When wine becomes a symbol of Europe

The vineyards of South-West France were recognised as a ‘Cultural Route of the Council of Europe’ in June 2022. The South-West wine marketing board (IVSO) is the first wine marketing board to commit to the European ‘ITER VITIS, the Ways of the Vine’ itinerary and to the Santiago de Compostela ways. We take a closer look at this extensive wine region and how and why it uses ITER VITIS to structure its range of wines.


  • Wines from South-West France
  • What is ‘ITER VITIS, the Ways of the Vine’?
  • Why focus on ‘ITER VITIS, the Ways of the Vine’ for South-West wine routes?
  • From Saint James to Saint Vincent – a line-up of conferences and tastings

Wines from South-West France

What do PGI Aveyron, PGI Landes and PGI Périgord have in common? They all belong to the extensive South-West wine region, as do the Irouléguy, Gaillac and Côtes de Millau appellations. The region is home to a total 29 appellations and 13 PGIs set between the Atlantic, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central. It covers 13 departments spread across two regions – New Aquitaine and Occitania – and boasts 55,452 hectares under vine.

It is also the birthplace of 130 iconic and/or heritage grape varieties, including Malbec for the Cahors appellation, Négrette for Fronton, Fer Servadou for Gaillac, Tannat for Madiran and the Mansengs for Jurançon. By volume, it is France’s fourth largest wine region. It produces a total 3.6 million hectolitres (2020 figures), 55% of which are white (dry or sweet), 32% red and 13% rosé. It is home to 8,261 farms and 28 co-operative wineries which, according to the region’s marketing board, generate 1 billion euros in revenue and 13,000 jobs.

What is ‘ITER VITIS, the Ways of the Vine’?

This programme of cultural routes aims to promote cross-national heritage and includes the European Cistercian Abbey Route, the Routes of the Olive Tree and the ITER VITIS European Cultural Vine and Wine Route, ‘The Ways of the Vine’. To date, there are 48 routes with around 20 different countries taking part, from Georgia to Lebanon and across to the vineyards of South-West France.

“‘ITER VITIS, the Ways of the Vine’ has been certified by the Council of Europe since 2009”, explains Europe’s ITER VITIS chair Emanuela Panke. ITER VITIS’ basic premise is that the winegrowing, winemaking and viticultural landscapes are particularly significant for European and Mediterranean gastronomy. Since vines were domesticated, their growth and spread have been viewed as a major achievement by mankind. They have shaped the land and the habits of the people who live there. From one region to another, wine is the message that travels and takes people on a journey, akin to a symbol of Europe.

The purpose of ‘ITER VITIS, the Ways of the Vine’ is to create bridges between winegrowing, tourism, cultural and agricultural heritage.

Why focus on ‘ITER VITIS, the Ways of the Vine’ for South-West wine routes?

The endorsement will enable the wines of South-West France to grow the reputation of their extensive region and promote their expertise. It will also raise awareness among winegrowers, the community and visitors about heritage aspects – culture, civilisation and ecology – of the South-West wine region, in addition to its production of wine. “Culture offers added value for wine tourists”, points out Emanuela Panke. “Through the vineyards of South-West France, we will be developing multi-activity wine tourism”.

From Saint James to Saint Vincent – a line-up of conferences and tastings

One of the first synergies for these cultural routes is between the Santiago de Compostela ways and the vineyards of South-West France. Conferences and tastings* are due to be held in the region starting on 25 July 2022, Saint James’ day, through to 19 January 2023, Saint-Vincent’s day, the patron saint of winegrowing. And that’s just a taste of more to come…

Anne Schoendoerffer

Sources : ITER VITIS Route, www.vignobles-sudouest.fr, Anne Schoendoerffer, © AdobeStock/SpiritProd33

*Dates and venues of the conferences (the detailed programme is being put together at the time of writing)

25 July 2022: in the Irouléguy wine region

22 September 2022: in the Estaing wine region

20 October 2022: in the Gaillac wine region

26 November 2022: in the Gers wine region

15 December 2022: in the Fronton wine region

19 January 2023: in the Cahors wine region