A hyphen between the Rhône and the Camargue, the Costières de Nîmes exhibit a colourful Mediterranean temperament. They may be calm, turbulent, fruity, spicy, wild, smooth, floral or rich… But they will never fail to surprise you.Christophe Tassan
Accorded AOC status in 1986, the southernmost of the Rhone Valley wine-growing areas perfectly exhibits all the characteristics of its Roman history and culture: a relaxed way of life, sophistication, warmth. The vineyards lie to the south east of the city from which they take their name, producing predominantly red wines, as well as some rosés and whites. All derive their character from an exceptional soil (a terrace of gravely pebbles deposited by the rivers Rhone and Durance), the vigour of the Rhone grape varieties, a favourable climate, and the mistral. The appellation’s wines also benefit from implementation of the Costières de Nîmes Landscape and Environmental Charter, an innovative concept to protect and promote wine-growing areas*. Among the measures already undertaken are a “Sustainable Viticulture” charter of good practice appended to the AOC’s terms of reference, an assessment of the vineyards’ biodiversity, the creation of themed short-stay packages, and the waymarking of paths offering outstanding views of the countryside. And, each spring, a special event (Les Vignes Toquées) is held involving a gastronomic tour of the vineyards. Yet another reason to get out and explore the area!
Grape varieties and planting
Most Costières de Nîmes wines are red (55%), though the area also produces rosés (35%) and whites (10%).
The blends permitted by the AOC terms of reference give the wines a decidedly ripe-fruit character, with a smooth tannic structure and good fresh finish. In the case of the reds and rosés, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre must together account for at least 60% of the mix, the remainder consisting of Carignan and Cinsault. Where rosés are concerned, the appellation’s white grape varieties may also be included, to a maximum of 10%.
The whites, which are fruity and substantial, are made from Grenache blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne, with some addition of Bourboulenc, Clairette, Vermentino and Viognier.
The minimum permitted alcohol content is 11.5% by volume.
In 19 BC, the veteran legionaries of the Egyptian campaign were settled at Nemausus (modern-day Nîmes). In 280, after the revocation of the decree banning viticulture in Gaul, Cassius Severanius, governor of the Narbonne area, ordered a massive replanting of the pagus nemensis (Costières) vineyards. In the Middle Ages, the Abbey of Saint Gilles du Gard became the main command post in the Languedoc of the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. It was they who really developed viticulture in the area. In the 14th century, wines from Saint-Gilles and the Costière de Nîmes were among the most highly regarded at the papal court in Avignon. John XXII, Urban V and Gregory XI all stocked their cellars with wines from the Costière. In the 17th century, wine-growing was encouraged by the construction of the Canal du Midi, and the canal played an even more important role in the 19th century, when it was linked with the Rhone via Sète. Transportation was also greatly facilitated by the fact that the railway reached Nîmes as early as 1839. In 1955, Philippe Lamour, chairman of the Compagnie Nationale d'Aménagement du Bas-Rhône et du Languedoc, a brilliant Parisian lawyer, undertook major irrigation works. In fact, the Bas-Rhône Languedoc canal, which has carried water from the Rhone towards the south of the Gard and the east of the Hérault départements since the 1960s, was later renamed in his honour. At the same time, he became a leading light in viticulture in the Gard by his advocacy of improved quality. President of the Syndicat des Costières du Gard, whose wines were granted VDQS status in 1950, he was subsequently appointed to the presidency of the body overseeing Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieure. In 1986, Costières du Gard was recognised by the INAO as deserving of AOC status.The name of the appellation was changed in 1989 to Costières de Nîmes.
See the decrees granting appellation status (INAO)1989Birth of AOC Costières de Nîmes
Delimited to the north by the valley of the Gardon, the vineyards extend over 40 kilometres, between the low-lying plain of the Petit Rhône and the marshlands of the Petite Camargue.
With more than 2,700 hours of sunshine each year, the Mediterranean climate is here characterised by a period of semi-drought lasting from June to the end of August. Rainfall is rare and tends to be concentrated in the form of violent autumn storms. The mistral blows strongly over the vines throughout the year, playing the role of a natural purifier.
The Costières de Nîmes terroir consists of gravel deposited by the Rhone and Durance rivers in the Quaternary Period. These gravely beds (known locally as Gress), which go down to a depth of between 5 and 15 metres, are enveloped in sand varying in colour from bright yellow to deep red. The vines send down very deep roots, into underlying layers of clay, which provide them with a moderate but regular water supply even in periods of intense midsummer heat. The outstanding drainage properties of the gravel means that water is quickly shed even in heavy downpours.
In summer, the hot mass formed by the stones reinforces the convection effect: the cool on-shore breezes blowing across the Petite Camargue in the late afternoon encounter this hot mass as they rise up along the Costières, and a suction effect is created as the air is drawn in. The moderating effect of these breezes augments the temperature difference between day and night, which is known to preserve the freshness and purity of the developing grapes.
Les chiffres de Côstières de Nîmes
surface area3 534 hectares
in 2012177 854 hl
- 51% Red
- 8% White
- 41% Rosé
Sales197 544 hectolitres
Exportation23% exported abroad
Average yield achieved50 hl/ha
* Export figures according to the most recent research
Source : Harvest statement 2012