With its many vineyards and wine cellars, the island’s wines are well-worth discovering. From Bois-Plage to Ars-en-Ré via La Couarde-sur-Mer, head for the wine trail that takes you around the island!
Tasting the local wines
As in much of Charente-Maritime, the Ile de Ré produces red, rosé, white and sparkling wines. The vineyards grow eight different grape varieties: cabernet franc, sauvignon and tannat for the reds; ugni-blanc, colombard, chardonnay and sauvignon for the whites. During your holiday, you can take the opportunity to taste excellent local wines such as the famous “Soif d’Évasion” or the “Rosé des Dunes”.
The island’s sky, sea and vines also combine to produce Pineau des Charentes and Cognacs. They are made by distilling white wine and then aging it in oak barrels. You should also try the famous Pineau Ilrhéa, a traditional aperitif made by blending unfermented grape must with Cognac brandy. All in moderation of course!
Explore the vineyards on foot or by bike
Head off along the many footpaths and cycle tracks to explore the beautiful landscape where the vineyards flourish. Visit a vineyard, take a break in the cellars, share the secrets of the winemakers, and then taste!
- On the road from Sainte-Marie to Bois-Plage, stop off at
the Vignerons de l’île de Ré cooperative to see the barrel stores and the distillery before treating yourself to a tasting.
- Between Saint-Marie-de-Ré and Rivedoux-Plage, the former estate of the Lords of Le Défend is an opportunity for a lovely stroll between the vineyards and the ocean, along to Chauveau lighthouse, Charente-Maritime’s only lighthouse at sea.
- From La Couarde-sur-Mer, follow the cycle track that meanders through the vineyards to Bois-Plage. At “Le Fond des Airs”, the Chai du Domaine Pelletier
is open for visits and, of course, tastings.
- Between Saint-Martin-de-Ré and La-Couarde-sur-Mer, in the heart of the island, make a stop at Domaine Arica AND take part in an “Introduction to Oenology” workshop.
- Famous for its bell tower, Ars-en-Ré is also famous for its wild beaches, salt marshes and vineyards. In the heart of the village, the two wine bars “Le 20” and “Le V” provide another opportunity to taste the local wines.
The fruit of a long history
The history of winegrowing on Ile de Ré goes back to the end of the 3rd century, when the Roman emperor Probus granted the Gauls the privilege of growing vines and producing wine.
Around 850, vine growing was completely abandoned with the arrival of the Vikings, prompting the exodus of almost the entire population from the island.
Activity picked up again in the 12th century with the arrival of the Cistercian monks from of the Abbaye des Châteliers in La Flotte. Vine growing then became the main agricultural activity on the island. In 1880, vineyards occupied nearly 60% of the territory!
In the early 20th century, mildew and powdery mildew wreaked havoc in the vineyards. The war and then the economic crisis put a definitive stop to the activity. In 1950, a cooperative was created, reviving the island’s winegrowing past.
Today, there are some sixty winemakers who grow nearly 650 hectares of vines, with a production of around two million bottles.