The île d'Oléron can be proud of its wine-growing tradition, which has been awarded the ‘Vignobles et découvertes’ label, placing the area front and centre in terms of French wine tourism destinations.
A ‘Vignobles et Découvertes’ destination
In the region of the Pays Marennes-Oléron, wine-growing is the oldest traditional occupation. First appearing at the end of the third century, it really took off after the large-scale clearing of forests in the 11th and 12th centuries. Together with the salt trade, it was the key economic activity on the île d’Oléron. At the end of the 19th century, the arrival of Grape Phylloxera bugs sadly wiped out virtually all the grapevines. The prosperous middle-class-owned wine estates were ruined and were partly bought up by former estate workers. This resulted in a significant dividing up of the estates into smaller plots and the creation of wine-growers’ cooperatives – there having been up to five on the île d'Oléron.
Did you know that today the area under vines on the island extends to about 800 hectares? The wine-growers’ cooperative brings together 21 wine-makers, whilst there are 9 independent wine-growers who grow their own grapes and make, bottle and sell their wine themselves directly to the consumer. All produce ‘pineau’, vins de pays, cognac and liqueurs.
The vineyards of the île d’Oléron cover an area of about 800 hectares, mostly in the north of the island, where the soil is better suited to wine-growing. Producers work hard to create quality wines. As a result, you can find very good ‘vins de pays’ of the appellation ‘Vin de Pays Charentais-île d'Oléron’, which was created in 1999. Made from a range of grape varieties (sauvignon, colombard and chardonnay for the whites; cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot for red wines and rosés; chardonnay for sparkling wines), these wines are a perfect pairing for the flavours and dishes of the local area.
Pineau, a sweet, fortified wine, should be drunk chilled and is perfect as an aperitif. The île d'Oléron is also part of the Cognac appellation or production area. Cognac is sub-divided into ‘crus’ with the île d'Oléron classed as ‘bois ordinaires’ (characterized by a distinctive, fruity taste linked to the local terroir and a rapid ageing process).
If you are curious to find out more about the story of wine-making here, to see what makes the local vineyards so special, to explore the working methods employed and discover the large variety of ‘terroirs’ that make our wines unique, why not meet with our wine-growers and enjoy the simple charm of the local wine-making industry? For more information, feel free to go to the Vignobles & Découvertes website devoted specifically to the île d'Oléron: www.vignoble-ile-oleron.fr
*The excessive consumption of alcohol is dangerous for your health. Please drink responsibly.