The Languedoc is a vast vineyard region in the south of France, with around 300 000 hectares under vine. This is more than the entire vineyard area of Australia and New Zealand put together!
Naturally such a large region has a wide variety of soil types and climates. Orbiel & Frères comes from the Aude department, whose capital is the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. Just to the east of the city is the Orbiel River, from which our wine takes its name.
The Orbiel River rises high in the Montagne Noir (or “Black Mountain”), flowing 41km before joining the river Aude at Trèbes, 8km to the east of Carcassonne. Over the centuries the Orbiel and its many tributaries have eroded the higher ranges of the mountain, depositing the exceptional soils on which our vineyards are planted and which give Orbiel & Frères wines their unique character.
The origin of the name Orbiel is the subject of some debate. Received wisdom has it that Orbiel means “old gold” in the local Occitan language. Others believe that it derives from the Latin name given to the river by the Romans: rivulus oliveti, or river of olives, and “oliveti” was gradually corrupted to become Orbiel.
Whatever the true explanation, it is certain that gold deposits have existed along the course of the Orbiel since antiquity, though commercial gold mining began here only in the late nineteenth century.
The vineyards where Orbiel & Frères is born cover a vast range of soil types and climates.
Limestone and slate soils dominate in the northern zone; the central area has gravel soils, giving wines with great complexity and elegance; to the south, alluvial soils provide vigour and good varietal character.
The climate divides from west to east, with cooler conditions, influenced by the Atlantic and cooling breezes from the Atlantic in the western zone. Moving to the east, this gradually gives way to warmer, more Mediterranean-influenced conditions.
By careful blending across different soil types and microclimates, each wine in the Orbiel & Frères range is given its own, unique character.
Traditionally, the Languedoc was planted with the Aramon grape variety, now almost forgotten, which produced vast volumes of light red table wine (much of it blended with richer reds coming the French colonies in North Africa).
This was gradually replaced with Carignan, along with better-quality varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Since the middle of the 1980s, these have been joined by substantial plantings of internationally known varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, along with white varieties from the Rhône like Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.
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