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Making wine in the South Pacific  Add/Read Comments

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Rangiroa ('huge sky') in French Polynesia is the second biggest atoll in the world. About 40 miles long, it lies 180 miles from Tahiti and is one of 77 atolls in the Tuamotu archipelago. It is also one of the world's most unusual producers of wine.

Last years harvest yielded 50,000 bottles under the Vin de Tahiti designation. It doesn't come cheap mind at about £12 a bottle. As with other tropical vine producing regions there are two harvests a year. Vines grow in the middle of a coconut grove with the tropical lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other. To reach the winery, the grapes first need to be loaded on a boat and sailed across the lagoon. I would love to get my hands on some bottles.

The Belfast Telegraph

Apart from coconuts Rangiroa's main produce was black pearls before Dominique Auroy, a rich French wine enthusiast, arrived. Given that Polynesia imports four million bottles of wine a year, he thought he'd make his own.

He tried a few of the other Polynesian islands first, and settled on Rangiroa because it has an unbelievable sunshine record and yet rainfall as heavy as England's. The poor limestone soil made up of coral debris was a problem but he shipped in 200 tons of earth from Tahiti and then the vines from France and Italy: Carignan from the south of France, a red grape, Muscat de Hambourg, and an Italian vine for sweet white wine.

Then he hired Sébastien Thépénier, one of France's leading oenologists, as his store master and winemaker. I met Sébastien at the air-conditioned cave where he was inspecting the progress of the latest harvest, the wine maturing well in giant metal barrels. Sébastien offered me a glass of the rosé. It was delicious: refreshing but with a slightly woody, chalky aftertaste. When I told him this he took a stone and banged it against the wall and then asked me to run my tongue against it. It had a similar taste. It was, I realised, the taste of coral, the taste of the island."

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This entry Making wine in the South Pacific is under News


Looks like Dominique had the luxury of ignoring all the French restrictions about winemaking.

I'm sure a lot of the French winemakers would love that freedom, but not the risk....

It sounds very risky.

Now it does seem like an interesting process but I'm curious how much more or less it would have cost to just import good wine?


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