When we feel safe to travel again, there’s going to be a rush to France, and especially, to discovering Occitanie — the south of France region that includes Languedoc-Roussillon.
Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France and I took off on a mission to scope out a part of Occitanie for new tour ideas. The three-day trip took us from the Mediterranean seaport of Sete, along the Canal du Midi, and to villages near Carcassonne. I was anxious to explore the area because of its extraordinary cuisine, famous Minervois wines, Plus Beaux Villages, and its history related to the Cathars– a 12th-century religious cult. Plus, Nancy threw in a visit to “oyster heaven” and the promise of a spa day.
Discovering Foods and Wines of Occitanie
The first stop on our “discovering Occitanie” tour was Tarbouriech, the luxurious oyster-themed spa and wine domain near Marseillan. There we were treated to an oyster massage, followed by a guided visit to the infamous oyster farm on La Lagune de Thau. This is a MUST see if you love oysters like I do. Their oysters are among the best in the world. So good, in fact, that they rarely, if ever, leave France. To read more about the oysters and visit to Tarbouriech, click here.
Next, we drove through the flat plains of the Aude and into the Corbières wine country — one of the best known and most productive appellations in the Languedoc-Occitanie region. We arrived at our resting place, Château Canet, for the next two nights just in time for a cheerful greeting and sparkling wine.
Family-owned Château Canet is a perfect respite for travelers who want to be away from crowds, to be pampered … or both. Within a short drive of Carcassonne, the château has a nice mix of cottages and apartments for groups of all sizes — originally “vignerons” for grape harvesters. While we were visiting, a wedding party was being hosted. Space and privacy are abundant for all.
Château Canet was initially built around 1895 as a wine Domaine. Floris and Victoria, the current owners, discovered Château Canet more than twenty years ago after a long search for the “perfect” spot to create their eco-friendly wines. Today the early buildings of the winery have been modernized, the property has expanded to include more acreage, and an active, bio-diverse wine-growing ecosystem is in place. Within the estate, there are acres and acres of vineyards, olive groves, fruit trees, and pine forests. Eighty percent of the domain is recognized as “Minervois,” one of the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (A.O.P.) of the Languedoc Roussillon. The remaining vineyards are classified as Pays d’Oc I.G.P. (Indication Géographique Protégée)
Dinner by the Canal du Midi
Since we were in a traveling mode, we didn’t take advantage of the kitchens in our separate, private guest quarters at Château Canet. Instead, we drove fifteen minutes down the road to the Canal du Midi and Le Moulin, a restaurant Nancy was eager to visit because of the rave reviews. The choice was perfect — a canal view, a fantastic menu, and wonderfully gracious service.
In the morning, we said our “goodbyes” to Chateau Canet, but not before we had a tour of the winery. In the afternoon, we were sipping wine again and being schooled on the fine art of wine pairing with Emma Kershaw of La Maison du Rire.
Emma Is a true connoisseur of fine wines. She teaches about wines to WSET Diploma level students. She has worked with chefs around the world, sharing her knowledge and flair for partnering wine and food. We were delighted to be invited to her home for our private lesson, where the atmosphere was relaxed and informal. Emma offers a wine tasting with tapas course from her home, a day of cooking and wine, or an event of your choosing. If you’re in the area near Coustouge, Emma will come to you to entertain and educate parties of any size.
What did I learn on our “discovering Occitanie” tour?
Why does goat cheese from the south of France taste so good? Like none other? Ask Emma …
What makes wines from the Minervois region so unique? Learn more from the Château Canet …
Stay tuned for part two of “Discovering Occitanie” –Plus Beaux Villages and Cathars.