Aude Cathar Country – the vineyard with a thousand faces

The vines and village of Gruissan in Aude © OT Gruissan

The vines and village of Gruissan in Aude © OT Gruissan - Credit: Archant

Visit Aude in Occitanie in the south of France and discover numerous vineyards and wines as well as the character cities of Carcassonne and Narbonne

Touring the Aude vineyards by 2CV

Touring the Aude vineyards by 2CV - Credit: Archant

Getting here

Aude Cathar Country is easy to reach from Britain or Ireland via the airport in Carcassonne, which Ryanair use as their hub for the region. It also makes a handy entry point for other cities and places to visit. Toulouse International Airport is only 1 hour from Carcassonne by car or train. Aude is on the high-speed TGV train line and you can reach Narbonne from Paris in just over 4 hours.

Wine harvest in Aude

Wine harvest in Aude - Credit: Archant

Why visit Aude Cathar Country?

Enjoy the Mediterranean climate, with an abundance of sunlight and mild temperatures all year round.

Discover gourmet trips and a huge variety of Languedoc wines.

Discover the rich regional heritage: great wines, fine foods, architecture and history all mixed together.

Les Chai des Vignerons, cave cooperative in Lezignan © CG Deschamps

Les Chai des Vignerons, cave cooperative in Lezignan © CG Deschamps - Credit: Archant

Wines of the area

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Aude is a river of wine, drawn by its vintages. The hand of man, paying no heed to the relief, soil or climates, has over the centuries composed a pluralist vineyard. And the wine-lover will enjoy the wines with features so distinct... Wines are part of the rich cultural and culinary heritage of the region.

It must be said that here wine is a serious matter. Aude is home to 9% of the vines grown in France and every year they produce more than 50 million bottles here. But besides this economic aspect, the wine-producers here are veritable gardeners, the landscape’s real architects. You just have to leave the motorway and drive down the roads of Aude to realise this... and make the most of it!

Setting out from Sigean or Leucate, lose yourself somewhere along the small roads where the scrawny vines of Corbières stolen from the garrigue scrublands, mock the sea from the top of their dry limestone terraces. Near Trèbes and Carcassonne, head for Laure-Minervois, and discover the alternating pinewoods and Carignan vines on Aude’s balconies, this lean land with silky juices. Higher up in the mountains, go and doff your hat to the courage of the vine-growers of Cabardès, admire the plots planted along the contour lines, juggling between the tang of the Mediterranean and that of the Atlantic, between Syrah and Cabernet...

And those Grenache vines planted between the dizzy citadels of Quéribus and Peyrepertuse… And these coarse Malepère hills, you could almost be in Toulouse... And the delicacy of Macabeu overlooking the black schist of the Col d’Extreme mountain pass, wild, sunburnt but with a skin so soft, so fine once transmuted into a natural liqueur wine.

Minervois vineyards © Pierredavy

Minervois vineyards © Pierredavy - Credit: Archant

Landscapes with an apparently ‘natural’ beauty, but in fact shaped by the hand of man! And what a wonder to measure, through these human constructions, the extent to which the wine-producers here have managed to adapt the way they work. For the topography, a sometimes undulating relief, but also such a variety of climates. Indeed what is there in common between the mountain coolness of the upper valley of the Aude where the aforementioned Chardonnays grow, and the blazing sun of Boutenac? Between the hillsides of Bize-Minervois and the Coffre de Pech-Redon, in La Clape, and the shady nooks of Lagrasse?

Supported by an amazing ‘geological mess’ born from the meeting the Pyrénées and the Massif Central highlighted by a range of varieties, this climatic diversity means that Aude is capable of anything.

Here you can find just about every category of wine that exists. From the bubbles of the Limoux whites to the generous reds of Corbières, from the suaveness of the Minervois to the gascon vigour of the Côtes de la Malepère. Like a scale model, a summing up of the vineyards of France...

The winemakers will be happy to take you into their very special world, sharing their experience with you, as well as introducing their profession, working environment, facilities and wines in a very wide-ranging program! Find out more about the cellars and wine domains of the Aude

Medieval Cite of Carcassonne

Medieval Cite of Carcassonne - Credit: Archant

Welcome to the vineyards

Honoured a few years ago with the ‘vignobles et découvertes’ national label, the tourist destinations Narbonnaise and Corbières-Minervois do all they can to honour this recognition and are counting on winning this prestigious distinction again. Awarded for 3 years, it is the guarantee of a made-to-measure welcome from the passionate wine-producers, restaurants and hotels established in the heart of age-old vineyards. There, in these unspoilt landscapes, you will be accommodated in attractive guest rooms and make the most of the many sporting, cultural or leisure activities.

The diversity and richness of Aude wines are based on the authenticity of the lands on which they are rooted; in here, cuisine and wines carry the best of marriages: www.audetourisme.com/en/discover-aude/gastronomy-and-wines/aude-wines.php

Cities of character

Canal Robine in Narbonne © Debande Lisa / Mairie Narbonne

Canal Robine in Narbonne © Debande Lisa / Mairie Narbonne - Credit: er

Carcassonne, the ideal medieval fortified town

Its ramparts seem to have jumped straight out of a medieval fairy tale. With its succession of towers, whether round or square, its tangle of roofs and its two crenellated surrounding walls, the citadel fires the imagination and you can easily understand why it was listed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. The legend of Dame Carcas still floats up to the highest point of the castle, built in the 12th century.

And there is another legend, which is at the origin of the Basilica Saint Nazaire and Saint Celse, both martyrs in Nero’s time, combining Romanesque and Gothic architectures, and with exceptional stained-glass windows dating back to the 13th century. These jewels of the upper town must not be allowed to overshadow the charms of the town of Bastide Saint-Louis, laid out on the opposite banks of the River Aude in the 13th century. Its checkerboard street-plan, so typical of medieval towns of the south west of France, leads to the Place Carnot and its marble fountain, where lively markets continue to be held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. The lower town has vibrant shopping streets, squares, markets, mansions and religious buildings which are all worth a visit. The city is crossed by the Canal du Midi and the port. And not to mention the numerous little restaurants and cafés where the Carcassonnais love to spend hours chatting and watching passers-by...

www.tourisme-carcassonne.fr

Les Halles in Narbonne © CG Deschamps

Les Halles in Narbonne © CG Deschamps - Credit: Archant

Narbonne, 2,500 years of history

In Narbonne you just have to dig your garden, or renovate your cellar to see 2,500 years of history rise to the surface. The Roman Empire’s eldest daughter, Narbo Martius, was the first Roman colony to be founded outside Italy in 118BC.

Today if you go down the flights of steps that take you down under the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, you can see a section of the Via Domitia (Domitian Way), which used to link Italy to Spain.

Witnesses of this glorious past: the Horreum, an immense and remarkably well-preserved underground warehouse, and a multitude of remains gathered together in the lapidary museum and in the archaeology museum housed in the Archbishop’s palace. Defended by a near impregnable keep crowned with bartizans this impressive architectural ensemble served in its days as the model for the Papal Palace in Avignon! The Cathedral St-Just-et-St-Pasteur is an enormous must-see Gothic construction. Although its gloriously tall interior contains some beautiful 14th-century stained glass, Aubusson tapestries and fantastic tombs, it’s best known for being two-thirds unfinished, a strange sight and utter surprise.

With the ‘City of arts and History’ label, Narbonne tells anyone who takes the time to visit it story of its cultural and historical influence sown through the centuries...

Between the Canal de la Robine, sea and ponds, numerous activities are offered to visitors: river cruises, hiking, horseback or mountain biking, sea or river fishing, as well as many cultural events, and heritage discoveries. Gourmets, gourmands and lovers of good food will be spoilt for choice in Narbonne with so many places emblematic of the Mediterranean lifestyle (restaurants, a covered market, wine-producers...).

Like so many towns in France, the local market is a big hit with visitors. And this one called Les Halles is exceptional. Animated, colourful, traditional, this pavilion has been rocking Narbonne since 1901. The wrought iron and sculpted stone facade is gorgeous. Here you’ll discover another world of tempting delicacies – fish and seafood of every type, meat and charcuterie, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables... All beautifully presented to delight your imagination as well as your appetite.

www.narbonne-tourisme.com

To find out more about Aude Cathar Country visit: www.audetourisme.com