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‘From this sandy soil between sea and lagoon, the vines drink up all the heat of the Camargue sun to make our wines fine, full-bodied, and fruit-forward. ’ Domaine de Jarras
In the Camargue, Domaine de Jarras sits on the sands of the Gulf of Lion on the 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 property has a single owner and occupies 420 hectares of vines planted on four stretches of barrier coastline. 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.
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 chemical 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.
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 °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.
The right varietal is essential to obtaining quality wine. It helps get the best out of the physical environment.
Current varietals may be divided into:
Domaine de Jarras only uses high quality and ‘recommended’ varietals. These varietals were selected according to results from ‘behaviour fields’ established around 50 years ago. We have selected the best varietals, including grapes traditionally used in the Pays d'Oc and those typical of great French wine regions. The estate's vineyards currently use the following 16 varietals
In general, the vines are planted so that there are 3,200 to 4,000 plants per hectare, a high-density arrangement that 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 plots are completely horizontal, because the soils are highly permeable. Each plot is surrounded by drainage ditches so that rainwater can run off quickly. The soil is ploughed, tilled, and hoed according to traditional methods, and chemical weed removal is not practised.
These treatments are kept to a minimum to maintain the ‘biological balance’ between predators and parasites. The high humidity levels make it necessary to treat the vines frequently against mildew, rot (Botrytis), and oidium. Animal parasites, such as mites on the grapes, are generally not cause for concern. Whatever the circumstances, the winemakers use products with low toxicity (copper, Folpel, sulphur) that are targeted specifically to the parasite to be destroyed.
The vines are pruned in winter. A short shoot is left behind to limit yield and obtain a high-quality product.
Physical winemaking processes are preferred to chemical processes (additives), which alter the wine's hygienic value and taste.
Domaine de Jarras processes all its grapes at the estate, to ensure control over the entire production chain with respect for a high quality policy.
White, grey and rosé wines
Using a unique method, the estate's white wines are made using white grapes, and its grey and rosé wines are made using red grapes with white juice. The grapes are lightly crushed to help extract the juice and then pumped into a powerful apparatus designed to lower the grapes' and juices' temperature before they are transferred to pneumatic presses or strainers to drain off the initial juice (80% of total juice). The strained grapes are then moved to modern hydraulic pulse presses to extract the more colourful pressed juice (20%), whose taste and analysis differ from the initial juice. The pressed juice is not mixed with the initial juice.
These wines are made using varietals with coloured skin and white juice (Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot, etc.).
The colourant and aromatic factors must be extracted from the skin using alcohol (traditional maceration) or heat (thermo-vinification). The second method, which has long been one of Domaines de Jarras' specialities, is described below.
After the grapes are removed from the stalks, which give wine a herbaceous flavour, the fruit is heated to around 70 °C. It is agitated at this temperature for around 10 minutes in a maceration vat. This process extracts the colour from the skins.
Pétillant de raisin is a low-alcohol beverage made from fresh grape must and stored in sterile conditions. The grape must is fermented in special vats all year long. A physical process is used to stop fermentation (refrigeration and filtration), to keep the final product at a maximum level of 2% to 3% alcohol.
Pétillant de Raisin is bottled isobarometrically and is characterised by highly sophisticated primary pre-ferment aromas. It is low in alcohol and made without any chemical additives, making it a high quality drink for any occasion.
Pétillant de Raisins is also available in Peach, Raspberry, and Apple flavours, made with flavourings.
An essential link in the ‘quality chain’.
Rather than alter our wine using massive doses of legal additives (such as sulphur dioxide), we prefer to use physical methods.
The wine is filtered on asbestos-free plates and on cellulose membranes that retain fine impurities and microorganisms (yeasts and bacteria). This ensures biological stability, which is essential to sweet wines.
The new bottles are rinsed in warm water as a safety precaution, and the corks are transported in sterile packaging. Our drawing machines work by gas counterpressure.
The free space between the liquid and the cork does not contain oxygen from the air. It is made up of a predetermined combination of inert gases.
After the label and foil are added, the bottles are boxed up, and the boxes are placed on palettes automatically. Strict laboratory checks are done at each stage of the winemaking and bottling processes.
Tasting a wine is the only method for judging it, since two wines that are identical in analysis may appear very different to the senses. Wine tasting is a three-step process that calls upon the senses of sight, smell, and taste.
The wine is examined visually once the taster picks up the glass.
Then, the wine is assessed for limpidity, which means its transparency and clarity.
By observing the wine's surface, the taster can evaluate its brilliance.
Iridescent reflections in a wine are signs of its acidity.
The more reflections a wine has, the more it will be fresh and tart on the palate.
Colour is an important source of information, most notably the wine's age and its body.