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Costières de Nîmes – blowing in the wind

Promotional Feature
Published:  12 June, 2024

Costières de Nîmes, the southernmost appellation in the Rhône Valley, has a lot going for it: a unique terroir, preserved biodiversity, wines with a strong personality, a contrasting culture, a thousand-year-old history, and a community of young, dynamic winemakers.

In this multicultural melting pot, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Marsanne, Viognier and other Mediterranean varieties yield super-fresh, aromatically expressive and sun-swept wines that owe much to the stony red clay soils of the zone. According to Cyril Marès, president of the ODG Costières de Nîmes: “The Costières de Nîmes appellation is the oldest Rhodanian terrace, dating back 2.5 million years. Its cousins are Tavel-Lirac and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The plateau overlooks the Camargue at a height of 70m. It is made up of rolled pebbles brought by the Rhône from the Alps. The soil is deep, allowing the roots to grow downwards in search of moisture and coolness.” This is terroir in its purest form, where it makes a difference in the glass. “We are the most southerly appellation in the Rhône Valley and our proximity to the sea is what makes us special,” observes Marès. “On summer afternoons, the cooler wind from the sea rises, and these sea breezes bring freshness and salinity to our wines, particularly whites and rosés.”

The famous Mistral winds from the northern Rhône valley, meanwhile, also exert a major influence on the mesoclimate. Sustainability and protecting biodiversity remain key priorities for the appellation. Cyril Marès observes that Costières de Nîmes was the first appellation to “sign a landscape charter, committed to preserving endemic species such as the bustard, which we have been able to protect from extinction.” He continues: “Since last year, we have been planting chickadee nests and bat shelters. This year we are launching a partnership to plant hedges and small woods. 80% of the estates have environmental certification and 30% are organic.” Such initiatives can help the region mitigate the ongoing effects of climate change; earlier harvests are just one aspect of a ‘new normal’ in the Rhône. “We are witnessing the change – summers are drier, but our soils are deep and the roots find resources. Our area is equipped to be irrigated by the Rhône, which means we can water the young vines and have drought insurance,” says Marès.

"On summer afternoons, the cooler wind from the sea rises, and these sea breezes bring freshness and salinity to our wines"
Cyril Marès, president of the ODG Costières de Nîmes

Of course, it is natural to think of the southern Rhône as primarily a red wine producer: the best Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre (GSM) blends of Costières de Nîmes are complex and beautifully balanced. But, winemakers have a real knack for growing white grapes as well, particularly the versatile Grenache Blanc, dazzling Marsanne, expressive Roussanne and the esoteric Bourboulenc. Clairette, Macabeu, Vermentino and Viognier can also play a role in the blends. They are increasingly used to make styles that are achingly on-trend – the best wines marry exoticism with the welcome ‘cut’ of fresh acidity.

“We are becoming increasingly aware that we are a great white appellation,” enthuses Marès. He explains that the micro-climate of Costières de Nîmes particularly benefits white wines – a category that brings rising value to the appellation in terms of sales and prestige.

“The mineral composition of the soil combined with a specific microclimate under refreshing maritime influence, particularly on summer nights, are particularly favourable to white wines marked by freshness and salinity,” he says.

The increasing volume of exceptional rosé is another regional benchmark: Costières de Nîmes pink is mouthwatering, despite being bone dry. The aromas are often characterised by crushed red fruits, with bright acidity and beautiful freshness providing the backbone to an elegant palate of strawberry, mango, and citrus. Moreover, the style can be served all year round, although it reaches an apogee on a warm summer’s evening.

Today, 70 private and 11 cooperative cellars make up the AOC Costières de Nîmes, emboldened by a young generation of winegrowers who are channelling their dynamism and innovative initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of vinegrowing and preserve biodiversity for the benefit of future generations. The unique qualities of this historic appellation, and its terroir-driven wines, are in safe hands.