Southern France – Rose Wine, Roman Ruins and Hemingway

During the height of the Roman Empire, from the 1st century BC to 1st century AD, its territories extended through out southern France, most notably in the Gard Department. Engineering marvels, that helped extend Roman control over the southern border of France and the Mediterranean, are now in ruins and scattered across the landscape in the Gard department. One of the most majestic and notable Roman structures is the Pont du Gard, an aqueduct that channeled water from the Eure River near Uzes, across the Gardon River down to the south and the town of Nimes.

Today, the Pont du Gard sits majestically stretched over the Gardon River, like a beautiful piece of sculpture. It is surrounded by a natural environment, forests on either side, the river flowing beneath its limestone arches and the sun turning the aqueduct into a beautiful warm ochre color. Three tiers of arches create one of the tallest pieces of Roman architecture in France and the slight angle that has been created to provide momentum to the water, give the bridge a lopsided appearance. Ancient olive trees, hundreds of years old, are entrenched near the foot of the perfectly engineered arches that form the centuries old bridge. The white pebble riverbed cuts a wide path through the rugged forest weaving like a snake down to the villages below, allowing the passage of its precious cargo, water.

Closer towards the Mediterranean, the Gard department meets the ocean in a series of coastal marshes called the Camargue. The marsh is surrounded by channels of fresh water that form a natural environment that is home to pink flamingoes and wild horses. Aigues Mortes is an ancient village in the Petite Camargue surrounded by medieval walls built during the 1200’s. During the first week in October, in preparation for the running of the bulls, the village gets loud. Rock bands play in the center downtown waiting for the release of the bulls inside the city walls. The town is also the setting for “The Garden of Eden” written by Ernest Hemingway.

Gard department has two regions of wine; the Costeries de Nimes and Vin de Pays des Sable du Golfe du Lion. The prevalent wine of both of these regions is a rose wine. The rose wines seem to flourish in the hot humid climate and the sandy soils that is typical of the Camargue, a salt marsh area south of Nimes and Uzes, that runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast.

The major independent wine producer in this area is Listel. Established in 1883, they were one of the few vineyards that survived the Phylloxera fungus that decimated France in the late 1800’s. It was the eco climate of the Camargue and the periodic flooding of salt marshes that prevented the fungus from being established on the Listel vines. Today Listel produces 80{27e36b2a13b6306a43ce91cee3dcf0ef7a81196eaed348378a9101482bf2e910} of the Rose wines from the Camargue on their 5,000 acre domain and is very proud that their vines do not have any American rootstock.

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