been badly damaged by powdery mildew and phylloxera during the 19th century.
The Corbières appellation is the largest appellation of the Languedoc. It stretches from the ramparts of the city of Carcassonne in the north, down to the Pyrenees, stopping at the foot of the Montagne Noire. Inland, it goes as far as the ponds of Narbonne and Leucate. It is also the first AOC of Languedoc in volumes, with an average production of 400 000 hectoliters per year, on a surface of 10 600 hectares. The 1210 producers are grouped in 23 cooperative cellars, and in addition to these cooperatives, there are 210 private cellars.
There is a multitude of grape varieties in Corbières
The soils of the AOC Corbières are a mixture of many different varieties. This can be explained by the direct proximity of the Pyrenees: the different soil and subsoil layers were formed by the alpine orogeny, which created the Pyrenees. The soils are therefore a mixture of limestone, sandstone, marl and schist, and the relief is particularly rugged. Some vines are even planted at more than 400 m of altitude!
The Mediterranean-type climate is particularly hot and dry in the AOC, which has always allowed winegrowers to limit treatments and the use of pesticides. Today, the Languedoc vineyard is the first organic vineyard in France, with 1245 hectares cultivated organically and 407 hectares in conversion (2017 figures). The three colors of wines can obtain the AOC Corbières, but strict rules of proportions of main and secondary grape varieties must be respected for each color :
For the reds, the main grape varieties are Carignan, Grenache noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre. At least 2 of these grape varieties must make up at least 50% of the final blend. They can be complemented by Cinsault, Grenache gris, Picpoul noir and Terret noir, which may not exceed 50% of the composition of the blend.
For the whites, the main grape varieties that must be present at least 90% are Grenache blanc, Bourboulenc, Macabeu, Marsanne, Roussane and Vermentino. Complementary grape varieties are Clairette, Muscat blanc à petits grains, Picpoul blanc and Terret blanc.. These complex blends make Corbières wines that are diversified, complex and leave the producers the power to choose the wines they can and wish to make according to their own terroirs, and the type of vinification desired, left free by the AOC specifications.
For the rosés, the main grape varieties are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache noir, Mourvèdre, Picpoul and Syrah. There are many complementary grape varieties, including Vermentino, Muscat Blanc à petits grains, Roussane or Macabeu. Any wine of the AOC Corbières must be a blend of at least 25% of the main grape varieties, limiting Cinsault to 75% of the blend.
How to taste a Corbières ?
Red CorbièresThe red are marked by the Carignan, which gives their typicity to the AOC wines. They are wines of character, tannic, and solid, with a purple color, with purple reflections, but overall quite dark. When they are blended with Syrah, the wines are more full-bodied, spicy, with aromas of violet, peppery or smoky notes. For its part, the Grenache brings finesse and suppleness. The dominant aromas in the mouth are most often stewed fruit, spices, garrigue. The cuvées are to be drunk between 2 and 5 years, but can be kept for ten years for the best vintages.
White CorbièresThe white wines of the AOC Corbières are elaborated for their freshness: they are mainly developed on citrus fruits aromas, such as lemon and grapefruit, and white flowers. They are very elegant wines, with a pale yellow robe and green reflections. The warmth of the place confers to these wines finesse, limited acidity and aromas of exotic fruits with a unctuous and fat body. They are wines to be drunk in their youth, just like rosé wines.
Rosé corbièresRosé wines are made from the red grape varieties, either by direct pressing (the wine is pressed at the time of harvest and the juice obtained is vinified, often with a very light color) or bleeding (the crushed grapes are left to macerate for a few days before taking part of the juice, and the juice is then vinified in vats, these wines are closer to the reds, although less tannic). They are therefore either very fresh rosés (pressing) or very complex rosés (bleeding) and close to red wines in terms of aromas. The nose is above all focused on the fruit, the mouth is fine and supple.
What to eat to accompany a Corbières ?
The reds go very well with grilled meats, mushroom fricassees and cheeses such as livarot, typical of the region. For the whites, favour dishes based on fish or seafood, such as stuffed mussels or grilled squid. Rosés will be the perfect companion for your aperitifs, anchovies, cold meats, cheeses... let your desires speak for themselves!
Corbières, a multitude of domains to discover
Calmel & JosephOne was a restaurateur, the other an oenologist. Since 1995, Laurent Calmel and Jérôme Joseph have been at the head of their own estate, with the ambition of giving the Languedoc terroir the letters of nobility it deserves and which it has received too little of!
Château Champ des SœursLocated in Fitou, Laurent and Marie Meynardier have been cultivating 15 hectares of vines in sustainable agriculture since 1999. Reds, whites and rosés are produced in 7 vintages on this exploitation which respects its terroir and lets it express itself.
Banyuls Grand Cru
Blanquette méthode ancestrale
Coteaux-du-Languedoc Terres de Sommières
Côtes-du-Roussillon Les Aspres
IGP Pays Hérault
Mousseux Demi sec
Vin de Pays de Cassan
Vin de Pays de Cucugnan
Vin de Pays de la Côte Vermeille
Vin de Pays de la Haute Vallée de l'Orb
Vin de Pays de la Vallée du Paradis
Vin de Pays de la Vaunage
Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Miramont
Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Libron
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Prouilhe
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thau
Vin de Pays des Côtes du Brian
Vin de Pays des Pyrénées-Orientales