We have moved from the Rhone Valley to the Languedoc wine region of France. We have rented a home in the small village of Caunes-Minervois. The house is directly around the corner from the historic Abbey of Caunes that was founded in 780 AD. Each morning we awake to the pleasant sound of the Abbey bells. The house where we are staying dates back to the 16th century. The streets are very narrow in this village and some too narrow for our rental car. It’s an adventure each time we drive out of the village to get to one of the main roads.
The Languedoc wine area contains the largest amount of vineyards in all of France. It’s hard to believe, since few wines produced here come to the United States. Everywhere we drive there are vast views of vineyards upon vineyards. There are many very small wineries that dot this area. The wine region is somewhat in a stage of flux. There is a change in the guard, so to speak, with modern wine making equipment and techniques showing their presence in this area. There are also several new wineries sprinkled among the very old.
This has been an unusual growing season throughout Southern France. They had day after day of rain in June and July and a span of cooler temperatures than normal in September. The harvest is very late and as we drive the roads of the Languedoc wine region, we see harvesting in process. We see mechanical harvesting and have yet to see any grape picking by hand. It’s difficult to get into wineries this week because of the late flurry of crush activities.
On Monday we traveled 20 minutes to the town of Villemoustaussou to visit Domain O’Vineyards. Liz and Joe O’Connell started the winery just a few years ago. They moved here from Florida and completely changed careers. They also run a B&B out of their home. It is quite remarkable to see what they have accomplished in such a short time. Liz is a gourmet cook and not only prepares delicious appetizers for the tastings, but offers dinners around their large dining room table several times a week for locals and tourists.
O’Vineyards currently makes three wines, one of which is shipped to the Naked Wine company based in Kenwood in the Sonoma Valley. Our fellow wine blogger Ryan O’Connell is the son of Liz and Joe and works for Naked Wines, thus the connection. The wine is called Trah Lah Lah and is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is very delicious and priced at about 12 Euros at the winery. The winery also produces one white wine made from the Chasan grape. Is a cross between Chardonnay and Listan. Joe tells me that many of the local wineries pass it off as a Chardonnay wine. It is quite an interesting wine and very delightful in taste.
One thing we have determined in the short time that we’ve been here in Caunes Minervois is that the wineries are very low key and not much into the tourist scene. We picked up a wine map from the tourist center, but the map is not very well designed, nor is the information on the map. It is a bit confusing. Perhaps in another ten years, this region of France will become a true wine destination.