The wines of Cabardès, Malepère and Limoux
By Richard James and Paul Strang
This Guide was last updated on 26 April 2010
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In wine terms, the western extremity of the Languedoc is perhaps lesser known than more famous areas to the east, even if Carcassonne is a popular choice as an international tourist destination. There are three distinct, neighbouring wine appellations, for the most part set among the hills and woodlands to the south, west and north of the historic city. Many good Vins de Pays are produced in the area too.
Cabardès occupies the chunk of picturesque terrain north of Carcassonne, spread out either side of the D118 as you head for the brooding Montagne Noire (the so-called 'Black Mountain', which forms the southern part of the Cévennes Mountains and the Massif Central) and merging into Minervois country to the east. The area’s wines are often based on a mix of Bordeaux, Rhône and Mediterranean grape varieties. The even more obscure Malepère wine area, which has adopted similar choices of grapes, lies around and on the hills between Carcassonne, Limoux and towards Castelnaudary, dissected by the D18 and D623 roads.
Limoux is found on the spectacular drive south, which gets hillier and wilder as you approach the Pays de Sault and Fenouillèdes country. The appellation is now making some quite good reds (watch out for Pinot Noir grown at altitude) but is best known for its sometimes excellent Chardonnays and sparkling wines, and perhaps surprisingly, for Chenin Blanc.
This micro-region has a sub-Mediterranean, and in some parts continental, climate being at the point of transition between the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The Cabardès appellation to the north of Carcassonne is trying to promote an 'east meets west' image, with varying degrees of success. As you approach from further east or south in the Languedoc, the weather can quickly change once you're in or beyond Carcassonne. Sometimes it may be rainier or colder in the winter yet it can be hotter in the summer too, as if there is some kind of Atlantic-cum-continental influence at play; even though you're still nearer to the Mediterranean here.
The northern vineyard area faces south and is protected from the northerly winds by the Montagne Noire. The sunny foothills are clay and limestone, whilst the steeper slopes have pebbly limestone and climbing further, the soils contain more schist. The western vineyards around Limoux, especially the ones planted at 300-500 metres altitude, are more Atlantic-influenced, and consist of clay-limestone hillsides and gravelly terraces, with higher rainfall and more fertile soils.
From Paris it takes just over seven and a half hours using motorways nearly all the way: A10, A71, then right to the end of the A75, which crosses the river Tarn on the tallest road bridge in the world, the spectacularly-engineered Millau Viaduct, continuing on the A9 (the link-up with the A75 will be completed in 2010), then the A61, exit 24. By train, from Paris or the UK/Lille take the TGV to Narbonne and then local trains run to Carcassonne, or you can take the TGV from Paris or Bordeaux to Toulouse and use local connections to Castelnaudary and Carcassonne. There are small international airports at Montpellier, Perpignan and Carcassonne itself, which has flights to the UK, Ireland and Belgium. For transatlantic flights, Toulouse is the nearest option.
Carcassonne Tourist Office,
28 Rue de Verdun, 11890 Carcassonne
CIVL (Languedoc Wines) - Limoux,
1 Avenue Salvador Allende, 11300 Limoux
Syndicat de Cabardès, Le Prieuré, 23 Rue du Paro, 11600 Aragon
Syndicat du Cru Malepère, Maison des Terroirs Domaine de Cazes, 11240 Alaigne
Maison des Vins du Languedoc,
Mas de Saporta, 34970 Lattes
Tel: 04 67 06 04 44
Languedoc-Roussillon General Tourist Information
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