France’s high speed train, the TGV, will one day carry passengers between Toulouse and Narbonne. The line will also have a Carcassonne stop. I’m following developments in the planning of this future train line pretty closely. I’ve uploaded the slideshow presented to the public recently concerning potential installation sites for the new tracks around Carcassonne and the new train station as well. Download the TGV project slideshow 21 10 2011 complete with confounding maps and bullet points. 😀
Changes required by a TGV line
Interestingly, as I’m writing this, TGV trains already pass through Carcassonne quite often. But since the tracks aren’t set up for Grande Vitesse traffic, the trains have to run at normal speeds until they reach Montpellier. I don’t know much about the technology here, but I’ll just say it has to do with magnets and move on. 😀
Anyway, the engineers have to lay new track suitable to the TGVs and this means they’ll have to run the new track north of Carcassonne or south of Carcassonne (going straight through the city makes no sense). This is when winemakers start to get worried because there are lots of vines north and south of Carcassonne and we don’t want a bunch of train tracks to replace the vines we love so dearly.
From a business standpoint though, it’s pretty interesting since there are plans to build a new station. If the TGV connects Carcassonne to the grid, it can bring a lot of tourists and business to the area. After all the work from Bordeaux to Toulouse is done and this project connects Toulouse to Narbonne, the Carcassonne-Narbonne axis will be much closer to Aquitaine. And I’ll have to do some math, but I think it might bring us closer to Paris too (the current fastest path to Paris is a slow train from Carcassonne to Montpellier and then TGV up to Paris)
There’s a lot of information here as the slideshow also presents all the projects from Toulouse to Narbonne.
Since my vineyard is very close to Carcassonne, slides 16-21 are of most interest to me personally.
The slide that made me panic a little
one of the potential sites is close to O'Vineyards
The first reason to panic is just because it looks like somebody’s planning a war strategy. Or like a geometry textbook just threw up on a map of Carcassonne. But we’ll try to make sense of this map.
I’ve added a little o’TGV so you can see where O’Vineyards is located. As you can see, we’re actually inside one of those circular bubbles meant to represent places where it might make sense to put in the new train station. And that big golden arrow running straight through us is supposed to represent the possibility of a track running to the north of Carcassonne (but not its actual placement). The bright red arrows cutting through Villemoustaussou represent tracks that tie the new train station to the small, older train station in the center of Carcassonne (but not their actual placement).
It is important to stress a few things:
- this is still hypothetical planning,
- many of the arrows are symbolic representations rather than showing physical placement,
- those enormous circles are very generously sized.
Let’s break this map down in a less panicked way. The track has to go either north of Carcassonne or south of it. The big green bands show the zone that is most suitable for a track. Rather than look at the large golden arrow representing the northern line, realize that the northern line is actually a very thin track that would go anywhere within that massive green band.
There will also be a new gare. The big green circles are supposed to represent potential sites where it might make sense to build that gare. The actual station will be a small dot compared to the circles used to represent their potential placement sites on the map.
Also, knowledge of the terrain where my vineyard is located allows me to say that the tracks could not pass through O’Vineyards. One one side, we’re too hilly. On the other side, we’re very close to a village. If the tracks run north of Carcassonne, it’s much more likely that they’ll pick one of the flatter, lower zones like the one running through Conques sur Orbiel. With a good set of binoculars, we’d probably be able to glimpse the train behind some hills/trees as it passes in the distance.
I also think they’ll favorize one of the construction sites that is already near rails connecting to the old gare in Carcassonne. Nobody likes to build in the jurisdiction of Batiments de France and the old gare is right next to the Canal du Midi. The more they can use existing track, the better. So those dastardly red arrows seem unlikely. My money is on one of the oblong ovals that already skirts existing track.
Although, that said, I wouldn’t necessarily mind the station being built in that circle really close to O’Vineyards. If it’s at the far end of the circle, we could get all the benefit of a nearby train station without any of the noise or visual pollution. It’s too early in the development of this project to know how harmful/beneficial the placement will be. I’ll just have to watch carefully. In February, they’re supposed to make a decision about whether the line goes north of Carcassonne or south. And at that time, they’ll provide more details about where exactly the tracks would go.
Hopefully, this won’t mar the local landscapes or prevent winemakers from doing what we do best. And as a secondary wishful thinking kind of hope, maybe this will increase land value for a few of the locals. And make it easier for me to get to Paris one day. ;D
Small wineries and vineyards around Carcassonne, often lack the infrastructure to receive tourists year round. This post will attempt to list some of the wineries that are well-known in the area for receiving visitors regularly.
If you’d like to visit a particular estate (eg your favorite producer), it’s often a good idea to call ahead of time to make sure the winemaker is available to receive you and taste through some wines. But if you’re fine visiting a winery you’re unfamiliar with, here is a list of folks open to last minute visitors.
Wineries really near to Carcassonne:
O’Vineyards – Directions from the castle – This is my family vineyard and we’re generally happy to receive people year round. It’s always best to call before hand because we are a working vineyard and could be busy. It’s convenient to book one of our wine & food experience on our detailed website . We receive dozens of last minute visitors each year. Visiting us is fun because you’ll actually hang out with the winemakers. We’re also native English speakers and we enjoy sharing with people who know very little about wine. So don’t be intimidated!
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
33 (0)6 30 18 99 10
Chateau Pennautier – Directions from the castle – A prestigious estate north of Carcassonne that has a tour of the chateau as well as wine tastings. They have staff dedicated to these tour groups so you can show up without any reservations.
2 boulevard Pasteur
33 (0)4 68 72 65 29 ?
Wineries closer to Narbonne:
L’Hospitalet – This is a bit farther away in La Clape (by Narbonne), and it’s a bit more of a gift shop tour. But what’s cool is that it unites wines from all of Gerard Bertrand’s properties in the Languedoc Roussillon. So in one place, you’ll get to taste wines from lots of different parts of the region. And Narbonne might be worth a day trip anyway.
Route de Narbonne plage
20409 11104 NARBONNE
33 (0) 4 68 45 28 50
Le Bouis – This one is near Narbonne too and has a cool restaurant. It’s technically in the Corbieres but it’s not lost in the mountains to the south. It’s in Gruissan, really close to the coast and makes an easy addition to a Narbonne day trip. You might also consider seeing the salt flats in Gruissan after visiting the winery.
33 (0)4 68 75 25 25
Wineries in the mountains of the Corbieres
Driving to these wineries will take some time as they are in the mountains (see map of corbieres wineries). But this can be a gorgeous road trip. Avoid the motorway and take the small mountain roads. But don’t drink too much or you won’t be able to drive back! 😀
Embres & Castelmaure – This cooperative winery has some great wines and display them at the gift shop. You can do the tasting for free but they only do winery tours if you make a reservation.
4, route des canelles
11360 Embres & Castelmaure
33 (0)4 68 45 91 83
Mont Tauch – Same deal. A great cooperative winery where you can taste the wines for free, but winery tours must be booked ahead of time and are generally reserved for larger groups.
Les Vignerons Du Mont Tauch
33 (0)4 68 45 41 08
I’ve written about a few other cool wineries in the Corbieres, but you might have to call ahead for some of them.