Five great days in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon: part two

By | Category: Travel destinations

Continued from yesterday

With 20,000 wine makers in the whole region there is an abundance of vineyards to visit. In the Narbonne area alone there are 150 or so locations for tasting and many with accommodation – see, www.legrandnarbonne.com. Moving south, I’ve selected three from those visited – one near Collioure because of their interesting very local wines and two others, fairly new on the scene and with accommodation, because of their achievements in getting established and the quality of the their wines.

Domaine du Tréloar: an Englishman’s dream come true
Jonathan Hesford and his wife, Rachel, bought an ancient winery with 10 acres in 2006 and have gone on to win several awards. His winemaking story began with the traumatic experience of living a block away from the Twin Towers on 9/11/01. This changed Jonathan and he determined that he and Rachel, a New Zealander, would seek a more fulfilling and independent life than working in an office in New York. In the following five years he studied viticulture and wine making in New Zealand at Lincoln University and, after graduating in 2003, worked as assistant winemaker at top wine makers Neudorf Vineyards.

Jonathan Hesford and Rachel Treloar

All the production at Domaine du Tréloar is based on organic and sustainable principles. They also have a Gite onsite to rent throughout the year and other accommodation they recommend in the immediate area. The sea is only 20 minutes away, so there’s the option for a family to combine work in the vineyards and winery, for say one enthusiastic member while others do other things! For more detailed information, visit www.domainetreloar.com

Domaine de la Tour Vieille: the unique tastes of Banyuls and Collioure
Run by six grand children of the former owners, this is a very successful business with half the production exported (there’s even a China section on their website). Their wines consistently get good reviews in the UK and German press. The vineyards are not far from Collioure and are on very rocky and uneven ground where everything is done by hand – no mechanisation. Production includes some less well known grape varieties of Mourvedre, Roussanne and Vermentino. The Domaine is particularly well known for the sweet white Banyuls wines. They also have wines produced by élevage d’abandon (left to itself to mature naturally) and a ‘Vin de Méditation’ a Banyuls produced at the Domaine since 1952 using the Solera (Sherry) process. These wines are really worth tasting at the vineyard or their shop in Collioure at 2 rue Berthelot opposite the Crédit Agricole Bank. Find out more at www.latourvieille.com

Hand picking at Banyuls

Riberach: an architectural Renaissance
The tiny village of Bélesta (population 210) had a substantial wine cooperative, built in 1925, which closed down about 10 years ago. In 2007 Luc Richard, born in Bélesta, and by then a successful architect returned to live there and, with Karin his German born wife, bought the old cooperative and spent three years on a highly ambitious project to transform the site into an hotel and winery.

Balesta

Substantial grants were obtained from the EU, the French Environment Agency and local support from the Languedoc-Roussillon Region. The result is an outstanding combination of a predominately glass structure around the old hillside cooperative which is not at all obtrusive against the old walls of Bélesta which has become the Cave Hôtel Le Riberach: a combination of winery, luxury hotel and restaurant. Many of the 18 hotel rooms are converted fermentation tanks which lead on to terraces with magnificent views. The whole site including the swimming pool incorporates natural renewable energy.

Luc Richard (right), Riberach Founder

Wine production is now running at 30,000 bottles per year and their aim is to express “the ancestral culture of the region” with the traditional grape varieties of the Roussillon: Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. If there’s a flicker of interest, visitors and guests are encouraged to participate in the production and taste and discuss the wines. There is a very relaxed at atmosphere at Riberach some wonderful views and both Balésta and the walks below Riberach.
For more details and the whole Riberach story see: www.riberach.com

Need to know
www.sunfrance.com
www.audetourisme.com
www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com.

The 1925 Cooperative

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