Wines from the Faugères, Saint Chinian and Minervois areas
By Richard James
This Guide was last updated on 11 February 2010
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Springtime in the Orb Valley near Vieussan, part of the Saint-Chinian appellation. © Mick Rock/Cephas
This micro-region centres on the provincial and slightly rough-diamond city of Béziers; a friendly and down-to-earth place at heart, which is gradually becoming increasingly buzzing, especially with trendy wine bars. In the distance, myriad villages, several of which have ‘l'Béziers’ attached to their name (derived from the Latin meaning 'near' rather than 'the'), become smaller and sparser across its northern flank as the hills abruptly rise in altitude. The area between Béziers and the coast is mostly flat and, apart from a few notable exceptions, isn’t of great significance for quality wine. However, there are some nice beaches to compensate such as Sérignan-Plage and Valras. To the north and west of Béziers, the landscape is very pretty with its rolling, stony clay slopes and endless rows of gnarled vines, where you can enjoy a spot of relaxed countryside driving. There are attractive villages and increasingly impressive wines to be discovered heading for Faugères country, either side of the D909 from north of Béziers all the way up to Bédarieux, a town which also merits a visit.
Overall, the micro-region is home to arguably some of the most exciting red wines in the south, especially those found on its western side in the Saint-Chinian and Minervois La Livinière appellations. Certain estates in Saint-Chinian and Faugères are also turning their attention to making characterful white wines. In addition, all around Béziers, you’ll find some good Vin de Pays wines made from Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier ec. Vin de Pays areas with apparently obscure names, often based on rivers, worth exploring include Côtes de Thongue (northeast of Béziers) and Coteaux du Libron centred on the village of Corneilhan.
The hillsides in the northerly vineyards have more schist in the soils, and going south they change to a mixture of clay and limestone. The vineyards to the west often lie on lower south-facing limestone slopes.
The ones closest to the Mediterranean have dry, hot summers with temperatures often exceeding 30°C and milder winters than further inland - overall, drought is a major problem. The western part of the region has a slightly different climate and is influenced by the mountains behind. Although rainfall can be a little higher and temperatures on average a little lower, the microclimate is more extreme: hotter in the summer and colder in winter. Vineyards on hillsides are more protected from the drying effect of the northerly wind.
By road the most direct route from Paris takes about seven hours using motorways nearly all the way: A10, A71 and then right to the end of the A75, which crosses the river Tarn on the the tallest road bridge in the world, the spectacular Millau Viaduct. By train, the TGV runs direct to Montpellier, and then onto Béziers and takes about three and a half hours from Paris. Montpellier, Carcassonne and Toulouse are the nearest international airports; and you can now fly directly to Béziers-Agde from London (limited service outside of summer).
Béziers Tourist Office,
Palais des Congrès, 29 Avenue Saint-Saëns, 34500 Béziers
Maison des Vins du Languedoc,
Mas de Saporta, 34970 Lattes
Tel: 04 67 06 04 44
Maison des Vins de Saint Chinian,
1 Avenue de la Promenade, 34360 Saint Chinian
Tel: 04 67 38 11 69
Syndicat AOC Faugères,
4 Rue de la Poste, 34600 Faugères
Syndicat du Cru Minervois,
Château de Siran, 34210 Siran
Service Tourisme Haut Minervois,
18 Rue Léo Lagrange, 11160 Peyriac Minervois
Tel: 04 68 78 10 85
Languedoc-Roussillon General Tourist Information
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