Bonjour! Did you know that the Languedoc is France’s largest grape producing region and it has been since Roman times? In fact, the vineyards flooded the landscape on just about every drive we took. According to Angela Murrills, author of Hot Sun Cool Shadow in which she writes about the region, it is the world’s most colossal vineyard stretching from the Banyuls appellation close to the Spanish border to the tiny region just west of the Rhone where the Clairette grape – once the leading white grape of the region – is still grown. Vineyards here are dated back to the 6th century BC where the Greeks and Etruscans were their guardians.
One of my traveling companions had researched wine tours and struck gold with the company we hired to introduce us to French wine. Vin & Company,(www.aerobus-hautevallee,com) out of Limoux, provided us with an expert guide and chauffeur, Jean Luc, who not only knew his wines but imparted some history of the region as well. Our first stop, Domaine Gayda. This wine is made to show off the flavors of the fruit and does not have a taste of oak. Fairly new and modern, it is modeled after a high end Napa winery compete with a top notch restaurant.
We learned here that roses are sensitive to diseases that can plague the grapes so it is traditional to plant them at the front of the grape rows. If a disease were to strike, the roses would be affected first, therefore alerting the growers of a potential disaster.
An extensive tasting gave me an appreciation for this region of France’s fine wines which, disappointingly, are very difficult to locate in the U.S. Of the three vineyards we visited, none of them import to us, not even Domaine Gayda, which produces 800,000 bottles a year.
Our tour included lunch worthy of many stars in Gayda’s beautiful restaurant with views of the vineyards.
Can’t you just taste all these fresh ingredients? My mouth waters just remembering the flavors!
Chateau Guilhem was built in 1851 and has been a family winery for five generations. Bertrand Gourdou is the charming (and handsome) owner who manages the 400,000 acres. He is proud that his wine represents the style of the land and that his organic winery is one of the top 30 wineries in the Languedoc.
What I found most interesting about this winery is that Bertrand’s great, great-grandfather used oak barrels to age the wine. His great-grandfather used concrete – isn’t that amazing? Grandfather used stainless and now he is back to using concrete.
To take a break from the wine, we stopped in a beautiful abbey and church, Notre Dame de Marsaille for a taste of Roman and mid 16th century history.
By 5:00 we thought we had seen and experienced so much of the vine but no, there was more. Our last stop at Villarzens enchanted us all and we fell in love with this petite 3 hectacre vineyard.
The owner and operator of Vin & Company, Alison, said it best. ” The wine should vibrate in your mouth.” We were satiated with the delicate wine, the fresh food and the incredibly friendly and charming people (the best part!) We were definitely vibrating! Thank you Jean Luc, especially, for sharing this quaint part of France and the Languedoc with us. You made this experience the highlight of our stay in this delightful region.