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French Wine Regions - Minervois in Languedoc Roussillon

Updated on January 11, 2016

A Day out in the Minervois - South of France

The Languedoc-Roussillion region of Southern France produces approximately 30% of the countries wine and an important part of the region is the Minervois which generally sits to the North East of Carcassonne and reaches out towards the Mediterranean coastline where the wonderful city of Beziers is located.

What I love about this area is not only can you get a really good glass of red wine at a very reasonable price, but when you go and look where it came from you pass through some of the most beautiful scenery that you will find anywhere in the world and you can visit some of the most gorgeous little towns that are steeped in the medieval history of the area.

So whether you are a wine connoisseur, interested in the history from the Cathar period or just love beautiful scenery then the route I am going to propose to you will be worth a few hours of your time to visit Minervois for another glorious day out sightseeing in Southern France.

Mazamet on route to Minervois
Mazamet on route to Minervois

Taking a Drive Through the Minervois

The road to Mazamet

To make this trip a little more interesting I am going to take you through the Montagne Noire National Park region on a circular route that lets you pick it up at a place convenient to your location. You will of course have realised by now that you will need a car for this trip, so you either have to be ready to jump on a ferry to France or you can hire a car from the airport when you get here.

If you haven't done it already on a day out in Carcassonne you can set off from the little village of Issel, head for St Papoul and then Saissac. From there you can make your way via St Denis on the D103 to pick up the main route D118 to Mazamet and the Black Mountains (Montagne Noire) where you will pass through a part of the Parc Naturel de Montagne Noire which covers an area of some 2605km²

It is on this road that you will see a sign for the Lac des Montagnès which is a reservoir that has a beach and leisure facilities plus things for kids if you wanted to spend a couple of hours relaxing by some water.

Just on from the Lac des Montagnes you will come across a viewpoint where you can look down the valley to the town of Mazamet or across to the hillside where you can see the medieval village of Hautpoul who's castle became another victim of the Abigensian crusade led by Simon de Montfort when it was destroyed back in the 13th centuary.

Given its position perched on the side of the mountain it would probably be worth a trip to the village just for the views over Mazamet, although you will see from the pictures that the views from the main road are pretty spectacular.

***one of those little 'did you know' notes: - the Simon de Montfort that did the Cathar crusades is not the same one that died in the battle of Evesham in Worcestershire fighting for democracy, he was in fact the father of the Simon de Montfort who died in Evesham, getting killed in battle must have run in the family, because Simon de Monfort Snr. died at the Battle of Toulouse. Anyway I expect you already knew that, but I bet you didn't know I lived in Evesham before moving here to France, life can be very confusing and SPOOKY.

The Journey to Minervois - Starting in Issel and St Papoul

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Issel, looking from the River of Argentouire across the fields towards St PapoulIssel is the neighbouring village to St Papoul and a little way from the MinervoisThe Abbaye St PapoulThe Abbaye St PapoulThe Abbaye St PapoulThe Abbaye St PapoulThe Abbaye St PapoulThe Abbaye St PapoulThe Abbaye St PapoulThe Abbaye St Papoul, worth a stop on route to Minervois
Issel, looking from the River of Argentouire across the fields towards St Papoul
Issel, looking from the River of Argentouire across the fields towards St Papoul
Issel is the neighbouring village to St Papoul and a little way from the Minervois
Issel is the neighbouring village to St Papoul and a little way from the Minervois
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul
The Abbaye St Papoul, worth a stop on route to Minervois
The Abbaye St Papoul, worth a stop on route to Minervois

Next Stop on Route to Minervois is the Viewpoint for Hautpoul and Mazamet - A quick stop above Mazamet for the views, definitely worth it before carrying on to

Time to put your foot down a bit

Now we need to crack on to wine country so continue on into Mazamet and then head towards Saint-Pons-de-Thomieres (D612) and don't hold the horses.

From there you can travel south towards Minerve (D907) which is a delightful medieval city that you must visit. It is the centre of the Minervois region so this part of the route is where you really start to see the vineyards and will get plenty of opportunity to visit a degustation or two as you wend your way through the rolling hills and gorges that make up the Minervois.

Minerve itself is a significant site in Cathar history being the first place to host the burning of the parfaits that refused to renounce their faith. There were to be many more repetitions of this act of burning the Cathars over the years as each of the Cathar strongholds were attacked and gave way to either De Montfort or one of the other leaders of the Albigensian Crusade; one of the last being Montsegur some 34 years later.The final military battle of the crusade was at Quéribus in 1255 some 46 years after the crusade started in July 1209 when the Albigensian Crusaders under the command of the Papal Legate Arnaud-Amaury captured Servian, a hilltop town to the east of Beziers.

It is much more peaceful these days and Minerve sits on the river with deep gorges carved out of the landscapes that surround the town. The gorges of Brian and Cesse are 2 of the better known ones.

A new car park has been built recently that overlooks the town which you can get to by first driving past the town following the signs to Gorge de Cesse and then following the road around to the right, behind and above the town. You have to pay in this car park but it is very convenient and close to the town center.

You can soon eat up an hour or two wandering around the quaint little streets, getting an ice cream or maybe taking lunch in a restaurant that overlooks the gorge and the river.

There are a lot of interesting nooks and crannies to explore and if you are feeling adventurous you can take a path into the gorge down by the river, water level permitting or go along the rocky paths and get out into the countryside a bit, not for the faint hearted though.

Minerve - Centre of Minervois

Minerve in the Minervois - A medieval city and the capital of Minervois

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Minerve the Capital of MinervoiseMinerve the Capital of MinervoiseMinerve the Capital of MinervoiseMinerve the Capital of MinervoiseMinerve the Capital of MinervoiseApproaching Minerve past the Gorge of Brian from the car park above the town. The best place to park incidentally.
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Minerve the Capital of Minervoise
Approaching Minerve past the Gorge of Brian from the car park above the town. The best place to park incidentally.
Approaching Minerve past the Gorge of Brian from the car park above the town. The best place to park incidentally.

Lets go and look at a bit more of the Minervois - Carcassonne or Castelnaudary the choice is yours?

Castelnaudary on the Canal Du Midi
Castelnaudary on the Canal Du Midi

When you leave Minerve you head for Aigne and on to Olanzac then La Redorte where you can take a right turn and head for Rieux-Minervois, Peyriac-Minervois and Villeneuve-Minervois.

You should be getting the point by now, the clue is in the names, every one of the little towns and villages along this route has a degustation where you can get a taste of the wine of the region or outlets where you can select a bottle or two that you fancy.

You will also see the Montagne Noire again as you head towards Villeneuve-Minervois, not a bad little backdrop.

You can enjoy the scenery, do a bit of wine tasting or both before you turn towards Bagnoles and Carcassonne where you can pick up the D118 again and decide whether you want to return via Saissac and St Papoul or just head into Carcassonne or somewhere else for the evening.

Your choice and there are plenty of options depending on where you are staying, for me I would head into Castelnaudary and after a day out like this you might just fancy a cassoulet to finish off the evening, but be sure you are hungry before you order this local dish.

There are plenty of restaurants in France with lots of different choices for food, whether you want a snack or something a bit more substantial and in this area you will typically find the meals are very good value.

Minerve Medieval City - The Capital City of the Minervois

A wine tour of the Minervois in the south of France, fabulous scenery, steeped in history and as much wine tasting as you can handle.

show route and directions
A markerMinerve is a medieval city in the centre of the Minervois region of France -
Minerve, France
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B markerCarcassonne plays host to 'La Cite' a fabulous walled city -
Carcassonne, France
get directions

C markerHome of the famous cassoulet, haricot bean dish -
Castelnaudary, France
get directions

Jewels of French History Books: The Lauragais Story from the South of France
Jewels of French History Books: The Lauragais Story from the South of France

Includes the Cathar persecution by Simon De Montfort, the German occupation and much much more. There was a lot of action in the Lauragais.

 

French History Books - The Lauragais Story

Living so close to Castelnaudary, the capital of the Lauragais, this French history book really grabbed my attention. A chance to find out about and understand the history of the region, admittedly in English, where we live. It really is a chequered history, the region has had more than its fair share of heartache and misery, but has risen to be one of the most important parts of France. Toulouse is the centre of aerospace and the home of Airbus, but in days gone by it was wheat and wode that were the main generators of wealth in the region and where the funding for many chateaus was found.

Somewhere Nice to Stay Near Castelnaudary

What do you think of the Minervois? - Let us know

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    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 3 years ago

      Beautiful. Would love to visit. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Lindrus 5 years ago

      It would be just fabulous to go there on a wine tour!

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 5 years ago

      I've never been to this area of France, but it looks fascinating.

    • blogvicar lm profile image

      blogvicar lm 5 years ago

      A very nice lens which shows off this region of France in a very good light, and deservedly so. It is a wonderful place to visit.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 5 years ago

      Beautiful...to say a move to France was a wise move is an understatement...thank you for adding another place I've visited to my armchair travels:-)