The Languedoc is a region begging to be explored and what better way to experience everything it has to offer than by creating a route filled with amazing, diverse scenery, enticing culture and history plus incredible food and wine.
Let’s take a look at the three main cities of the Languedoc. Any, or all, would be perfect starting points for visiting the diverse wineries of the Languedoc Outsiders.
This vibrant, modern city is the capital of the Languedoc. Located west of the Rhone River and close to the Mediterranean, Montpellier was not founded by the Greeks or Romans but arose in the 12th century as a thriving, merchant town where its local mix of Christians, Jews, Muslims and Cathars traded goods throughout the Mediterranean.
Montpellier has been a ‘College town’ since 1130 and was home to one of the first Universities in 1289. Today, the University of Montpellier draws students from all over the world, resulting in a sophisticated, forward moving atmosphere filled with music, nightlife, art and great food.
Must See in Montpellier
Stroll the Rue de la Loge, a pedestrian only street lined with shops and restaurants. Follow it to the l’Ecusson or Old Town. Here you’ll find a myriad of winding narrow streets and a host of cafes calling for you to relax and soak in the atmosphere.
Cathedrale de Sainte Piere – built in 1364, this landmark is a great example of Southern French Gothic architecture and is recognizable by its two circular turrets.
The Jardin de Plantes is a soothing oasis on a busy day and one of Europe’s oldest Botanical Gardens
The Place de la Comedie is an oval shaped plaza and home to the Opera House and more of those ever-present sidewalk cafes.
Indulge your artistic side with a visit to the Musèe Fabre and wonder at the collection of Old Master paintings.
Restaurants in Montpellier run the gamut from local seafood (great with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet) to classic Bistro fare all the way to Haute Cuisine.
Montpellier Wine Trails
Domaine de Saumarez
The nearby village of Murviel-les-Montpellier, is home to Domaine de Saumarez. In 2003, Liz and Robin (an Anglo/New Zealand duo) left their secure jobs in London, to make wine in the Languedoc. They are thrilled to welcome you in their new Tasting Room, where you can sip on samples of their refreshing white blend, lush reds and rosé while enjoying a view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Domaine le Clos du Serres
Travel further north, and you’ll reach the newest AOC in the Languedoc, Terrases du Larzac and Domaine le Clos du Serres. Back in 2006, Sébastien Fillon and his wife Béatrice found the perfect parcel of land for their new winemaking venture. The soils are varied or, as Sebastien says ‘a geological jigsaw’, including gravel and schist. They set about building a home and a winery from the ground up and have never looked back. When you meet them, their quiet excitement and passion for their new home is evident, just as it is in their wines. ‘Humeur Vagabond’ is old vine Carignan, and ‘Les Maros’, a blend of Cinsault, Carignan and an almost extinct variety Oeillade.
Domaine de Cébène
Brigitte hails from Bordeaux where she left her wine career behind to explore the Languedoc and now multi tasks as negotiant, wine merchant and winemaker for her own little piece of heaven, Domaine de Cébène. Here she crafts Vin du Nord (wine of the North) with red varieties from the region of while her ‘ex-Arena’ label expresses the character of Vin due Sud (wine of the South), where the sandy soils close to the sea yields spicy Grenache.
Domaine Turner Pageot
West of Montpellier you’ll find Domaine Turner Pageot. This small winery is the result of decades of winemaking experience from around the world. Karen and Emmanual produce ‘gastronomic’ wines that are truly at their best on the table with a wonderful meal.
Domaine Sainte Rose
Not far away, UK born Charles left his career with a British pharmaceutical firm and with his Scottish wife, Ruth, an International relations expert, found their dream vineyard in the Languedoc – Domaine Sainte Rose. Their IGP Cotes de Thongue and Pays d’Oc wines are fresh and accessible.
If you had been an exemplary member of the Roman legions, you might have been rewarded with a vineyard near modern day Narbonne!
Located on the ancient ‘Via Domita’ that ran from Spain to Italy, this busy port city is filled with history, gastronomy and wine!
Must See in Narbonne
The Natural Regional Park – Take a break and soak in the fresh air and bird songs as you walk the trails through the lagoons between the mainland and sea.
Get lost in the meandering alleys of The Old City of Narbonne, or stop for an ‘Apero’ at a local café after visiting the Abbaye de Fontroide, one of the country’s most gorgeous Cistercian abbeys.
Explore the traditional skills of sourcing Mediterranean sea salt, when you visit The Salt Eco-Museum in Gruissan. The gourmet salt makes a terrific souvenir.
If you love food, you’ll love the large, open air markets held every Thursday and Sunday in the city center and Les Halles, with its 70 gourmet vendors.
Speaking of food, you’ll find no shortage of restaurants in Narbonne. Here, they are big on local, seasonal produce, plus fresh seafood and shellfish. Try Bourride – a delicious local fish stew, Leucate oysters – great paired with a white from La Clape – – or the region’s Picoline olives.
Narbonne Wine Trails
In the nearby La Clape region, you’ll encounter the Gallic charms of the Fabre family.
Father Eric was the technical director for Chateau Lafitte Rothschild in Bordeaux, but he was happy to shake convention and start again in the Languedoc at Château d’Anglès. The estate itself has been around for centuries, but soon after purchasing it in 2002, Eric realized the quality of the local grape, Bourboulenc and set out to make the best incarnation of the variety. Sons Vianney (who was the export Director of Bollinger Champagne) and Arnaud round out this band of ‘Outsiders’ all eager to show what La Clape has to offer.
He was born in the Languedoc but went off to seek his fortune in Bordeaux and Dijon. She saw the world working for Air France. Cyril and Nadia Bourgne returned to their roots in 1999 when they settled in the area of Saint-Chinian. At La Madura, they craft small lot, pesticide free wine with a truly hand-on approach.
Le Clos de Gravillas
It’s a long way from Kentucky, but after travelling the world, John Bojanowski met a Spanish girl, Nicole Fernandez and fell in love with both her and her dream to make quality red wine in the Languedoc. They started small in 1999 and are now living that dream, producing bold Carignan – the classic red of the Languedoc – at Le Clos de Gravillas.
The beautiful region of Minervois is home to Chateau Saint-Jacques-d’Albas and owner, winemaker and vineyard manager, Graham Nutter. Since arriving in 2001, Graham has reinvigorated the vineyard, built a new winery, restored the rest of the property and opened a tasting room. His wines have been busy too, winning awards and recognition from all over Europe.
Like something out of a fairytale, this historic, walled city rises above the Aude River as it has done for centuries. Beginning as a Roman fortress, this UNESCO Heritage site was restored in the 19th century and now attracts up to 3 million visitors a year.
Yes, there are definitely some touristy elements at play, like plastic suits of armor and the ‘Torture Museum”, but don’t let that deter you.
Must Sees in Carcassonne
Have a drink in the baronial Hotel du Cite. Walt Disney stayed here and it apparently influenced his design of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland! The views across the valley are stunning.
Visit the Château and catch the film presentation on the history of Carcassonne. The astounding architecture will transport you to the 12th century.
If you can, stay in one of the hotels located inside the city walls. There’s nothing like walking through Carcassonne early in the morning, when its just you and history.
Cruise along the Canal du Midi. Built in 1681, this extraordinary engineering feat , enabled goods to travel from the Mediterranean to the seaport of Bordeaux.
Of course, there’s a wide array of restaurants both in the walled city and the ‘new’ part of Carcassonne. Make sure you try Cassoulet, the fabulous regional stew of pork, duck and lingot beans-fantastic with a local Syrah – and don’t forget the Foie Gras.
Wine Trails Carcassonne
Domaine Sainte Croix
The nearby wine region of Corbieres is named after the jagged limestone hills that dominate the landscape. It’s home to British ex-pats Jon and Liz Bowen who brought their wine expertise to Domaine Sainte Croix in 2004. They are true believers in allowing the ‘terroir’ to express itself through the wines.
Domaine des Enfants
This Outsider is technically in the Roussillon region, which borders the Languedoc to the south, but this was the place to realize a dream for Swiss ex-banker Marcel Bühler and his American partner Carrie Sumner. The wild, rugged terrain is a perfect match for their wines. Visit them at Domaine des Enfants.
One hundred and Fifty years before Dom Perignon ‘saw stars’, the monks of St. Hilaire were making the original bubbly, Blanquette de Limoux.
Today, at Château Rives-Blanque, the tradition of crafting still and sparkling wines from Chenin Blanc and Mauzac continues under the watchful eyes of Jan and Carol Panman. Their wines have attracted rave reviews from the likes of Jancis Robinson, but they haven’t let the acclaim go to their heads. This British/Danish duo work in the vineyard, the cellar, and the tasting room and are passing the legacy down to their children. Every Tuesday, they offer a Tour, Talk and Tutored Tasting, just be sure to call first. You’ll be glad you did!