The largest wine producing area of the world can be found at the border of the Mediterranean Sea, in between Spain and the Rhone delta. Out of a population of 2.4 million, there are fifty thousand involved in growing vines. The area they consume spans twenty seven thousand and four hundred square kilometers (10500 miles). There are 400 cooperatives and about 2800 private wineries in the land with Banyuls to the southwest and Muscat to the east. Out of that comes two billion bottles of wine.
The area has hot summers and mild winters. The soil ranges from sandstone and limestone to granite pebbles. Cargnan, Merlot and Grenache other red wines are produced here and among the white wines there is Roussane, Chardonnay and Viognier.
It was the Greeks who started the cultivation of vineyards in this area as early as the 6th century BC when the Romans arrived in the region this cultivation was developed and it went on with the Visigoths in the 5th century. The monasteries in the 9th century developed the hillside regions for the vineyards and used the valleys for grains and in the 19th century the plains became vineyards as well. Currently it is the plains of Herault, Gard and Aude that make up a half of France’s overall grape yield.
For some years the quality of wines began to lag but in the past few decades with the emergence of Syrah there is been a return to quality. Syrah is opaque, purple in color, and has the scent of sweet black berry spiced with cassis and black pepper
The Vin de Pay D’Oc has been improving the region’s reputation in the past ten years with the Corbieres and the earthy Minervois.
Most winegrowing areas are dominated by a particular Chateau. In this area this is not so, most wines are produces by cooperatives who buy grapes grown on local farms. The grapes are put through a process that includes adding grape spirit. This stops the fermentation, saves the sweetness and raises the alcohol level to fifteen or sixteen percent. Wines such as Vin Doux Naturel made from Grenache or Muscat and Muscat de Frontignan or Banyuls are made from this process. They are wonderful dessert wines and are similar to port when it comes to aging potential.
White wine grown here are also of high quality. The Chardonnay and Marsanne are grown in Argelier, an area west of Bezier. The dry, fresh taste with an aroma of apple and oak comes from the chalky soil and the early harvesting process which allows for only a few hours of skin contact before pressing.
There are other red wines of interest such as the full bodied, spicy Corbieres that are made from Carignan and Grenache grapes grown in marl, sandstone and limestone. There are more than seventy million bottles produced that can go through three to seven years of aging.
In the sunniest region of France the Pyrenees in Roussillon produces another variety of reds. The area is closer to Spain and the Carignan is the main grape variety grown in the region. The wine produced is of medium body, spicy and has hints of licorice.
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