Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Clairette de Die

Characterized by peach and apricot flavours and rose and honeysuckle aromas
Usually drunk young at a maximum of two years, served chilled at a temperature of 6°C to 8°C

Menglon is one of the villages in the Diois producing Clairette de Die.
Vineyards are located on the hill side at the left.
double-click image to enlarge
source : Wikipedia contributer Minimoi30

Clairette de Die
In southeastern France lies Die, a small town in the Drôme department. Diois, the region around Die, counts hundreds of wine producers cultivating about one thousand five hundred hectares of vineyards. The making of the local sparkling wine, Clairette de Die, can be traced back over two thousand years. It is known that already around the 1700s two types of grape varieties formed the basis for its production: the Clairette Blanche and the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. With the inauguration of the railway that linked Die to the line Paris-Lyon-Marseille in 1885, the market expanded further to the neighboring regions and took off in 1925 after the adoption of the Champenoise bottle. The Clairette received its first recognition with an appellation d'origine classification (AO) in 1910. The AOC, appellation d'origine contrôleé was established in 1942. 

Cave Coopérative de Clairette de Die, 1962
nominative certificate for 24 Shares of 5 Nouveaux Francs
printed by Imp. Reynard, Valence
double-click to enlarge image

A majority of producers start cooperating after WWII
The Diois vineyards cover almost one thousand five hundred hectares, which are shared between three hundred producers. In 1950 and 1951, 266 winegrowers from Diois formed a cooperative for the production of Clairette: the Cave Coopérative de Clairette de Die. During the 1960s marketing campaigns and sales efforts targeting supermarkets introduced the Clairette de Die all over France. In 1975 the successful Clairdie brand is launched. Six years later the cooperative introduces the new Jaillance brand name for the Clairette de Die wine so it could be easier identified both from its own Clairdie brand and from the competition. Today the cooperative represents 70 to 75 percent of the producers, the vineyards and the production volume of the Clairette de Die AOC. 

Cave Cooperative de Clairette de Die
Cave Coopérative de Clairette de Die
postcard ca. 1970s

How to be big when you are  small !
Most vineyard owners have limited funds, and it is therefore not possible to produce and market the wine on their own. A proven solution for this case, is to join a cooperative. The first wine-making cooperative in France was established in Alsace in 1895, which was then part of the German Empire. Today the caves coopératives (the French wine-making cooperatives) produce more than half the total amount of French wine. Members in a cooperative are usually vineyard owners, who deliver grapes to the cooperative which takes care of the wine production and corresponding marketing activities. Cooperatives exist in all economical activities, not only in the wine business. An example of this is the Spanish bicycle manufacturer Orbea.

How does a cooperative differ from other businesses 
The following non-exhaustive list mentions a number of distinctive characteristics of the cooperative business model. Some of these, like the first one, may seem not so obvious :
  • The primary objective of a cooperative is to provide service to its members, whereas a company in particular seeks to earn profits for its shareholders.
  • In a cooperative, an occasional surplus is set aside as a reserve; the rest is distributed in accordance with the contribution provided by its members after paying dividend up to 10 per cent on capital. In the case of a company the profits are distributed as dividends in proportion to the capital contributed by the shareholders
  • The membership of a cooperative is always open for new members that have to pay the same amount per share as the initial members. On the other hand, a company closes the list of members as soon as its capital is fully subscribed. People who want to become members later on have to buy shares at the stock exchange.
  • In a cooperative society, each member has one vote while in a company, the number of votes depends upon the number of shares held by a shareholder.

45 kilograms per share 
The share certificate shown above was issued in 1962. A closer look reveals some interesting data. The text says : 
(les parts) .. donnant droit à un apport de 1080 kilogrammes de vendanges vin ordinaire ou V.D.Q.S. Châtillon-en-Diois sur la base de Quarante Cinq kilogrammes par part.

Excerpt from the share certificate shown above.
double-click to enlarge image
Freely translated this means : 
The shares are entitled to a contribution of 1,080 kilograms of grapes for ordinary wine or V.D.Q.S. Châtillon-en-Diois on the basis of Forty Five kilograms per share. 
V.D.Q.S., Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure,  is the second highest category of French wine.

How much wine could the producer expect from his entitled contribution of 1080 kilograms of grapes ? Well, that is very difficult to say. It depends on a lot of factors such as the production method, the type of grape, the age of the vineyard, the weather, et cetera. But a reasonable guess would be 600 liters, or 800 bottles .. per year. That should meet my needs, I think.


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