With such a wealth of appellations, terroirs, climates and wine styles, as well as many beautiful villages and towns in which to base themselves, tourists are spoiled for choice when it comes to taking a wine holiday in the Languedoc.
There are companies that arrange wine tours across the region, which can work well if you don’t have access to a car or if you’re keen to be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. Hiring a car yourself, however, can leave you free to explore wineries at your own pace, and driving through the back roads is a great way to really get to know a region and its surroundings.
A few things to note when visiting wineries
Always call or email the winery in advance to make an appointment, or to double check that someone will be there when you turn up.
Lunchtime is sacrosanct – avoid visiting wineries between 12pm and 2pm.
Some wineries charge a small fee for a visit and a tasting, which is sometimes waived if you purchase wine at the end of the tour.
Château Castigno – St-Chinian
On the road between St-Chinian and Minerve – two villages well worth exploring – is the Village & Château Castigno, or the Castigno Wine Village, in Assignan. Set up by Belgian entrepreneur Marc Verstraete, the property has 32ha of vines as well as a hotel, guest rooms spread throughout the village, and a number of restaurants and bars. The unusual and rather conspicuous building that houses the cellar and tasting room, brought into being by Belgian designer Lionel Jadot, takes the form of a giant wine bottle laid on its side. The overall design aesthetic is somewhat…eclectic: the hotel, holiday houses, restaurants and generally anything related to Castigno are all painted in vibrant shades of pink, purple and red (supposedly representing the many shades of red wine). As with the labels of the wines, the colour scheme may not be to everyone’s taste. Yet it can’t be denied that the overall experience is of very high quality, and many of the greatest pleasures come in the smallest details.
The winemaking – previously overseen by Rhône-based winemaking consultants Michel Tardieu and Philippe Cambie – and general management of the estate has relatively recently (2021) been taken over by Alsatian-born Clément Mengus. On arrival, Mengus insisted on converting to biodynamics and he has brought a refreshing lightness of touch to the range.
9, Avenue de St-Chinian, Assignan, 34360
+33 4 67 24 26 41
Château de Jonquières – Terrasses du Larzac
It’s worth visiting Château de Jonquières for historical interest alone. Two imposing cylindrical turrets encase the west wing of the château, while the east wing backs onto a wide courtyard. A horseshoe-shaped staircase, framed by a Renaissance-style, arched double balcony, leads from the apartments into the courtyard and is one of the château’s most magnificent architectural masterpieces. Aside from its formidable architecture, the family history of the estate is equally impressive, claiming to have been passed down through 32 generations over 900 years. After François de Cabissole and his wife Isabelle – the 31st generation – restarted vinification at the château in 1992, it is now their daughter Charlotte and her husband Clément who carry the estate’s legacy forward, having taken over the 8ha of vines and production in 2014 and converted the estate to organic.
Guided visits and tastings are available, and there are also four guest bedrooms inside the château itself. Mont Saint-Baudille, the southernmost peak of the Larzac plateau some 15km to the north of Jonquières, gazes down on the village, which is home to some mighty players in the development of the appellation, including Mas Julien, Mas Cal Demoura and Mas de L’Ecriture, as well as fresh new faces such as Domaine Flo Busch.
Grand Rue, Jonquières, 34725
+33 6 66 54 22 66
Château de Lascaux – Pic St Loup
In the northern reaches of Pic St Loup, an appellation which hugs the first foothills of the Cévennes mountains and is the wettest in the Languedoc, the vines begin to peter out, but the garrigue is ever present. ‘La garrigue n’est jamais très loin,’ says Jean-Benoît Cavalier of Château de Lascaux: the garrigue is never far away. The lumpy relief of the surrounding area traps cool air flowing down from the north, creating significant day and night temperature differences – a noticeable continental influence, then. Yet the Mediterranean sunshine is still impactful – we’re in the Languedoc, after all.
Château de Lascaux has 85ha of vines, dotted across different exposures, soils and sites, and is farmed biodynamically. Sisters Marie and Maguelone joined their parents Jean-Benoît and Isabelle, in the running of the estate in 2019 and 2020 respectively, and they now work together as a family unit. Syrah is in the limelight here; the wines are striking, deep and brambly with intricate, lacy tannins. The modern winery, built 10 years ago, with its offices, event space and terrace, contrasts with the ancient priory across the street, which houses the oenothèque (collection of previous vintages) and the tasting room. Guided visits, tastings, art exhibitions and events make this a vibrant spot to visit.
Route du Brestalou, Vacquières, 34270
+33 4 67 59 00 08
Château Ollieux Romanis – Corbières
An important estate in the heart of the huge, sprawling Corbières region, within the only (official) Corbières cru of Boutenac.
Here old Carignan vines are exalted. The domaine is well set up for receiving visitors, with walks, tastings and two restaurants on site.
D613, Montséret, 11200
+33 4 68 43 35 20
Château Rouquette-sur-Mer – La Clape
One of the most striking aspects about this family-run estate is just how close it is to the sea; the château itself is less than 1km as the crow flies from the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The vineyards stretch back from the château up onto the limestone chunk that is the La Clape massif. Standing in the vineyard looking seaward, buffeted by the marine breezes, it’s not hard to imagine why the wines have a distinct saline tang, especially the incredibly good value white Cuvée Arpège.
This appellation is part of a highly protected natural area, meaning it has maintained its wildness despite its proximity to the tourist-laden beaches that line its eastern flank. Nestled among the estate’s 450ha of land, of which 52ha are vines, are the ruins of the ancient Château Rouquette, parts of which date from the Roman times, and from the 12th and16th centuries. Guided visits of the château and the vineyards are offered, as well as tastings and a well-stocked shop.
Route Bleue, Narbonne-Plage, 11100
+33 4 68 49 90 41
Domaine de Cébène – Faugères
Brigitte Chevalier knows her schist. In fact it was one of her prerequisites when searching for vineyards at the start of her winemaking journey: schist; altitude; north facing slopes. It could have been Roussillon, Priorat or the Valais. But there was something about the Languedoc: ‘a land of discoverers, of creators,’ she says. The Faugères appellation extends southwest from her domaine, a landscape truly dominated by this metamorphic rock, defined by its many layers which rupture, crack and crumble, like a fresh, well-laminated croissant.
From the winery and tasting room, which both sits on top of and is partly buried in a small hill, you can see southwards: vineyards interspersed with scrubby garrigue, clumps of forest (often pine and oak), and winding roads. She has continued to refine over the years, moving away from small oak barrels and towards ceramic eggs and terracotta jars. ‘Schist terroirs produce quite sensitive wines,’ she says, ‘barrels don’t really justify themselves.’ The wines are structured with satin tannins by themselves, without the need for oak or ‘maquillage’, as she puts it.
Route de Caussiniojouls, D154, Faugères, 34600
+ 33 6 74 96 42 67
Domaine de la Dourbie – Herault
A 40-minute drive west of Montpellier, Domaine de la Dourbie is situated between the river Herault and the smaller Dourbie tributary, from which the estate takes its name. The tasting room and shop, which also sells local honey, olive oil and gin, manage to be both beautifully sleek and modern, as well as cosy and welcoming. The team has developed an interactive wine tour of the grounds – which have been classified as a Jardin Remarquable (‘remarkable garden’) by the French state – following each step of the vine growing and winemaking process, before finishing with a tasting.
The domaine was bought in 2003 by Emmanuel Serin and his father. Together with Laurent Graell, the current technical director, and the entire team, the domaine has gradually found its purpose. Serin sadly passed away in 2021. While I didn’t know the wines before, I sense that the domaine has found its groove. This is a winery that is not afraid to push boundaries, to experiment, adapting its practices and moulding each wine each year to the style it is looking for. Organic viticulture; no overt oak; long ageing in a variety of vessels such as clay eggs, large foudres, and a selection of barrels (some of which are made from both oak and acacia). The wines have silky textures, drinkability, lightness and freshness. ‘I believe we can show something else, something that you don’t usually see in Languedoc,’ says Graell. It’s a modern, forward-thinking outfit that still has its feet firmly in the Languedoc: ‘We only use Mediterranean varieties, those that fit into this terroir, but we are the new generation, let’s see what we can do,’ he says.
Route d’Aspiran, Canet, 34800
+33 4 67 44 45 82
Domaine Sarrat de Goundy – La Clape
The restaurant at Domaine Sarrat de Goundy is well worth a visit. If you pick the right evening, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent sunset views over the vines. Or sit inside at the enormous, convivial wooden table rubbing shoulders with the clay jarres, in which some of the domaine’s wines are peacefully ageing. Luckily the wines are very good too.
Walking, cycling and pique-nique-ing in the vines are also part of what’s on offer. Whatever you do here, you are sure to get a good impression of the La Clape appellation and the resulting wines.
46 Av. de Narbonne, Armissan, 11110
+33 4 68 45 30 68
Château Coupe-Roses – Minervois
If you’re holidaying in the Minervois, the village of Minerve is probably on your list of places to see. Perched above the gorge of the Cesse river, the village is the site of some rather fraught history during the time of the Albigensian Crusade, when the Cathars were violently massacred across Occitanie. Not far from Minerve is the village of La Caunette, where you’ll find Château Coupe-Roses. This is the northeast of the Minervois, tickling the toes of the Montagne Noire. It’s a family affair, yet there’s a considerable 45ha farmed biodynamically, across many small plots which have differing soil types: limestone, schist and clay. The whites are lively and mouthwatering, while the reds are robust, with some showing lovely freshness.
4 Rue de la Poterie, La Caunette, 34210
+33 4 68 91 21 95
Mas Bruguière – Pic St Loup
If you’re in the Pic St Loup area, do not miss Mas Bruguière. Firstly, the cool, sleek tasting room is a welcome respite from the summer heat. Secondly, the wines are compelling; firm in their youth but refined. Thirdly, the vineyards, just 12ha in total, are spectacular. One dramatic plot sits right at the foot of the Montagne de l’Hortus. Here a huge boulder sits in the middle of the vineyard, and the legend goes that it broke off from the Hortus mountain, tumbled down and crushed a shepherdess and her flock – hence the name of this plot, Le Rocher de la Bergère. In another, pictured above, you feel cradled between Hortus and the Pic St Loup itself.
La Plaine, Valflaunès, 34270
+33 4 67 55 20 97