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Wine Route of Languedoc/Rousillon


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In late May, we revisited some of our favourite places in Languedoc, many of which were recommended by Graham Tigg, including the following:

The Auberge du Cedre. Yes, opt for the Garden Room, it's worth the extra Euros - and take advantage of the excellent wine list. The Domaine de Cazeneuve is across the road and produces some very good bottles too.

St. Guilhem le Desert, one of the more charming of the "beautiful villages of France" and not far from the wine village of Montpeyroux. Not all of the plus beaux villages de France live up to the billing, but this one is worth a detour.

Another good place to stay is the discreet but nicely-appointed Ostalaria Cardabela in St. Saturnin de Lucian, itself a wine village - Domaine Virgile is just a few doors down - with others close by (Pascal Fulla at Mas de l'Ecriture in Jonquieres led us through some barrel tastings), but the principal attraction is the wine service delivered by David Pugh at Le Mimosa in St. Guiraud.

Nearby Clermont l'Herault is a provincial town, but now has an impressive wine shop facing the main square where there are a number of restaurants. The proprietor is very welcoming and has an extensive selection of the best regional wines.

The Grand Hotel in Sete. Try for one of the suites with a balcony facing the canal. Given the Belle Epoque ambience, it's a bargain. If you are lucky and it is sunny, sit outside in one of the many restaurants by the water and drink chilled rose or picpoul de pinet with shellfish. Otherwise, bring a bottle back to your balcony where you can sip and watch the canal traffic below as the sun sets.

Octopus, a fairly new restaurant in Beziers. La Raffinerie was closed, but this second choice was a very pleasant surprise - creative cooking with some Catalan influence, eg, a gazpacho milkshake(?) with olive oil ice cubes served with drinking straws. The service was not as playful as the kitchen, which is too bad. Interesting wine list.

Narbonne. We'd vote for this over Montpellier as a base because it has has a pretty canal, is small enough that you can walk everywhere, has the most attractive indoor market in the south of France (Les Halles) and the best wine shop in the region (the Palais du Vin, next to a one star restaurant, Le Table St. Crescent where you can have a bargain lunch). There is also a good value, well-located hotel - La Residence - with lovely rooms for 80 Euros.

Collioure. One of the nicest seaside towns we have come across anywhere. Our third time, and still charming. The Casa Pairal is a bit pricey, but is quiet, central and just too pretty not to make it your address. If you arrive on a Saturday, the open air market cranks it up the next morning in the park across the way. The best syrahs of the Collioure appellation are underrated - low production, very high quality.

Homps on the Canal du Midi. This is a small village in the Minervois, so lots of wineries close by, and beautiful walking paths on both sides under plane trees. There is a chai by the water which is a co-op selling local wines and two or three simple but good places to stay. We liked En Bonne Compagnie a lot for the rooms (50 Euros) and the food, but it closes in the winter, so the other perfect option is the Auberge de l'Arbousier down the way. Some big residence secondaire developments nearby have dismayed some visitors who preferred the sleepiness of the old Homps, but it is not overly intrusive.

If you venture as far north as Cahors, there is a cozy creperie called La Balandine near the cathedral which offers a refreshing cider should your palate be jaded by too many wines. Cahors has an excellent wine shop near the Pont Valentre specializing in local vintages.

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Paul Strang's Languedoc-Rousillon: The Wines and Winemakers is an excellent rundown on the region, with lots of recommended vineyards. He's the husband of Jeanne Strang (Goose Fat and Garlic) and was for years the lawyer for the Wine Society. And yes, Mondevino is a must.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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C'est chouette!

Very cool!

Can't wait.

3 months from now, until a week in Paris in October.

Then 2 month after for two weeks in France from Christmas.

Then 3 months after that, until we're booked for a week in April!

(Not bragging!)

(Just excited)

We don't do anything else ever, to save for the off season fares to France.

Wahoo!

Philly Francophiles

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Another good place to stay is the discreet but nicely-appointed Ostalaria Cardabela in St. Saturnin de Lucian, itself a wine village - Domaine Virgile is just a few doors down - with others close by (Pascal Fulla at Mas de l'Ecriture in Jonquieres led us through some barrel tastings), but the principal attraction is the wine service delivered by David Pugh at Le Mimosa in St. Guiraud.

Octopus, a fairly new restaurant in Beziers.  La Raffinerie was closed, but this second choice was a very pleasant surprise - creative cooking with some Catalan influence, eg, a gazpacho milkshake(?) with olive oil ice cubes served with drinking straws.  The service was not as playful as the kitchen, which is too bad.  Interesting wine list.

Of course the Ostalaria Cardabela and Le Mimosa close from early November to mid-March.

Also found the service a bit tense and indifferent at Octopus, plus the dining room is a bit bare - best to sit in their courtyard if weather permits. Also dined in L'Ambassade (opposite La Gare in Beziers) in April and was pleasantly surprised. Nice modern dining room, a touch more traditional and very hands on.

A rising star of the area with creative cooking that worked well is the Relais de Pigasse north east of Narbonne on the Canal du Midi. This has failed to re-open this season and the phone does not answer. The story is that the chef and équipe cooked in the Caribbean over the winter and decided to stay on - does anyone have any more definitive news? The restaurant - a superb stone high ceiling affaire in what was a post office! - could be up for sale.

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My family did a two week tour of southern France and Catalonia in the summer of 2004. Here is a link to my trip report. Southern France and Spain

We rented a house near St. Cirq La Popie, which is about 45 minutes east of Cahors. We loved that area and would very much like to reutrn some day. We also spent two nights in Collioure, which we found truly charming.

I am not a wine expert, so my report is not very useful on that front, though you should know if you go to Cahors, there is a huge wine shop called L'Atrium that offers tastings.

I enjoyed the Cahors wine quite a bit and always buy some when I find it at local wine shops here. It is a sturdy wine that is good with my favorite duck dishes. We also sampled Vin Noix, Banyuls and Corbier.

Collioure is gorgeous. We had a really great and affordable meal at Le Zouave. I also recommend breakfast at Les Templiers if for no other reason than to check out the art work.

The markets in Cahors, Figeac and Collioure are all a true delight.

Enjoy! Of course, for me, planning is about 50% of the fun of any trip.

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He's the husband of Jeanne Strang (Goose Fat and Garlic)

If you haven't yet try to read this book before you come. Its as much a social history of the region as it is a cook book although it's a fine cookbook also.

I know from your last post that you give a hoot... so try it!

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Since Cahors and vicinity are being considered, do not forget Najac, one of the finest old villages in southern France. Their best hotel, Oustal del Barry, is closed during the winter, but my good friends Hugh and Meg have got their splendid B&B going and will be taking year-round bookings. It's La Maison du Notaire: for photos and contact details, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Edited by John Whiting (log)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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  • 2 weeks later...

So far we're looking at Montpellier, Hotel d'Argon at first, and then the Grand Hotel in Sete after that. Wanting to be on the water; even if it is just after Christmas and cold!

What do you think of that plan?

Would we be close at all for day trips to wine routes/places?

Still considering TGV from CDG, vs. plane. Both to Montpellier.

We discovered if you go into Paris, the TGV is less expensive, but then it's the time and money to get into Paris, when the TGV is right there at the airport.

Then we're headed back to Paris in time for New Year's (for another week), and usually just celebrate on one of the Pont's with a bottle of Champagne!

Philly Francophiles

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So far we're looking at Montpellier, Hotel d'Argon at first, and then the Grand Hotel in Sete after that. Wanting to be on the water; even if it is just after Christmas and cold!

What do you think of that plan?

Would we be close at all for day trips to wine routes/places?

Still considering TGV from CDG, vs. plane. Both to Montpellier.

We discovered if you go into Paris, the TGV is less expensive, but then it's the time and money to get into Paris, when the TGV is right there at the airport.

At that time of year basing yourself in good sizes towns will be more lively, especially if the weather lets you down. From Sete or Montpellier the upper Herault valley (Daumas Gassac, Montpeyroux etc.) are less than an hours drive, as is Faugeres. One place I'd recommend is Domaine Sainte Rose about 40 mins from Sete. Check their website as you will need to make an appointment.

Getting from CDG to the Gare de Lyon (TGV) is easy. RER (urban trains) leave CDG every 15 mins and all stop at Chatelet. You then literally walk across the platform where all trains go the one stop to the Gare de Lyon. Cost about 8 euros or so, journey time less than 40 mins. Most Montpellier flights from Paris go from Orly (but there are a couple from CDG). CDG and Orly are the opposite sides of Paris. It will probably come down to the best connection times.

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