Vineyards with sea views

La Clape © DR
In Languedoc, several vineyards stretch near by the sea in an enchanting setting. Discovery of the wines goes along seaside pleasures and nature walks.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
780 km from Paris to Sète on autoroutes A10, A71, A750 and A9, 825 km till Fitou
- Train
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Sète, Narbonne and Perpignan.
- Fitou
Hôtel Troiz, in Fitou
- La Clape
Château l’Hospitalet, in Narbonne
Le Mas du Soleilla, in Narbonne
- Picpoul de Pinet
Domaine Fon de Rey
Les Chais Richard, in Pomerols
- Fitou
Le Grand Cap, in Leucate
Jardin des Filoches, in Leucate
- La Clape
La Cranquette, in Gruissan
La Cambuse du Saunier, in Gruissan
Sarrat de Goundy, in Vinassan
Les Cuisiniers Cavistes, in Narbonne
- Picpoul de Pinet
Le Saint Barth, in Marseillan
La Ferme Marine, in Marseillan
- Fitou
- La Clape
- Picpoul de Pinet
- Vins du Languedoc
When thinking wine from Languedoc, one of the first images coming to mind is often a vineyard surrounded by dry and rocky vegetation. However, several appellations boast vines at the edge of the sea or at short distance.
North of Perpignan, Fitou is one of them and is the first in Languedoc to have obtained AOC status, in 1948. Covering 2,400 hectares, the vineyard has the particularity of being made up of two separated areas thirty km from each other divided by the Corbières appellation in the middle.

Fitou © DR
 Close to beaches
One located below the Mont Tauch, called Fitou de Hautes-Corbières. The other, called Fitou Maritime extending around the villages of Leucate, La Palme, Treilles, Caves and Fitou where vine is planted near the sea and the lake of Leucate, a lagoon separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a thin strip of land. The appellation produces only reds and grape varieties used are the same whatever the place: mainly Carignan and Grenache complemented with Syrah and Mourvèdre. For cons, vines near the sea and the lagoon are mostly planted on clay - limestone soils and marine winds freshen the atmosphere. Therefore Fitou Maritime wines tend to be crisper, fresher than those of Hautes Corbières Fitou. Some of these vines can be seen near the edge of the cliff separating Leucate Plage from La Franqui, next door to a lighthouse and a gourmet restaurant. At the foot of the cliff are very quiet beaches as they are only accessible by trail or boat. Nothing to do with the nearby bustling Port Leucate, a resort and marina born in the late 60s.

La Clape © DR
 Former island
A little further north, near Narbonne, the vineyard of La Clape is without doubt the most spectacular. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine that this limestone massif reaching 214 m at its highest point was an island until the Middle Ages. In Roman times, when Narbonne was one of the largest Mediterranean ports, wealthy Roman owned villas there and a local legend says that Julius Caesar himself had one where he hosted Cleopatra !!! What is certain is that he gave land on the island to his best soldiers who planted the first vines. Today the vineyard covers a thousand hectares and the appellation was granted the AOC status in 2015. Well-structured, full bodied with intense aromas of red fruits and spices, reds account for 80% of the production and come from grape varieties common in this part of France. Mainly Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah while some Carignan and Cinsault can be added to the blend. Regarding the white grape varieties predominantly grown on the eastern slopes of the massif, it's more original. The most widely planted is indeed Bourboulenc little cultivated elsewhere, little known but which gives crisp wines with a great freshness suitable for aging. It is blended with Grenache Blanc and various varieties such as Roussanne, Marsanne, Piquepoul, Clairette, Rolle and Maccabeo.

La Clape © DR
 Wild landscapes
A haven of peace between Narbonne and Narbonne Plage, the massif of La Clape is an undulating combination of limestone plateaus and deep ravines covered with scrubland and pine trees. He is so rugged, looking so wild with its limestone outcrops that one easily forgot the proximity to the sea. Especially on the plateau surrounding the Château l'Hospitalet estate, where rocky peaks overlook the vineyard. But here and there suddenly appear magnificent views over the vineyards with the sea in the background as well as extraordinary sites like the Oeil-Doux chasm or Notre Dame des Auzils chapel which contains dozens of ex votos left by sailors to ask the Virgin’s protection. To get there, you must pass through the Allée des Naufragés, a marine cemetery with twenty-six cenotaphs mentioning the circumstances of the sinking and the missing ones. Vines are also found in less rugged areas near the peaceful and picturesque village of Armistan and near Gruissan, a lovely fishing village boasting an old circular district built around a medieval castle called Tour Barberousse. It’s also worth to have a look at the Plage des Chalets where French director Jean-Jacques Beneix shot his famous film Betty Blue.

Picpoul de Pinet © DR
 Wine and oysters
Further north, near Sète, it is Picpoul de Pinet - the largest white wine appellation in Languedoc - that comes close to the sea and especially the Thau lagoon. Largest body of water in Languedoc, it is home to many animal species, including a large population of seahorses. It is also a major oyster production centre. A delicacy pairing perfectly with the Picpoul de Pinet, a fresh and crispy white wine made from Piquepoul grape. For proof, head to the Saint Barth restaurant, on the bank of the Thau lagoon, near Marseillan, run by the Tarbouriech family who developed an oyster farming system recreating the tides to make them tastier. You can taste both of them in this idyllic place. The nearest vines are only a few hundred meters away and surround the villages of Pomerols and Pinet. Covering 1600 hectares, the vineyard extends inland till Pezenas and its origin dates back to the 2nd century. Once again, it was the Romans who planted the first vines. Near Pinet, it is possible to walk on the Domitian way, the Roman road that linked Italy to Spain. The stroll provides great views of the vineyard with the Thau lagoon in the background.

September 21, 2016

[ Wineries ]

Here is a selection of wineries where to taste wines of this three appellations.
- Château Champs des Sœurs, in Fitou
Ph: 0468456674
- Château les Fenals, in Fitou
Tel : 0468457194
- Vignobles Cap Leucate, in Leucate
Ph: 0468332041
La Clape
- Château d’Anglès, in Saint-Pierre la Mer
Ph: 0468336133
- Château Mire l’Etang, in Fleury
Ph: 0468336284
- Cave de Gruissan, in Gruissan
Ph: 0468490117
Picpoul de Pinet
- Domaine Félines Jourdan, in Mèze
Ph: 0467436929
- Cave de Pomerols, in Pomerols
Ph: 0467778994
- Domaine Gaujal de Saint Bon, in Pinet
Ph: 0468321667