The Romans first planted vines in the Terrasses du Larzac area. The land around Lodève had great appeal, stretching as it did along the busy Roman road which linked Cessero (St Thibéry) with Segodunum (Rodez).
The foundation of the Monastery of Aniane in 782, the main of the European Benedictine order lead the reintroduction of vines to the vast unoccupied hinterland in the area around Clermont l’Hérault and Lodève. The influence of the Benedictine monks of Aniane and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, evidenced by the number of Romanesque churches and priories stretching up to the Buèges valley, was accompanied by the growing of vines on terraces overlooking the Buèges valley and the production of wine made in the cellars of Benedictine priories founded by the Abbey of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert in the 10th and 11th centuries. Local producers emerged later, using glazed stone vats blocks for vinification in vaulted cellars of village houses.
The 16th-19th century
From 16th century onwards, the landowners authorized the clearing of scrubland in the foothills to allow vines, olives and almond trees to be planted, frequently on stone-covered terraces (faysses.) In the 17-18th century, the growth of eau de vie production brought a greater prosperity to grape growers leading to the establishment of a distillery in most villages. Development of trade with those living in the Massif Central (who exchanged metal from local mines, meat, milk and cereals for wine, as well as dried fish and spices from the coast) lead to Montpeyroux becoming an important trade centre. Later Pas de l’Escalette above Lodève came into being, and the landscape around Pégairolles de l’Escalette is covered with little horizontal stone walls dug into the vertical, rocky hillsides as well as the construction of ‘capitelles’ (stone huts) where grape producers or shepherds could store material and shelter where a long way from home. The Marly decree in 1770 allowed for greater land clearance, with the vineyard planted on the garrigue and allowed for the production of wine to become a serious economic activity.
Disaster struck in 1850. First oïdium, then phylloxera. As throughout much of France, the vines of the region were almost totally destroyed with most producers choosing to dig up older vines and replant grafting onto American root stock.
Late 20th century
Pioneers such as Aimé Guibert - Mas de Daumas Gassac (Aniane) in 1974 and Olivier Jullien - Mas Jullien (Jonquieres) in 1985, and later Laurent Vaille - Domaine de la Grange des Pères (Aniane) in 1992 led the way to a rediscovery of quality growing in the region inspiring countless other growers and interest from foreign investors such as Robert Mondavi, whose wish to make ‘one of the world's finest wines’ in the appellation’s Massif de l'Arboussas is well documented.
In 2008, Andrew Jefford (Author of The New France) wrote of the appellation:
"Where is the greatest terroir in Languedoc? You could make a case for Faugères, for Pic St Loup, for parts of St Chinian, for Minervois La Livinière, maybe for La Clape, but after my trip I have to say that if you were to write me out a cheque for a million euros and tell me to go to find somewhere to make great red wine, I would look most closely of all at Terrasses du Larzac."
Read more about this topic: Terrasses Du Larzac
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