Owners of small vineyards used to take their grapes to their local village Co-Operative to be processed, here all the produce was mixed in together, regardless of quality, but these days are gone. Customers demanded a better quality of wine and, thanks to EU grants, and the organisation of wine producers, the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status has been adopted, together with new technology. The best of old traditions have been retained, however, but the poor quality vines have been pulled up and replaced with better ones. Corbières wines can now hold their own with the classic French vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and prove it by regularly snapping up prizes at national competitions.
The vast majority (80%) of Corbières wine is red, with the remainder equally split between white and rosé. Red wines are generally full-bodied and spicy; rosés range from deep pink to the palest of tints, uncomplicated and fresh-flavoured. The top AOC wines can cost as much as 20-30 euros a bottle. But at the other extreme you can find excellent wines (both Vin de Pays and AOC) sold direct from the wine vats (advertised as en vrac) in plastic jerry cans at very modest prices — from a couple of euros a litre upwards. Be aware when buying wine like this that it won’t keep long unless you transfer it to sealed bottles. A more suitable alternative for taking home with you is the bag-in-box, which excludes air to maintain freshness. The French are no longer snobs about wine boxes, they have embraced them as we have and some of the best Chateaus produce wine in boxes, especially at Christmas.
Corbières is one of the largest wine appellation in France. To distinguish the wines, Corbières is divided into 11 terroirs such as Sigean, Lézignan, Boutenac and Lagrasse. Thezan des Corbieres is in the Durban terroir.
Chateau Saint Esteve is in Thezan des Corbieres on the main road leading out of the village towards the coast, it welcomes visitors at all times of the year.
Domaine Ledogar is working towards bio (organic) wine – they have an outlet shop in Ferrals les Corbieres, you must phone to ensure the shop is manned. This vineyard continues to use traditional methods of wine production, even using horses for ploughing.
Chateau Maylandie, on the main road into Ferrals les Corbieres, offers wine tasting at all times of the year. In September it is also possible to help with picking the grapes (the vendange) – for further information contact Maylandie direct. This work is unpaid but you are rewarded with a wonderful evening meal on the day of the picking.
Visiting individual producers is fun for the wine enthusiast, but if you don’t have time or your French isn’t up to it, good sources for buying a range of local wines are:
CDD, route de Narbonne N113, 11200 Lézignan Tel. : 04 68 27 11 55
Palais du Vin, route de Perpignan, 11100 Narbonne Tel. 04 68 41 47 20
Tasting is possible at both these places.
Local Supermarkets such as Intermarche and Carrefour have a very wide range of local wines many are very inexpensive in comparison to the UK. l'Hospitalet wines are featured in both of these supermarkets, sometimes under the name of Gerard Bertram, Art de Vivre or Cote de Roses – we particularly like the rose wines.
In the summer there are also frequent produce fairs in towns and villages all around the area, at which wine producers are well represented. You will also see Chateaux signposted wherever you go in the Corbieres and if you would like to taste the wines then just call in – it’s as easy as that. Nearly every Chateau offers ‘degustation’ (tasting) ...just don’t try to pack too many visits into a day, and learn to spit it out! — especially if you are the driver.
The Corbieres have been growing grapes since Roman times and this area has always produced cheap, uncomplicated red wine in vast quantities. In September the village streets are slick with the overspill of grapes fallen from the trailers and the heady aroma of crushed grapes permeates everywhere. It is normal to see an elderly farmer with his ancient tractor and trailer taking his grapes to be processed, whilst a huge, modern harvester, that would not be out of place in a science fiction film, vies for space with him in the same street. It is the most important time in the calendar of the Corbieres - the vendange (wine harvest).
Chateau L'Hospitalet, situated on the way to Narbonne Plage, is also a wonderful vineyard to visit. They offer free guided tours (in both English & French) & tastings, twice a day, during the summer months. There is also an excellent restaurant & special Jazz nights.
This looks interesting
if you like 2 CVs, as we do.