Coteaux du Languedoc and the Coastal Vins Doux Naturels
By Richard James
This Guide was last updated on 06 March 2010
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Montpellier retains its old charm and elegance yet is buzzing with students, tourists and occasionally demonstrating wine growers, as well as being a major employment centre for the whole region. It’s also one of the cleanest cities in the south and boasts a developing tram and transport system. The spacious imperial Place de la Comédie forms the heart of the restaurant, bar and café scene; and is a great place to meet up or just hang out. From here you can explore the old town on foot, browse around the grooviest shops, plan your vineyard touring trip or head for the beach.
A little edgier and earthier than Montpellier, Sète has actually become quite trendy. If you ignore the gas tanks, factories and seedier side of the port as you approach from the east, the town itself is well worth a visit with its cute canals, quays and bridges. Also home of the tielle sétoise (kind of spicy octopus pie), encornet farci (squid stuffed with veal/pork), bourride (monkfish with aioli) and other seafood delights landed daily at the fishing port. On the other side of the Bassin de Thau, you can sample Bouzigues oysters washed down with Picpoul de Pinet or dry Muscat.
Pleasant old market town to spend a few hours in or overnight, it occupies a central point between Montpellier and Béziers where all the area’s main roads cross. The part-crumbling part-renovated old town reveals tight meandering streets, a couple of cosy wine bars and tasty little snack joints. Look out for pâté de Pézenas, a kind of small, sweet meat pie. Several very good wineries are within easy reach.
Where wine country thins out and the real Languedoc high ground begins, Lodève is a fine place to stop if you’re arriving in the region (or vice versa) on the newly completed A75 motorway. Highlights include its pretty Gothic cathedral.
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