France: Languedoc Roussillon

Around Béziers

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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Main towns and villages

Béziers

Béziers still has a bit of a rough reputation – mostly unjustified although there are certain districts where you might not feel comfortable walking at night – but is slowly undergoing urban redevelopment in its own, casual southern way. Scruffier and less lively than Montpellier, although there is a bit of a wine bar renaissance going on; this historic city (one of Europe’s oldest) has become popular with young people, who can’t afford to live in the region’s capital, Montpellier. The nicest parts for sightseeing include the magnificent Gothic cathedral (Saint Nazaire) perched up above the old town; the ancient bridge down below across the River Orb; and the elegant, tree-lined Allées Paul Riquet, a pedestrian ‘road’ adjacent to an inviting square, both of which reveal plenty of shops and restaurants.

Bédarieux

Appealing rural town set on the Orb surrounded by green hills, just beyond the Faugères wine region. Its main square is very inviting as are the steep backstreets.

Saint Chinian

Smaller than you might imagine, although severed by a very busy road, the capital of this fairly large wine region is nevertheless quite lively and touristy with a few restaurant and accommodation options. Approaching from the east or north, the road slowly descends into the town, then quickly climbs again to the south or west. There's a handsome little park in front of the town hall and a classic Mediterranean, pétanque-playing square where the Maison des Vins is found.

Minerve

This infamous, timeless Cathar village hangs off the rock-face and is dripping in bloody history. A good place for challenging walks; there's a car park up the hill facing the village (approaching from AiguesVives), where you get a great view of this awesome, ancient and haunting place. There’s also a wide choice of restaurants, hotels, chambres d’hotes and gîtes in and around Minerve.

Caunes-Minervois

Although slightly nearer to Carcassonne than Béziers, the twee touristy village of Caunes is resolutely in Minervois country and well worth a visit, or spending a couple of days in even. It has a superbly restored (still going on actually) abbey (see ‘Interesting Attractions’ below), a variety of arts & crafts workshops and a few good restaurants and places to stay.

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