Musée Régional d’Art Contemporain Languedoc-Roussillon. The museum, opened in 2006 is set in an ancient wine cellar. It is a collective work: the artist Daniel Buren has colored the windows; on the façade, Erro composed “Femmes Fatales”, a large ceramic fresco. The museum exhibits all creative trends from the 60s to today in order to publicize and support contemporary art. 146 avenue de la Plage. Tel.: 04 67 32 33 05. mrac.languedocroussillon.com
Domaine de l’Evêque. It is not a reconversion but a passion according to the actor. Pierre Richard discovered the Domaine de l’Evêque in 1986 and made it his chapel dedicated to Bacchus. He rehabilitated 20 hectares of vines, then elaborated his first variety, ADC Corbières Languedoc La Clape red and rosé, the Château Bel Evêque. The first 1989 vintage is refined. Then, Pierre Richard developed the cuvée Cardinal and a few others, worked in balanced agriculture in IGP Aude Mon Rouge et Rosé PIF. To be discovered in the Caveau de Pierre in the Domain. www.chateau-beleveque.com
The powerful round towers come into view above the vines A “Monument Historique”, the castle bears witness to the pomp of the feudal era, at the time of Jean Perdriguier, king’s treasurer. Laure and Pauline Feracci and their mother Christine carefully preserve the inheritance that was transmitted through the women. Where art and wine meet, viticulture and agriculture are accompanied by cultural activities. The new cuvée Les Filles de Perdiguier 2001 whose label was created by the Canadian Pierre Corneudet, reveals fresh and subtle aromas of plums and currants, cooled by sweet almonds – a different, very feminine wine. Guided visit of “trompe-l’oeil” frescoes painted on the ceiling in the 17th century and inside the tower. Courtyards and cellar of the castle are open to the public. www.domaineperdiguier.com
An alley of poplar trees edges the canal du Midi at the small town of Capestan that shields two historical monuments:
Palace of the Dukes, remarkable by its great stateroom and ceilings painted in the 15th century.
La Collégiale Saint-Etienne.
Beautiful example of 14th century Gothic meridional.
Abbaye de Quarante.
The high and magnificent nave decorated with Lombard bands as well as the two white marble altars bear major witness to the new Roman meridional art at the end of the 10th century. The abbaye Sainte-Marie de Quarante, a contemporary with the abbaye of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, sheltered the canons of the order of Saint-Augustin.
Les Carrasses. The vineyard was created with Bonfils vines, a new collection of wines, “Les Carasses”, in three colors, among which a red La Serre cuvée, soft and fruity and a Côteaux d’Enserran white chardonnay rich in minerals. Sample the wines (with moderation) at the magnificent cellar bar. Visits of vineyards and historical sites with tastings at your choice; tastings may be planned on board a barge on the Canal du Midi according to the wishes of hotel guests.
Château les Carrasses
The castle may not be dissociated from his environment of which the canal du Midi and the vines are part. It is a renaissance for this 19th century castle bought by Karl O’Hanlon, the Irish founder of “Domaine et Demeure”. Close to Narbonne, at the same time a holiday site, restaurant and vineyard domain, Carrasses has been conceived, thought of, and organized to live “chic” in the heart of the vineyard. An art de vivre “à la française” that will delight WineChicTravellers. We liked he brasserie ambiance and the Mediterranean cuisine of David Galtier. We appreciated the luxury of an apartment decorated in white with a private pool, and were captivated by the charm of the emblematic glass enclosure transformed into a salon. The view covers the plain and the vineyards ad infinitum. Tel.: 04 67 00 00 67. www.lescarrasses.com
This delightful little hamlet lives at the rhythm of the canal and of its cruises during the summer months. The 18th century bridge is remarkable. A book store of ancient books, “Le Trouve Tout du Livre”, a museum of the “Chapeau” and “guinguettes” on the water’s edge deserve a halt.
The Cathar city rises on a rocky outcrop. Minerve suffered the crusade against the Albigeois led by Simon de Montfort and was destroyed. The village, heart of the vintage ADC Minervois, at the foot of the Montagne Noire ranks among the most beautiful French villages.
A former garaged transformed into tasting cellar and Art gallery. Are the Coupe Roses wines called garage wines? They are actually quality wines. Françoise Frissant-leCalvez and Pascal treat the vine with respect, insisting on organic products, and the harvest is done by hand. In the country of vine, olive trees and honey, the vines planted on Causses pebbles, produce generous wines – somewhat irreverent, like Françoise, or poetic, like her husband Pascal. The white vintage 100% roussanne, raised on schists, contains a slight quantity of minerals. The Minervois Granaxa, 90% grenache on a base of prunes, coffee and chocolate, asserts itself as a good company for poultry. These are totemistic wines. A large part of the production oriented towards export is more than successful in China. Worthy heiress of a whole line of winemakers, Françoise is the ambassador of charm for Minervois. La Caunette is a departure point for the great Minervois roads. Still to be discovered.
Did you know that Narbonne was built 118 BC? It is the first Roman colony created in Gaul by the proconsul Domitius. With the Via Domitia, Narbonne benefited from an exceptional location at the crossroads between the conquered territories of Spain and Italy. The completion of the fabulous Canal du Midi linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean took place under Louis 14th. Because of Narbonne’s location at the crossroads and as a center of winemaking, “La Narbonnaise” wine, titled since Philippe Auguste, was able to circulate.
Musée Régional de la Narbonne Antique et autres musées. Imagined by the architect Norman Foster, the museum will open in 2016 and will revive Narbonne’s rich, historical patrimony. About time! Meanwhile, Roman relics may be admired in the archeological museum, the Palais des Archevêques, the musée Lapidaire and the underground gallery.
La Cathédrale Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur. With the Palais des Archevêques, the Cathedral constitutes one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles of southern France. The 14th century cloister links the cathedral to the Palace. Le musée d’Art et d’Histoire shelters a unique collection of Orientalist paintings in the Bishops’ ancient apartments. The ancient church Notre Dame de Lamourgier shelters the largest Roman lapidary collection, second only Rome’s.
L’Horreum Romain. It is the only Roman monument in situ; the underground galleries dating from the 1st century BC served as warehouses. 7 rue Rouget de l’Isle.
Chapelle des Pénitents Bleus. The Chapel, with its baroque decor, was converted into an art gallery where contemporary works are exhibited. Rue Gustave Fabre.
Maison Natale de Charles Trenet. Charles Trenet, “Le fou chantant”, was born in Narbonne on May 18, 1913. His native home remains full of his imagination for those who pine for the beautiful French songs. Avenue Charles Trenet. Tel.: 04 6 8 90 30 66
Gérard Bertrand’s domain is impressive as much for the quality of his wines as to the work that was accomplished. Renown and well-known, the G. Bertrand brand is the reference of Languedoc’s renewal. The Autrement rouge variety ADC Côteaux du Languedoc fills out the mouth and ends on a note of vivacity and aromas of leather, liquorice and spice. The Cigalus Blanc Vin de Pays d’Oc is a great white wine with an intense perfume of citrus fruit, peach, honey and dried fruit. Gerard Bertrand, child of the region, man of wine and rugby, bought the Hospitalet with 80 hectares of vines and 11,000 of garrigues in 2002. Vines show up ad infinitum in the chalky, dry and sunny monastic décor of la Clape. A small island occupied 25 centuries ago by the Phoenicians and Greeks, baptized by the Romans “Insula Laci” that might be the cradle of the vine in Gaul. Vermentine, grenache blanc, syrah and mourvèdre bloom in bourboulenc, an historical variety. Hôtel, restaurant and stores complete the domain, with a contemporary winery and an underground cellar containing 2,000 barrels. Hospitality is an art to be cultivated; with the tramontane blows a wind of creativity: Art festival, jazz concerts, encounters around the truffle, wine harvests. Something is always happening at the castle.
La Table des Cuisiniers Cavistes. Marc Schwall serves a banquet: thrushes, quail, pheasant. His Hare is royal! The hare from the plateau du Larzan that befriends foie gras and truffle. Hunting time at La Table is fastuous. 4 place Lamourgier. Tel.: 04 68 32 96 45
La Table Saint-Crescent. Lionel Giraud started as first assistant at the Crillon in Paris, then at the Prés d’Eugénie. He arrived in Narbonne, got settled, and received his star in 2005. Might the table of the starred winner, the only one of the district, installed in the ancient Saint-Crescent oratory, give a foretaste of paradise? 58 Avenue Général Leclerc. Tel.: 04 68 41 37 37
Les Hallles. The halles built in the Baltard style have formed an integral part of the town’s look for more than 100 years. They are a model of conviviality and good living to help discover and taste all the Narbonnais territory. Boulevard du Docteur Ferroul.
Chez Bebel. Bebel is the surname of Gilles Belzons, a former rugbyman who made his niche in the halles. He hosts a small bar resto and places orders via megaphone. Meat from the neighboring butcher’s comes direct to the plate. Fries are home made, and wins come from the domain de l’Espinel. Crazy ambiance, it’s good to make a reservation. Tel.: 06 85 40 09 01
La Table de Fontfroide. Hospitality is a monastic virtue. Yohan Renard “coquinarius”, the head chef has prepared a menu “Dishes Wines” in relation with the Corbières of the domain. He is the recipient of a Toque Gault et Millau 2011. Abbaye de Fontfroide, Rte Départementale 613. Tel.: 04 68 41 02 26
Château Ricardelle. In 1696, the castle viticulture property belonged to the Duc de Fleury. Under the signature of Bruno Pellegrini since 1990, the ancient domain is recovering youth and dynamism. 43 hectares of vines on the small hill of la Clape produce great wines on native soil. In an elegant bottle, result of a long development, the Iris range includes a small nectar of a white, to which have been added bourboulenc and grenache with a light, seductive perfume of violet. www.chateau-ricardelle.com
Château Pech Céleyran. A winemaking castle rich in history, it was left by inheritance in 1866 to Isaure, sister of the Seigneur de Céleyran, who was none other than the grand-ather of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The castle has been in the Saint-Exupéry family for five generations through women’s inheritance. Jacques and Nicolas de Saint-Exupéry work on 44 hectares of La Clape and 52 other hectares that produce Vins de Pays d’Oc and Côtes de Pérignan. The red Céleste variety, fruity, spicy and perfumed with vanilla is very representative of the La Clape vintage. www.pech-ceyleran.com
Abbaye de Fontfroide
Founded in 1093, the Abbaye became Cistercian in 1145. It played an important role during the crusade against the Albigensians. It is a monastic city full of history, a stone jewel enchased in vegetation whose discovery is impressive. The chapel dates back to the 13th century; do not miss the abbatial church, the cloister, the chapter house, the art museum Gustave Fayet, Odilon Redon’s collection or the gardens. The Abbaye received the 1st National prize in oenotourism in 2011; you should expect an erudite patrimonial, ludic and bacchic visit. You can spend the day. www.fontfroide.com
Domaine de l’Abbaye de Fontfroide. The domain is an oenologic patrimony of nine centuries of winemaking. The wines produced today by Nicolas and Laure de Chevron Villette respect the quasi-monastic rule of the three “F”. “Freshness, Finesse and Fruit” sign the Fontfroide style. The Prix d’Excellence 2010 at the Concours Général Agricole has rewarded the work of the winemaker. Roussanne, marsanne, grenache blanc are the quintessence of the Deo Gracias white variety. With grey gold in one’s glass, aromas of white fruit, delicate notes toasted in the mouth, fat and slightly woody, savored with a grilled lobster – perfection! Grace be to God! Member of the Vins d’Abbayes. Sale and tasting in the cellar. Tel.: 04 68 45 50 72
Auberge Côté Jardin
Here the light cassoulet, reworked by David, the salmon slab in a crust of Jordan Almonds, shrimp beignets, coral lentils in a fine mussel juice, reveal their exquisite tastes in layers. David Prevel started early. He is a laureate of the grand prix Culinaire de l’Innovation 2010 and keeps all of his enthusiasm to develop and renew his menu. But, please David, keep your cassoulet on the menu. A good choice of organic wines from Languedoc. At night Côté Jardin is also an hotel. Tel.: 04 68 27 08 19
The origins of the Domain go back to the 11th century. In the 12th century, the vineyard depended on the nuns of Fontfroide. Today, the 150 hectares belong to another lady: Jacqueline Bories. We are in the “Boutenac” varieties. Originally, the carignan variety, basis of the Corbières with grenache and alicante, an autochtonal variety, brought color to the pale wine. But this stage has now passed. The carignan is at the heart of their wine. The magazine Vins de France lost its heart to their IGP Costières Boutenac, variety OR 2010, a red blend in majority carignan and grenache; the variety Atal Sia (Let it be????) is original and very fruity, both to be discovered with many others in the very beautiful stone cellar built in 1896.
An antique dependence of the monastery of Lagrasse, Salitis is one of mythic domains of the Cabardès. Mme Anne Marandon-Maurel likes to believe that the name of Salitis comes from a Pharaoh of the 15th dynasty. It is said that his burial place was discovered close by! Closer in time and verified in the 19th century, the castle was won at a game by Victor Martin, the great grandfather, who transmitted it to his daughter and so to Anne. 110 hectares in one block including 70 hectares of vines for AOC Cabardès in the three colors. The vintage des Dieux, a blend of 5 varieties including black grenache and COT has a deep color, a spiced aroma, substance and power. Salitis also prooduces a natural sweet wine, grenache and muscat, with an intense nose and an aroma of fruit and sweet spices. Tel 04 68 77 16 10
Les Quatre Châteaux.
They are worth the detour! 15 kilometers north of Carcassonne like eagle nests perched at 300 meters, the four 11th century fortresses commanded the inroads into the Cabardès and la Montagne Noire. The site suffered the assaults of Simon de Montfort during the crusade against the Albigeois. Remnants of towers, dungeons, façades, walk along the parapet, rise like stone crowns. Ascensions and visits on foot through the access ways, departing from the ancient textile factory of the village. Comprehensive view of the Belvédère de Montfermier. Accessible by car. Tel.: 04 68 77 56 02. www.chateauxdelastours.fr
It is the only one in Cathar country to own a crypt open to the public and two levels of 12th and 13th century cloisters. Its bedside book is a perfect example of the first meridional “art roman.”
Château de Pennautier, Domaine Lorgeril. In the 17th century under the reign of Louis 13th, Bernard de Pennaultier posed the first stone of the castle where the king was a guest. In 1650, his son Pierre-Louis de Pennaultier had the nerve to request of Le Vau and Le Nôtre to complete the castle and the gardens. With such references, Pennaultier has been classified “Monument Historique”. The vines were rehabilitated in the 20th century; Nicolas and Miren de Lorgeril are the owners of six family domains in the south of France. Pennaultier is one of them. Visit of the winemaking plant and discovery of the wines. Free visit of the gardens, guided visit of the castle and the King’s room. www.lorgeril.com