Monday, August 03, 2009

Exploring Languedoc-Roussillon

Languedoc-Roussillon is a department in France in the southwest that has coastline not only on the Med but also on the Atlantic. It also is the part of France that borders Spain and shares those beautiful Pyrenees Mountains. Considering Spain is only a few hours drive, it is a pretty cool part of France to spend some time. We decided to drive down to Perpignan today to see this old city which carries much influence from Spain. As you can see, the signs down here are in both French and Catalan.

We arrived and parked the car by this neat waterfountain. It looks like the kids are in the middle of it but there is a dry path between two sections giving the illusion that people are actually in the fountain getting wet.

The city was old and historic but mostly old. It wasn't in as good condition as I had hoped and felt a bit touristy to us.

At home you usually see little girls dressed up as a disney princess. Here so close to Spain they are Flamenco dancers. Or so it seemed.

Buddy acutally soaking wet from jumping into the second water fountain we found. It was one of those with water shooting up from the ground in unexpected places. Luckily it was hot enough that he dried out quickly.

After Perpignan we drove further south to check out a few beaches and while the mountains rising up in the near distance were beautiful, this was not an area of France that appealed too much to us. The beaches had a dirty dusty kind of sand that blew up and into your eyes and the area was full of the kind of dirty campers and shit boxes I referred to in my last post. It just felt a bit creepy to us so we didn't stay too long.

On the way home we found this beautiful looking castle near a town called Fitou. We drove up to see what it was all about. The views were gorgeous. But it turned out to be a museum of medieval torture instruments. SJ took the leaping children through the museum while I took in the scenery.

On the way down the hill we decided to drive up the other side of Fitou to see if we could find some winemakers. Fitou is probably the oldest AOC appelation in the LR department. Fitou, Minervois, and Corbieres are the best known AOC wines from this area. Most of the wines from this area are relatvely new. From what we heard, back in the 1970's the winemakers in this area were irate at the influx of wines from neighboring countries but the reality was that their wine sucked. The government subsidized the funding of new vines for this region and they started all new vineyards not too long ago. Fitou, while it received its AOC status in the mid 1900's when the rest of the region received theirs in the 1980's, has vines dating back to roman times and only makes AOC red. As with most French wines they are a blend and in this region Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah grapes are used. Many regard this region, which is apparently the largest grape producing region in France, as an up and comer in the wine world. Low and behold not only did we find some winemakers but we found the start to their annual wine festival!

We were told that every year there is a 2-day festival to celebrate the previous year's wines and get ready for the current year's harvest. The festival always starts with a more locals-only party where the heads of all the winemaking estates parade through town and the town awards honors to the best wines from last year. This was a very small town and while we were directed up the street to find the center of town we discovered that the center of town was about 3 feed wide.

So after wandering around for a bit waiting for the parade to start we found a seat in the 3ft section known as the center of town and waited. The kids were SOOO bored. But you can't pass up an an opportunity to celebrate wine with local winemakers. I mean really!?!

While we were waiting we were entertained by this couple. Now I am not sure if they trained at Disney's Epcot's France or if the people at DW Epcot trained in France. Either way I thought these kinds of performers were always so cheesy. The French locals thought they were great though and jumped right in. My kids were terrified the performers were going to pluck them from the crowd to join in. I don't really blame them.

Here are some kids who did join in though....

So here is this year's class of winners in the appelation of Fitou. They were congratulated by the mayor and photographed for the paper.

Then it was time to Party! Most of the producers set up booths for a tasting. 3 euros bought you a glass and an unlimited number of servings. Woo hoo fun! I gave the honors to my husband since we still had to drive home. His job was to go to each booth at least once and then when all was sipped and done he was to tell me which was the best and I would have a glass of that. Then I drove the little Mercedes home. Fitou is good stuff and very inexpensive....well at least here. I am sure the importers in blue-law heaven of MA will levy a hefty import fee!

These were the winners in our opinion. The Domaine above and below were our favorites.

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