My time in the South of France began in Montpellier. I had been looking forward to seeing some French scenery during my flight from Paris but unfortunately it was nothing but clouds below the airplane. However, as we neared the Mediterranean coast the cloud cover disappeared and I could see the wonderful hilly, scrubby terrain that makes such lovely wine in the Hérault department in France. I rented a car and after a good night’s sleep I made my way south toward my final destination of the day, a small village to the west of Péripignan, about 185km away. I decided to see some sights along the way, stopping in the town of Béziers, one of the oldest cities in France, dating back to 575 B.C. I spent a couple of hours wandering through narrow streets and alleyways from the main esplanade to the Sainte-Nazaire Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century with a very bloody history, and back to the centre of town. Béziers links itself very much with winegrowing. On its tourist website it is listed as ‘Béziers Méditérranée, Mer Ville Vignes’, which translates to ‘Mediterranean Béziers, Sea Town Vines’. During the time of Roman rule here, white wine was shipped to Rome, as evidenced by an archeological excavation in Rome that turned up two dolia (large earthenware containers) marked with “white wine of Baeterrae”, the Roman name for Béziers.
Leaving Béziers, I decided to take the secondary highway that runs south rather than the large toll freeway. This is mainly because it would be the best way to see more of the countryside and small towns, to get a better feel for the place. I headed off toward Narbonne and drove through some very pretty villages, each with their local wine cooperative. I stopped in the commune of Coursan to the north of Narbonne to visit the store that advertised wines and other regional products. This shop is run by the local wine cooperative and showcases a wide variety of the local wines, available by the bottle and also as vin vrac (bulk wine on tap at the bargain price of between €1 and €1.50 per litre!) All of the wines that are available for sale are also available for tasting. I decided to try a local rosé as well as a red blend. The La Clape Languedoc AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) 2012 is a rosé blend of Carignan and Syrah. It has a pretty medium salmon colour with a fresh nose with a light berry aroma. It is dry with medium acidity and flavours of citrus, red fruit, red currant with a medium finish; it was quite pleasant and I picked up a bottle of it for the bargain price of €3.60. The second wine I tasted was Château Saint Pierre La Garrigue 2009 (La Clape Languedoc AOP), which was a blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and a bit of Mourvèdre. It was a deep purple in colour with a ruby rim and it had aromas of dark fruit, raisin, prune and spice. It was dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins. On the palate were flavours of dark fruit, savoury, earthy, garrigue herbs (lavender, sage, rosemary and wild thyme), prune and raisin. It was very well-balanced and had a long finish. It was one of the priciest bottles in the shop at €6.80.
Keep checking back here for the continuation of my travels through the wine regions of the South of France.