Located in the Aude department, AOC La Clape extends from Narbonne to the Mediterranean over an area of 17 kilometers in length and width. It is bordered to the east by the sea, to the west by the low-lying alluvial plains of the Aude and to the south by the lagoons. The highest point is Pech-Redon, at 214m. The massif is characterized by its high cliffs, which dominate the horizon from the sea, and its canyons and valleys covered in pinewoods, vineyards and garrigue.
Production surface area: 768 hectares
Production area: 6 communes (Armissan, Fleury d’Aude, Gruissan, Narbonne, Salles-d’Aude, Vinassan).
Number of producers: 25 private estates and 3 wine cooperatives
Annual production: 26 450 hectoliters
Average yield: 42 hl/ha
Colours: red (80%) and white (20%)
Characterized by small, winding, steep-sided, marly valleys ending abruptly in cliffs on the Mediterranean side, the landscape of La Clape is in stark contrast to the surrounding plains. It has been a state-classified site since 1973, for its outstanding natural beauty and its exceptional fauna and flora. Situated in the Narbonne regional natural park, it has also been recognized as a Natura 2000 site by the European Union for its natural habitats and remarkable species, a Sensitive Natural Space by the Aude department and is partly owned by the Coastal Conservatory. In addition to exceptional environmental challenges, here vines act as natural firebreaks and certain parts of the vineyard have been especially planted with this in mind, as part of a concerted effort.
The La Clape massif benefits from a harsh, dry climate. The sun and wind together beat down and sweep across the bare rocks. If it is one of the sunniest places in France (up to 3000 hours of sunshine a year) it is due to the thirteen different winds that sweep across it and chase the clouds away. Occasionally Mediterranean storms hit, as violent as they are rare and La Clape becomes a tropical isle. A network of ravines forms and the pines and reeds are bent over by the force of the elements. The vines are strengthened by this triple effect: the rain waters and cleans them, the wind dries and airs them and the sun nourishes them and swells the grapes with sugar. The harshness of the climate ensures a high-quality wine-producing area.
With the support of the Narbonne Regional Natural Park, several agro-environmental initiatives have been taken in the AOC La Clape vineyard. The wine-makers signed the Natura 2000 charter, thus undertaking to sustain the environment and maintain the wealth of natural habitats that characterize the massif. The program imposes such measures as reducing the use of phytosanitary products. Some estates even practice agro-pastoralism, which is set to develop more widely in the coming years.
Since 2015, a herd of 400 sheep nibble the grass between the vines during the 4 months of winter, thus naturally enriching the soil.
Furthermore, research and training programs will be increased in order to encourage responsible agriculture. More than a quarter of the estates are practicing organic agriculture or are in the process of converting.
Lastly, the La Clape wine-makers want to create a GIEE (an economical and environmental group) to facilitate adaptation to climate change and to better anticipate water preservation.