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Exploring the Wine Region of Occitanie: Places to Visit and the Best Rosé Wines from the Area - GUILD MAGAZINE
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Exploring the Wine Region of Occitanie: Places to Visit and the Best Rosé Wines from the Area

Exploring the Wine Region of Occitanie: Places to Visit and the Best Rosé Wines from the Area August 5, 2019
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie
The City of Bezier in Southern France. © Photograph by Edler von Rabenstein.

The Occitanie Region of France is known for its diverse beauty and contrasting landscapes. This culturally rich area offers not only popular tourist destinations but also many less-known sites where century-old traditions are still part of the every-day Mediterranian lifestyle. The Occitanie Region is also one of the largest wine-producing areas in Europe, contributing 6% of the world’s total output of wine. The province is the first producer of organic French wines, and the first producer of French rosé.

In this article, we bring you some of the places not-to-be-missed when visiting Occitaine, and some of our preferred rosé wines produced in the region. 

1 - LIMOUX

Panoramic view at the Old City of Carcassonne with Old Bridge over L Aude river in France
The Old City of Carcassonne. © Photograph by Milosk Photography.

The commune of Limoux is located on the banks of the River Aude. Its vineyards are renowned for the production of sparkling wine, made following the strict requirements set by the ‘Méthode Traditionelle.’ Benedictine Monks of the Saint-Hilaire Abbey created these methods in 1531. They demand the best hand-harvested grapes to be used for the production of the wine, and the juice to be fermented by using uniquely cultivated yeasts.

PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO:

  • Dating back to 1604, The Carnival of Limoux is a three-months-long festival held between January and Mardi Gras. During the festivities, many of the attendees will dress in costumes of Pierrot and other literature characters.
  • Toques et Clochers is a gastronomy festival which first originated in 1991. Held on the weekend of Palm Sunday, the festival has become popular with wine lovers from across the world.
  • The origins of the city of Carcassonne date back to 3500 B.C. It became an essential trade city in the 6th century B.C. due to its strategic location. Its medieval citadel was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
Carcassonne, France
Carcassonne, France. © Photograph by Giancarlo Liguori.
  • THE WINE: 

J.L. Laurens, Crémant de Limoux, NV – La Rosé N 7

Aged for a minimum of 12 months, J.L. Laurens, Crémant de Limoux, NV – La Rose N 7 has a subtle cherry/peach color, with a greedy raspberry aroma. Its bubbles are delicate but vigorous. Its finish is light on the palate with red fruits and pinot noir delivering all the fullness.

This wine pairs perfectly with meals such as smoked salmon, and shrimp salad. It is also an excellent option for the lovers of desserts and ice-creams made with red fruits.

Grapes Varieties:

60% Chardonnay

25% Chenin

15% Pinot Noir

J.L. Laurens, Crémant de Limoux, NV - La Rosé N 7
© FIAF French Institute Alliance Française

2 - GAILLAC

Cloisters and Courtyard Garden of Dominican monastery Couvent des Jacobins in Toulouse, France.
The Jacobin Convent in Toulouse. © Photograph by Elena Wise.

Established during Roman times, the historical town of Gaillac has been prosperous since then due to its production of wine. Its varied range of vineyards has brought it worldwide fame during our modern times. The terroir of the area is made up of limestone, sand, clay, and silex soils, contributing to wine production worthy of the Appellation D’origine Contrôlée (AOC) certification. 

PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO:

  • Known to the locals as La Ville Rose (The Pink City), Toulouse is recognized for its distinguishing pink-stone buildings. Historically, Toulouse was one of France’s most prominent trading cities, bringing much wealth to its inhabitants. This historic wealth can be noted in the lavish architecture of the buildings found in the Vieux Quartier (old quarter). Though often omitted by visitors of France, Toulouse is a cultural hub not-to-be-missed when in this region.
  • The Episcopal City of Albi is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visited by over 800,000 visitors per year, the city expands around two medieval fortresses. The well-preserved medieval buildings found in the Episcopal City of Albi (such as the late 13th-century Cathedral of Saint Cecilia of Albi) help the city to rank as one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the world.
Albi, Cathédrale Saint-Cécile, France
Cathedrale Saint-Cecile in Albi. © Photograph by Zac Thoma.
Warm sunlight on narrow street in old center of Toulouse, France.
Mornings in Toulouse. © Photograph by Elena Wise.
Rue de Toulouse
Architecture of Toulouse. © Photograph by Fred Photography.
  • THE WINE: 

Chateau Lastours, Gaillac Rosé, Cuvee “Les Graviers,” 2018

The grapes used to for the Chateau Lastours, Gaillac Rose, Cuvee “Les Graviers,” are grown in the gravelly soils of Lastours. The wine is made using the traditional maceration method. It is fermented at low temperatures and preserved for several months in stainless steel tanks. The Chateau Lastours, Gaillac Rose, Cuvee “Les Graviers,” 2018  has a shiny pale salmon color, with an aroma that is both delicate and fresh, with subtle notes of ripe red berries. This wine is remarkably unctuous, perfectly blending red berry flavors, and possesses a splendid acidity with a long finish.

The Chateau Lastours, Gaillac Rose, Cuvee “Les Graviers,” 2018 is ideal as a pre-dinner wine to enjoy during summer months, and pairs perfectly with cold cut and white meats as well as cold buffets.

Grapes Varieties:

50% Duras

50% Syrah

Chateau Lastours, Gaillac Rosé, Cuvee “Les Graviers,” 2018
© FIAF French Institute Alliance Française

3 - LOT

Rocamadour village a picturesque unesco world heritage site in france at sunrise, Europe
The sun sets over Rocamadour village.

Before the French Revolution, the Lot department of France was known as Quercy. The region is characterized by breathtaking natural attractions, and charming, historic, clifftop villages.

PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO:

  • The village of Rocamadour is one of the top tourist destinations of this region, and France, with over one million people visiting every year. The village clings dramatically to a cliff, making it one of the most picturesque sites in the country. The town has also been a key pilgrimage destination for over 1000 years, earning it a spot as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The commune of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) association. Resting high above the Lot River, the village offers mesmerizing views of the surrounding areas and the river. This enchanting setting has made this village historically popular with artists and creatives. It is also home to multiple historical monuments, making it a key destination for those who love history. For an even more memorable visit, ensure to book a tour down the Lot River.
Rocamadour - medieval town, France
The medieval town of Rocamadour. © Photograph by Rainbow Photography.
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie
Arriving in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. © Photograph by Picture News.
  • THE WINE: 

Domaine Georges Vigouroux, IGP Cotes du Lot, “Gouleyant Rosé,” 2018

In French, ‘gouleyant’ means “easy to drink.” The Domaine Georges Vigouroux, IGP Cotes du Lot, “Gouleyant Rose,” is produced with this concept in mind. The best Malbec grapes, grown on the highest gravely and clay terraces of the Cahors Appellation, are selected for this wine. The Malbec grape has a skin very rich in coloring matter. However, its juice is pale enough to offer an alternative to the region’s traditional red wines.

The Domaine Georges Vigouroux, IGP Cotes du Lot, “Gouleyant Rose,” 2018 has a bright and lively pink color, with an aromatic nose that is rich with intense perfumes of raspberries and blackcurrants. On the palate, this wine is fresh and lightly sweet with a persistent finish. It pairs perfectly with fruity aperitifs, salads, white and barbecued meats, spicy dishes, and Asian dishes.

Domaine Georges Vigouroux, IGP Cotes du Lot, "Gouleyant Rosé," 2018
© FIAF French Institute Alliance Française

4 - CATHAR COUNTRY

Montsegur cathar castle seen from bellow in fall, Ariege, France
Montsegur Castle is one of the many found in Cathar Country. © Photograph by Julien Photography.

Cathar Country, in Languedoc, is a region rich in history, and natural beauty. It is characterized by ancient ruins of hilltop villages, medieval fortresses and castles, and the fortified city of Carcassonne.

PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO:

  • To learn more about the history of the region, walk the Cathars Way. This popular trail, extending from the Mediterranean coast to the town of Foix, connects various Cathar castles and ruins of the area. Besides the enchanting natural sceneries, highlights include castles such as Queribus and Montségur.
  • The village of Roussillon has long been regarded as one of the most impressive in France. Located on a large ochre deposit, Roussillon is distinguished by its surrounding red cliffs.
  • Driving or biking along the coast of Cote Vermeille, near the border with Spain, will allow you to understand why some of the world’s most famous artists have found this region to be a significant source of inspiration for their work. Many villages of the Cote Vermeille remain undiscovered by tourists and visiting them will allow for a truly local experience.
  • Besides offering breathtaking views and calming hiking trails, Mount Canigou is considered the spiritual home of Catalan. On the 23rd of June, the mount is visited by Catalans from both the French territory and Catalonia, Spain, who gather for a ceremony called the Flama del Canigo and to celebrate the Summer Solstice.
View on the Pyreneans moutains from Queribus castle in Corbieres, France
Views from the ruins of Queribus Castle. © Photograph by DeGes Photos.
Chateau Cathare de Quesribu. @ Photograph by Elo Leo.
Roussillon village. One of the most impressive villages in France
The village of Roussillon. © Photograph by Alex Tihonov.
France Provence Roussillon narrow street. Stone steps up.
The streets of Roussillon. © Photograph by Ganna Photos.
  • THE WINE: 

Departement 66, IGP Cotes Catalanes Rosé Cuvee “Fragiles,” 2018

The village of Maury, in the north-west of Perpignan, is an agricultural village historically known for the growing of grapes. It is home to old-vine Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, and Syrah. The region is characterized by a warm climate which is tempered by the gusty Tramontane wind, steep hillsides, black schist, and red clay soils.

The grapes used in Departement 66, IGP Cotes Catalanes Rose Cuvee “Fragiles,” are sourced from the winery’s 300 estate-owned acres in the Cotes Catalanes region, a sub-appellation of the Roussillon, with some of the vines ranging in age up to 65+ years.

The wine is gold in color, with aromas of crushed rose petals and Braeburn apples. On the palate, this wine transitions from watermelon and nectarine flavors, to the pleasant taste of rhubarb extracts and a distinguishing mineral tone. Its pleasant acidity is long-lasting, finishing on a high note.

Departement 66, IGP Cotes Catalanes Rosé Cuvee "Fragiles," 2018
© FIAF French Institute Alliance Française
Collioure, côte vermeille, Occitanie.
The village of Collioure in Cote Vermeille. © Photograph by Bernard Girardin.

5 - FAUGERES

The City of Bezier in Southern France. © Photograph by Edler von Rabenstein.

Around the time of the French revolution, Faugeres started to become recognized as a wine-producing area. The wines from this region gained much attention during the 20th century, which allowed for the promotion to AOC.  This wine-producing appellation lays just a few miles from the Mediterranean coast, and its hills protect the vineyards from cold weather fronts from the north. A combination of Mediterranean climate and schist soils allow for the production of high-quality wines in this region.

PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO:

  • Every August, the town of Beziers hosts the Feria de Beziers. This event, held over five days, brings together approximately one million people. The main attraction is the bullfights and corridas held at the arena. Other attractions in Beziers include the Musee des Beaux-Arts, the Cathedrale St-Nazaire, and the Orb Aqueduct: a canal bridge that carries the Canal du Midi, allowing the crossing of boats over the Orb river.
  • The natural gorges and the scenic routes of the Gorge d’Héric offer an excellent opportunity to explore the natural beauty of this region. Here, you will find waterfalls and streams where you can enjoy a relaxing swim. The area is also a favorite destination for fishing enthusiasts and those who enjoy hiking.
Guild-Magazine-France-Aerial-top-view-of-river,-canal-du-Midi-and-bridges-from-above-Beziers-town-South-France
The Orb Aqueduct and the Canal du Midi. @ Photograph by Luliia Sokolovska.
Gorges d'Héric. © Photograph by Eberhard Photos.
Gorges d'Héric. © Photograph by Eberhard Photos.
  • THE WINE: 

Mas Olivier, AOC Faugeres Rosé, 2018

The Mas Olivier, AOC Faugeres Rosé, is made using the traditional processes of destemming and direct pressing. The juice of the grapes is fermented at low temperatures until dry and blended post-fermentation.

To the eye, the wine has a pale peach color. Exotic aromas of vibrant strawberries with hints of watermelon and guava are distinct to the nose. It flavors transition from sweet berry fruits to a dry, and mineral finish. This wine pairs perfectly with Provencal tapas accompanied by anchovies and eggplant dips and tapenade.

Grapes Varieties:

50% Cinsault

50% Grenache

The Mas Olivier, AOC Faugeres Rosé
© FIAF French Institute Alliance Française

6 - THE MEDITERRANEAN COAST

Port ostréicole de Bouzigues sur l'étang de Thau, Hérault en
Lake Etang de Thau. © Photograph by Fred Photography.

The Mediterranean coast of France is one of the most popular regions of not only Europe but also the world. It is visited by millions of tourists yearly, all looking to enjoy the range of attractions offered in the region. The western part of the Mediterranean coast of France is in the Occitanie Region you have been reading about in this article. The area is not as famous with tourists as other areas of the French coast, but it is one popular with locals for its multiple beaches and marinas

PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO:

  • Etang de Thau is one of the many lagoons – a sea-lake – that occupies this stretch of the French coast. Many little towns and villages can be found in this area. One of these is the shellfish-farming, fishing village of Bouzigues. It is a favorite with seafood lovers, offering multiple restaurants where you can try their world-famous oysters.
  • The fishing village of Gruissan is located in the Parc Naturel Regional de la Narbonnaise en Mediterranee. The village lays in a circle around the medieval tower of Barberousse. It is known for its beaches and the many picturesque houses on stilts that can be found here.
  • The town of Sete is known for the historical Sete Water Jousting Festival. An important aspect of the Languedoc culture, this sport dates back to the 12th century. The Water Jousting Festival is held in conjunction with The Saint Louis Sete Festival, a six days festival in celebration of the patron saint.
Historical center of Gruissan town with Barberousse Tower in top seen from the opposite side of the pond. Occitanie, France.
Barberousse Tower in the center of Gruissan. @ Photograph by Sasha Photos.
Canal Royal et ses barques à Sète, Occitanie, Hérault, France
The Canal Royal in Sete. © Photograph by Fred Photography.
  • THE WINE: 

Domaine Montrose, IGP Cote de Thongue, 2018

As with the other wines discussed, the terroir is critical in the production of this high-quality wine. The terroir of this region is composed of calcareous-clay and volcanic and siliceous-clay gravels. Each variety of grape and terroir is vinified individually, with the grapes being harvested during the night to preserve freshness. Fruits aromas are maintained thanks to controlled fermentation temperatures of 59 F – 64 F degrees. The blending of juices happens after fermentation, and the wine is aged in stainless steel vats.

Domaine Montrose, IGP Cote de Thongue, 2018 has a light pink color and is rich in citrus flavors, and red berries aromas. This is an elegant wine that effectively combines roundness and freshness. For pairing, we recommend grilled fish, grilled meats, and sushi.

© FIAF French Institute Alliance Française

7 - SOUTH COTES DU RHONE

Arènes Nîmes
Statue of torero in front of the Arena of Nimes. © Photograph by Picture News.

The Cotes du Rhone is a wine-producing appellation for the Rhone wine region. The region has been producing wine since pre-Roman times. Claiming the title as the “First Rosé of France” and the Cotes du Rhone, Tavel wines are famous since the 10th century, and historically it is said that they were the favorite wines for kings and the papal community during the 14th and 15th century when the papacy was located in Avignon.

PLACES TO VISIT AND THINGS TO DO:

  • The Arena of Nimes, a Roman amphitheater built around 100 A.D., is located in the city of Nimes. One of the best-preserved in the world, the amphitheater, is still used today. Bullfights, concerts, and major festivals such as the Feria de Nimes, are held throughout the year in the amphitheater and attended by up to 13,000 people.
  • Constructed in the first century A.D., The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge which was historically used to carry water to Nimes. This architectural masterpiece and feat of engineering is the highest of its kind and holds a spot in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
  • When in this area, don’t forget to pay a visit to the many tranquil villages of the region, which include Uzes, Tavel, Lira, and Vers-Pont-du-Gard.
Part, detail of famous landmark ancient old Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard, Nimes, France
The Pont du Gard aqueduct. © Photograph by Grigory Bruev.
France, Gard (30), le Pont du Gard classé Patrimoine Mondial de l'UNESCO, Grand Site de France, pont aqueduc romain qui enjambe le Gardon près de Remoulin, longueur 274m, hauteur 49m
The Pont du Gard aqueduct is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. © Photograph by IMAREVA Photos.
  • THE WINE: 

Domaine Pelaquie, AOC Tavel, 2018

Calcareous slopes with Lauze distinguish the terroir of this region. This wine is produced with a mix of wine varieties. The grapes are hand-picked, and before the pressing, they are put in stainless-steel tanks for a few hours of maceration. The free-run juice and the pressed juice are then combined for a thermoregulated fermentation at 64 F degrees, for a period of 20 days.

Aromas of the Domaine Pelaquie, AOC Tavel, 2018 include complex, floral and fruity flavors. Its color is distinct, with brilliant reflections. It is a wine that is rich to the palate and offers a long fruity finish. It is best paired with white meats and vegetables au gratin.

Grape Varieties:

Cinsault

Grenache noir

Domaine Pelaquie, AOC Tavel, 2018
© FIAF French Institute Alliance Française
French red and rose wine grapes plant, growing on ochre mineral soil, new harvest of wine grape in France, Vaucluse Luberon AOP domainFrench red and rose wine grapes plant, growing on ochre mineral soil, new harvest of wine grape in France, Vaucluse Luberon AOP domain or chateau vineyard close up or chateau vineyard close up
Grapes growing in the south of France. © Photograph by Barma Lini.
vineyards near Vinsobres, Provence, France
Vineyards in the south of France. © Photograph by Richard Semik.

Resources for the wine appreciation provided by FIAF French Institute Alliance Française 

www.fiaf.org

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