When in Languedoc, it is hard to miss the vineyards. They’re everywhere! Living in the biggest wine region of the world, I feel like I have to learn more about this drink of the Gods. Therefore, I was extremely interested when the Cave Coopérative of Sérignan invited me to discover the submersion of Sérignan’s coastal vineyards.
Ever since the 19th century, the winegrowers of Sérignan submerge their vineyards with freshwater from the Orb River. Initially to get rid of phylloxera, an insect that destroyed most of the French vineyards in the late 19th century. Nowadays, flooding the land needs to be done to desalt the soil. As they are so close to the Mediterranean Sea, the sea brings the salt as far as 11 kilometres from the coast. Right to the feet of Sérignan’s grapevines! Which isn’t a good thing, as it destroys the crop. That is why submersion is still practised today.
Our discovery tour started at the pumping station, where Monsieur Arnaud Lupia, president of the Cave Coopérative of Sérignan and owner of Domaine Lupia, demonstrated the electric pump that is now used to submerge the vineyards. Every winter, the winegrowers put no less than 175 hectares of land under water for four weeks to get the salt out of the soil. Climate change and the growing population also using freshwater make the soil saltier by the year. Meaning that soon it probably won’t be enough to submerge the land only once a year.
It was only once we arrived at the vineyards that I really understood what was meant by “submerging the fields”. As it had been raining for a few days, I thought the submerged road we saw was flooded by the rainfall. None of that. This was the work of Monsieur Lupia and his colleagues. They actually barricaded the vineyard roads so that the freshwater from the river could submerge the vines. In one hour, 8,000 m3 of water is pumped through the labyrinth of little roads.
After all this talking about vines, it was time for a “dégustation”. We headed for the Sérignan Cave Coopérative to taste some of their fine wines. My favourite was the Rosé Marine, a very fruity wine with enough body to accompany a piece of meat. And I can tell you it didn’t taste salty at all. In conclusion: job well done!