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In Search of Vendange

October 5, 2014

The vineyards are browning in the hot October sun, and for a few days I thought I had missed the vendange (grape harvest) altogether. On my trip to Peyriac I saw forgotten grapes clinging to the vines, buffeted by the salty breeze of the etang.

Forgotten grapes

But yesterday, on the way to Lagrasse (more later on that lovely town), traffic slowed to a crawl several times behind these smallish trucks loaded with glistening grapes. I followed one to the local cooperative, and while I was busy getting shots, several more trucks pulled in, blocking my exit. So I guess the vendange wasn’t totally over after all.

Grapes in a truck

I read somewhere that the Languedoc is the world’s largest vineyard, and that’s not an exaggeration. Driving through the countryside, vines stretch as far as the eye can see, and every quarter mile or so is another sign announcing a particular vineyard. Every town, no matter how small, seems to have at least two or three caveaux, most offering tastings, and most larger ones have a cooperative where growers bring their grapes for crushing.  There are countless appellations, some comprising but a tiny region, others, like Minervois or Chinian, more expansive and consequently better-known outside France. But when you have lunch or dinner and order “un quart,” a quarter-liter of red, white or rose, you pay 2-3 euros for a perfectly fine, drinkable, local wine.

The road to St. Chinian winds steadily upward, ending in hairpin turns revealing spectacular views.  The French must take these for granted, because there’s a dearth of pullouts where you can stop to appreciate the scenery.

En Route

The town itself is a bit of a letdown after the breathtaking drive…or am I getting jaded already? Nonetheless, there are some attractive details that caught my eye.

Shutters Steeple

From → Solo travel

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