“We do good with very good,” was the motto of Prosper Montagne, master French chef and culinary writer, recognized as one of the most celebrated talents of French cuisine.
Club Prosper Montagne is unique. It brings together all areas of Food and Drink: butchers, bakers, chefs, chocolatiers, farmers, restaurateurs, caterers, winemakers,… all are committed to develop quality products.
The club radiates throughout France with presidents by region . Its scope of action never stops expanding. Internationally, delegations are also present in Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Japan, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Alphonse Caravaca, President of Prosper Montagné Carcassonne put together a great event, celebrating the Patron Saint of Grape growers & Winemakers with a delicious private 350 sold out Lunch.
On Saturday January 19th, festivities will start at 11:00 with Deputy Mayor of Carcassonne leading the parade. Participants will be guided through the streets of the Bastide St Louis to the Church of St. Vincent where will be held the blessing of the wine!
Truffles supplied by Philippe Barriere will be the hi-light of the Celebration. Lunch will be served by a young and talented caterer.
The five winemakers representing the Region are:
Joe O’Connell, O’Vineyards,
Raymond Julien, Chateau Mirausse,
Jean Louis Poudou, Domaine de La Tour Boisée,
Domaine de l’Horte,
Alphonse called a meeting to verify the final preparation…we drank and ate as much as we talked!
We started the machine harvest on September 15, 2011. The weather’s been perfect and the grapes came in very cool as we started predawn (4h45AM). A few surprises but lots of good things to report. High hopes for the rest of harvest and the potential of this vintage for the entire Languedoc Roussillon!
I don’t really have time to wax poetic but there were some take away points worth mentioning:
After much talk about increased yield, Syrah seems to come in at a very low average of 35 hectoliters/hectare
WWOOFers are very helpful around harvest time
Merlot came in very clean with this new harvester
Syrah was a lot of work at the sorting table (mostly snails) and I think we should do more by hand
Everything tastes great showing a full maturity despite slightly higher yields in some parcels
Some harvest photos
I just saw off the last of my Cabernet Day friends. It’s been a real blast.
Seeing Local Winemakers
2010 was a really heartwarming Cabernet Day because it was one of the first events I organized to really get a great deal of support from local grape growers and winemakers. I was worried about 2011 because the slightly early harvest means a lot of winemakers are too busy to celebrate with us.
Some winemakers managed to send samples to be tasted in their absence. Notably, Gerard Bertrand sent a few bottles of his Cabernet Franc from Cigalus. That’s a big name in the region and I’m so excited that he decided to participate. And everybody enjoyed tasting the wine while watching high def video footage of the Corbieres vineyard from a helicopter! Bling bling. We’ve come a long way from #Cabernetday’s humble beginnings. ;D
I was also really pleased to see some winemakers tore themselves away from harvest to come in person. And they brought wines! Which is also very exciting because a lot of the growers around here are very shy and don’t like promoting their own wine. I’m very proud of them for coming out and braving a mostly anglophone audience to help share some of the Cabernet love.
Sharing with Anglophones
And it should be noted that this year was VERY English-speaking. Many English families retire to this region around Carcassonne, and I feel like they make up a really strong community that will enjoy a lot of local wines. Probably 90% of the attendees were speaking in English.
And I’ll add that almost everybody tonight was a wine novice, which is great. I was happy to have a very professional/wine trade crowd in 2010. But I’m even happier to share the joys of Cabernet with an amateur/novice crowd. People who just love life in the south of France and want to drink some good local wine.
We got to spend a lot of time sharing simple winemaker pleasures like “how to taste grapes for ripeness“. We all went out to the rows of Cabernet Sauvignon and tasted how the fruit was coming along. Chewed the skins and seeds separately. Talked about the importance of sugar and phenolics.
It was a lot of fun because we had a huge deal of neighborhood support. I’m getting too mushy, but it felt wonderful to have such a big block party here at O’Vineyards all around some Cabernet.
Lots of good friends!
2011″s Cab Day turned out very different from 2010 here in the Languedoc, so I’m anxious to hear everybody’s reports. I hope everybody has a piece of the magic we had here in the Languedoc Roussillon! Thanks again to Rick Bakas for organizing a wonderful Cab Day.
top rated things to do in the languedoc roussillon on trip advisor 2011
TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel review site. Anybody with the Internet can log in and review attractions, accommodation, restaurants and so on. A lot of hotels and B&B places study their tripadvisor reviews religiously because your rating on this site can make or break a business.
How did we get listed
A very friendly Irishman took our winery tour in 2010 and he had a really good time. After the wine tasting, he told us that he would give us a really good TripAdvisor review, and I had no idea what he was talking about. On June 15, 2010 (just 14 months ago) this friendly Irishman posted a review of O’Vineyards on the site. We had no engagement with TripAdvisor at all. No cost. We just kept operating our tours as we always did and suddenly we got this cool feedback on a review site that, at a glance, seemed like a pretty big deal.
A couple of months later, I was nearing the end of a tour when somebody mentioned that this was as awesome as promised on TripAdvisor. Now that was interesting! So we started asking everybody how they found out about us. Today, one year later, we see that TripAdvisor is one of our best sources of clients. They’re ahead of the Office of Tourism and tied with all the local B&Bs, cottage rentals, and hotels that we work with (combined). That’s an outstanding statistic!
And it’s a self-enforcing feedback loop. The clients we get from TripAdvisor tend to know exactly what to expect because of the level of detail in the reviews. That means they are easier to please because they have realistic and informed expectations. And then they go back and review us on TripAdvisor, further adding to the detail available on the site and increasing our rating. So in just one year, we’ve become the number one attraction in the entire Languedoc Roussillon!
Additionally, the feedback we receive from the site has not been empty praise. By listening to people’s reviews, we actually learned what people like most about our tours (and by deduction what parts people didn’t really care about). We were able to shift our efforts to emphasize the elements that people like most. I’ll write about this more in the future, but it’s basically the subject of my who visits vineyards post.
I think it’s a travesty that I’m one of the only vineyards listed on TripAdvisor.
One of my guests this year (coincidentally, somebody who found us through TripAdvisor) suggested that I start getting vineyards and domaines onto TA and helping them use the site. So that’s our next big step. After harvest, I’m going to see how many Languedoc Roussillon vineyards we can get on the site. With something like 3000 wineries in the region, I’ve got my work cut out for me!
A detailed schedule will come soon. But the important thing is to book your tickets and hotels for this lovely weekend in March. A hundred wine professionals and Internet people will come together at the Chambre de Commerce et de l’Industrie in Carcassonne. There will be a series of round table discussions on Saturday on subjects that will be decided the day of the VinoCamp. Sunday will consist of a visit to the Cité de Carcassonne and at least one vineyard.
Registration and Wiki
VinoCamp registration is free but mandatory as there are a few questions that will help me organize buses, food, etc.
I strongly encourage you to edit the VinoCamp wiki. This will allow you to add your name, email address, and website to the common list that we will all use for reference when writing about the event. Participants in the conference will be able to familiarize themselves with your website before they come to the conference.
What is a VinoCamp? What is a BarCamp?
I’ve written about the nature of barcamps before, but to summarize: VinoCamp is an open conference devoted to wine and the Internet. There is no literal camping involved. Here is a post with some video of a small round table discussion about Oenotourism from VinoCamp Paris
Who comes to a VinoCamp?
Winemakers, wine retailers, wine journalists, and anybody who makes a living online with wine. VinoCamp is a place where wine professionals and techies come together to share ideas about the future of wine online. You’ll get to meet a few Z list local celebrities like me. ;D
Here is my list of the people I met at VinoCamp Paris. The open nature of the VinoCamp allows you to really meet a lot of new people. And since everybody has a chance to talk, you can tell very quickly whether a person is awesome or not.
This is a very exciting award, and I’m so happy to see it moving forward at a healthy pace. One of the coolest parts of the BDWA is that it recognizes individual videos and pieces of writing. That means that the awards can go to busy winemakers who have time to do one cool video or post but who don’t have time to run a blog with great content year round. Furthermore this inaugural year is free. You can submit entries at no charge. And there’s a prize.
Now, I was planning on flooding them with submissions from other Languedoc Roussillon producers, but it turns out you have to submit your own work. So I will have to settle for strongly encouraging you to enter your own work.
I STRONGLY recommend you enter some work. I would absolutely love to see the Languedoc Roussillon take over the shortlist of finalists and even win one of these categories!
You might be thinking it’s weird that I’m encouraging people to compete against me. Well.. on the one hand, I’m weird. On the other hand, through a rather unexpected turn of events, most of my web work doesn’t meet the criteria of eligibility. Most of the Love That Languedoc videos are longer than 10 minutes. My book (Wines of Carcassonne: The Cabardes AOC) is longer than 3000 words. Some of my work like the Complete Map of AOC Cabardes aren’t really text or video, and there’s no category for apps or maps this year. And some of my more popular videos were first released before 2010. So most of what I do can’t even compete.
Despite my initial disappointment about this discovery, it’s probably a good thing. I honestly don’t know how I would have narrowed down my body of work to choose a submission. These criteria actually narrow it down for me to the dirt tasting and the fruit thief. Which are some of the most visited articles posted on this site in 2010 anyway. I should probably take a hint from that!
People like videos under 10 minutes that have almost nothing to do with wine. 😀
So to summarize, please consider entering your own writing and video! Let’s get some Languedoc Roussillon in the Born Digital Wine Awards.
NO VISIT TO THE SOUTH OF FRANCE would be complete without a trip to the Languedoc-Roussillon region, where you’ll find a combination of hilltop vineyards, Mediterranean beaches, and a panoply of France’s most beautiful medieval villages.
–Ryan O’Connell, Tampa Bay Magazine NOV/DEC 2010 p. 141
Add one more thing to the list of jobs winemakers do when they’re not making wine. I’m now a published travel writer too!
Tampa Bay Magazine has posted a couple of stories about the Languedoc-Roussillon region and one of them was written by me. Although they did edit a bit, insisting on some flattering photo captions and more info about O’Vineyards (and employing an alternate spelling of cassoulet). But the point is that it’s awesome for the region to get its name out there in a positive light, and I can’t wait to write more articles like this. I hope lots of people come across it while planning their next trip.
Read the full articles in PDF format: (warning: big files!)
If there are particular magazines that you think I should submit to, please let me know! They can be lifestyle, airline, travel, food, or whatever! The Languedoc Roussillon is so vast, there’s almost always an excuse to write about it.
Here’s the full text of my wine article if you’re having trouble downloading/opening the PDFs.
WINES OF THE LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON REGION
The Gateway to the Mediterranean
By Ryan O’Connell
Photography by Noraa
NO VISIT TO THE SOUTH OF FRANCE
would be complete without a trip to the
Languedoc-Roussillon region, where you’ll find
a combination of hilltop vineyards, Mediterranean
beaches, and a panoply of France’s most beautiful
medieval villages. The region derives its richness
directly from this great geographical, cultural and
historic diversity. At first glance, this great expanse
of land (over 10,500 square miles) may seem a little
disconnected, as it incorporates the Catalan villages
of the Pyrenees Orientales, the medieval castles of
the Pays Cathare, the rocky foothills of the Massif
Central, and the Roman amphitheaters to the west
of the Rhone River. However, it is this immense
diversity which nurtured the creativity and bravery
of troubadours, monks and knights from once
upon a time in the same way that it fosters daring
winemakers, chefs and travelers today. While Paris
might be the most notable part of France, this softspoken
region to the south has quietly provided
some of France’s richest cultural heritage for over
It is difficult to pick a city that best represents
this area. But if you need a landmark that typifies
the region’s colorful, storied past, as well as its great
present developments, I would choose the medieval
walled city of Carcassonne. This remarkably preserved
castle town exemplifies the Languedoc’s respect for
its past and cultural heritage. Nearly four million
people a year explore the meandering cobbled
roads, within its epic stone walls, that span nearly
Liz, Ryan and Joe O’Connell are at
home at their O’Vineyards Winery in
the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.
It’s no wonder that every child in France
learns about these ramparts in grade
school, as each and every stone is filled
with character. In the summertime, in a
unique tribute to the past, musicians from
every continent and genre play to a small
audience in the amphitheater behind the
cathedral. This year, Bob Dylan, Charlotte
Gainsbourg, Motorhead, a full rendition
of Carmen and other musical legends
performed there. And, although each of
these musicians is quite different, they all
agreed to return to this place where the
troubadour singers once ruled and their
songs of courtly love were born.
The modern musicians are all seduced
by the stage in Carcassonne, due in part
to the massive preservation efforts that
date back to the 1860s to make the castle
and its surroundings one of the world’s
best-preserved examples of medieval
architecture and defenses. As you look
through the narrow slits of its zig-zagging
ramparts and gaze out across the terra
cotta rooftops of the homes that surround
the castle, the immense weight of history
is palpable to all.
However, the castle is not just a reminder
of the past. It is also a place filled with
countless quiet moments, where you
can enjoy the present, as cool winds flow
through charming patios and gardens.
The Hotel de la Cité, a five star hotel in the
heart of the castle, was a former abbey and
is managed with a charm and eccentricity
appropriate to the site. You can savor lunch
or dinner at one of its restaurants, Chez
Saskia, a narrow brasserie that protrudes
into an intersection of cobbled streets. The
building feels as if it had grown there
as an offshoot of the abbey, when the
castle population expanded in the early
part of the last millennium. The meals
there showcase the huge variety of fresh
ingredients available in the region. On the
patio behind the hotel, you can enjoy
Blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine
from the region that historians believe
to be older than the more well-known
champagne. This gives the region a claim
to the invention of sparkling white wines,
preceding Dom Perignon, the monk who
made a splash in the Champagne region
with his eponymous fizz. It is probably
no coincidence that Dom Perignon was
stationed in a cloister in the Languedoc
before he moved to the monastery in the
Champagne region of France. Records
show that a few bottles of white wine in the
cellar had a surprising amount of bubbles
in them in 1531, when this discovery led the
monks of Limoux to perfect the process
of making their centuries-old sparkling
While certain microclimates like Limoux
are perfect for growing the white grapes
that go into Blanquette de Limoux, the
Languedoc-Roussillon region is best known
for its rich red wines, such as the ones
produced at O’Vineyards, an estate near
Carcassonne in the foothills of la Montagne
Noire, which my parents, Liz and Joe, own
and operate with me. Due to the vineyard’s
unique position in the region’s Atlantic
Corridor, we have been able to create bold,
fresh wines with varietals like Merlot
and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are
traditionally found in wine regions with
cooler climates, such as Bordeaux.
The vineyards in the Languedoc-
Roussillon region enjoy winds from the
Mediterranean to the east and cool
breezes from the Atlantic to the west.
The tasting room at O’Vineyards
has a relaxed, hospitable feeling
that allows guests to linger and
savor the winery’s offerings.
From the tasting room at O’Vineyards,
you will want to travel west along the
Canal du Midi, a 17th Century canal, that
allowed French boats to travel from the
Atlantic to the Mediterranean without
the dangerous month-long voyage on
the pirate-infested waters of the Iberian
Peninsula. The 150-mile-long canal is filled
with small vacation boats that peacefully
float along its length and through its
Other outstanding wines in the region
are made from varietals more typical to the
Mediterranean, such as a Grenache Gris
from l’Oustal Blanc and Grenache Noir
from Château le Bouïs in the Corbieres. In
the beautiful village of Gruissan, that sits
on the Mediterranean shore, you can
enjoy tasting Château le Bouïs’ Romeo
and Juliet wines, that are alike in dignity
and showcase the well-paired elegance
and fruit of Languedoc wines. It’s easy to
taste the Mediterranean sunshine in
these rich and delicate wines.
The great beauty of this region is also
derived from its impressive diversity.
You can ski in the morning and go to the
beach in the afternoon. The Languedoc-
Roussillon has long been a meeting point
between the cultures of the ancient
Occitan and Catalan worlds that merge
on the borders of France and Spain,
giving the region its wonderful reputation
for wine and cuisine. The Languedoc-
Roussillon region, which once served as a
gateway for Crusaders, is today home to
some of the finest wines in the world.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ryan O’Connell grew up
in Tampa and moved to France with his parents
after his graduation from college to create
their O’Vineyards Winery. Since then, he has
become an ambassador for the Languedoc-
Roussillon region and has created a video blog,
www.lovethatlanguedoc.com, and a Twitter
site, “languedocjetaim.”He is a noted speaker
on both the wines of France and the affect of
the internet on wineries, with particular
emphasis on the Mobile Web. If you are in the
South of France, he would love to give you a
personal tour of his family’s winery, while his
mom Liz whips up a few of her spectacular
specialties in the kitchen for you to enjoy in
their tasting room. Ryan can be contacted at
I went camping at the Vinolodge set up in Virgile Joly’s vineyard. Always accused of Blair Witch Style, hand-held camerawork, I was really looking forward to using the camp atmosphere to do a Blair Witch parody. . . But it was actually pretty hard to pretend to be scared or uncomfortable in any way. The tents are simply outfitted, but the gorgeous open space and chic furnishing make it feel pretty posh. And reliance on renewable energy doesn’t prevent the tents from feeling blinged out from time to time with the LED mood lighting and fully-stocked wine bar.
So, enjoy my Blair Witch moment. Even if its pretty chimeric. It was just too hard to feel scared or uncomfortable in such a nice tent.
While the tents are really well integrated into the surrounding vines and local wildlife, you really have all the amenities of traditional eco-tourism projects. I was pretty impressed with how much space we have especially. This tent is bigger than a lot of hotel rooms in France. And it has its own porch, foyer, bathroom, etc. almost entirely powered by the solar cells and windmill outside the tent.
To take the two photos below, I just had to turn around. I hope that conveys how closely juxtaposed luxury and nature are in these tents. You really just have a nice hotel room in the middle of a bunch of trees and vines and shrub and pheasants and everything else the Terrasses du Larzac has to offer.
Why this project is important
I’ve talked a bit about how comfortable it is. What a nice vacation it would make… but with all that advertising fluff aside, I’m most impressed by the long term implications of the vinolodge project. The potential applications for winemakers and nature-lovers in general are pretty astounding, largely due to the ZERO impact promise of the lodge.
Beyond being one more way to go glamping (glam camping), the Vinolodge offers an innovative way to drop a tent into the middle of any natural environment without impacting the place permanently. Even dirty hippies in sleeping bags have SOME impact on nature. Experienced campers will know that this is referred to as “low-impact” camping. But low impact is not as cool as NO impact. How can a big tent structure have a smaller impact than a hippie in a sleeping bag? I feel like I’m going to have to explain this … and there’s just no avoiding the one big example. Oh boy. I guess it was only a matter of time before I start talking about poop on my vineyard’s blog.
A camper creates waste. And even the old “dig a hole and bury your business” solution has an impact. It’s low impact, and you can wipe with leaves and a variety of other gross stuff to lower your impact more, but you’re still leaving a lasting mark on the environs. But the vinolodge tent has its own waste processing and storage. Whenever they want, they can decide to break down the tents and within a couple days the whole camp has disappeared leaving NO permanent mark on the environment. Not even poop buried everywhere around the tent.
This means that the tents allow for campers to go where even hardcore low-impact types weren’t allowed before. Like my vineyard. Or a well-protected national park. Or remote locations after natural disasters. The vinolodge (frequently referred to as a geolodge) quickly inspires a lot of important big picture ideas. It goes far beyond the long list of novelty eco tourism that ranges from cramped tree houses to glorified camping car parking lots.
What does it mean specifically for vineyards and the Languedoc?
I think that it offers an unprecedented access to the terroir that we like to brag about so often. A wine drinker who stays in one of the vinolodge tents becomes familiar with the local flaura and fauna in a way that is simply extraordinary. You can hear things at night, you can smell things in the morning, that you just don’t get access to unless you live on a vineyard. Heck, a lot of winemakers would benefit from staying in their own vines once or twice as many of us live quite a ways away from our vineyards.
Imagine having 10-12 of these lodges set up throughout the Languedoc Roussillon. A person could choose to stay at a series of vineyards and really discover the nuances between the microclimates, soil topography, what goes bump in the night, etc. I think that people who really are keen on learning the difference between one terroir and another will appreciate this first-hand access and experience. And I wouldn’t really be comfortable taking regular campers in year round… but the vinolodge makes it feasible and even attractive.
In a few days, I’ll be headed to Saint Saturnin to sleep amidst the vines. I’ll admit I’ve done this a couple times at my place in a sleeping bag. It’s more fun to talk about it than to actually do it. Because the ground is tough and stony. And the nights at O’Vineyards get very chilly (which allow us that freshness which differentiates us from so much of the south of France). But I’m looking forward to this upcoming trip, because I’ll be vine camping in luxury.
Vinolodge set up a bunch of tents in Virgile Joly’s organic vineyard. The tents are self contained with fully functioning bathrooms, water, and I think some amount of electricity. I mean, you can’t necessarily run a microwave or whatever. But you can plug in your phone, laptop, lamps, etc.
Now this is a sneak peak, so I’ll be pretty limited in what I’m allowed to show you. A lot of the design of these tents is apparently highly protected and patented information. And the project won’t launch officially until May 2011. But I hope to film an episode in the tents and give you a glimpse at the inside and outside so you can judge for yourself how well Vinolodge delivers on their promise of eco-friendly, luxury tourism.
At the Salon d’Aniane, I spoke to Virgile and got a sneak peak at the sneak peak. ;D He said that it was really cool to sleep in one of the tents. You’re very comfortable. As comfortable as your own bed. And then you wake up in the vines. But really IN THE VINES. A comfortable, luxurious alternative to my rocky sleeping bag experiences in the past.
Once the project is up and running, there’s also supposed to be tents devoted to a low energy restaurant, a reception area, a wine tasting tent, etc.
I’m not going to lie. I think my hopes are TOO high. The lodges look really chic and they promise a whole lot of amenities like air conditioning, and a fully stocked wine bar. It seems like it would be impossible to do that and lighting and plumbing and everything else in the press release, and still be energy efficient, self contained units. Like maybe I’m going to get there and find out I have to pedal a bicycle to flush the toilet or something. ;D
We shall see soon enough!
We had a fun little vineyard party. Sud de France sent us a kit of Languedoc-Roussillon wines so that we could host a Carcassonne wine tasing. We drank and were merry. We did a live stream which is really lo-fi, but fun and spontaneous. The live stream of our synchronized worldwide tasting is available at Love That Langedoc.
This is just a brief update to say we had a good time and we’ll put together a better-edited version of the tasting soon. Thanks for all the cool people who showed up like Emma and Matthew from Vinecole, Aude Campos (our marvelous wine selling dynamo), and Mallorie from the gorgeous Chateau Bouis.
How to find us
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.