Grand Crus du Languedoc

The winemakers of the Cabardes all got together recently for a dinner in the events room at Chateau Pennautier, often billed as the Versailles of the Languedoc.  It wasn’t the Hall of Mirrors, but it was very cozy and the food was delicious.  Naturally, we all brought wine along, so we drank well too.

One of the most interesting parts of the dinner for you all was probably the short discussion we had right before breaking bread.  Instead of saying grace, we talked shop regarding the new CIVL initiative to divide the plethora of Languedoc AOPs into Grands Crus, Grands Vins, and the rest.

The discussion was Cabardes-centric.  Since we were provisionally placed in the Grands Vins category, we are trying to find a way to get bumped up to Grands Crus.  The video shows Nicolas de Lorgeril (owner of Pennautier) and Olivier Ferraud (Chamber of Agriculture technician and a sort of manager for the Cabardes).  De Lorgeril talks about how we might be able to shift the entire AOP into the standards that the CIVL has set forth for Grands Crus.  Then Olivier talks about how we might also point out that those standards are flawed, favoring appearances over actual quality.

After this little speech we all start eating and I asked a few more questions, but it would have been weird/rude/difficult to film.  The subtext of the video presentation is that the new CIVL hierarchy is still malleable.  This may come as a surprise to all the people who read about it in the trade lately. But the truth is, it’s not yet a law. It’s more a marketing maneouver.  Olivier actually said it was marketing and corrected himself by saying “Communications”.  From his tone, it seemed like he was borrowing that term from the CIVL itself.

This supports my theory that the CIVL owns some kind of trademark on “grands vins du Languedoc” and “grands crus du Languedoc” and they get to decide who puts it on the bottles.  While I believe any AOC wines were allowed to carry the phrase “grand vin du Languedoc” on their labels in previous years, the new hierarchy means the CIVL will now try to prevent certain winemakers from using the phrase unless they meet those requirements.

That explains why the Cabardes ODG (among others, probably) is trying to lobby to get moved up a little.  It seems reasonable to ask for a small amount of time to adapt to the standards the CIVL put forward.  Mostly, that means selling your wine a little less cheap to raise average price. And lowering yield.  Unless we can convince them that they should take foliage into account (a ratio of yield over surface area of leaves).

Anyway, interesting discussion, right?

Another point that came up was that while it’s not a law yet, we all assume the CIVL will seek INAO approval or some sort of legislative reinforcement for this marketing/communications strategy so that it can be comparable to the Classification of 1855 or the Grands Crus in Bourgogne.  Just looking for a little legitimacy.

There’s probably a whole other post to be written on the intriguing switch from legislation to marketing.  While INAO classification used to be the end-all for wine prestige, modern efforts start at the trademark office.  And doesn’t that make sense?  Few people can make any sense of the intricate European wine laws that have built up over the centuries.  In a market dominated by brand-building, maybe the interprofessions are correct to move away from politics and toward marketing spheres.  Grands Crus du Languedoc, Sud de France, etc.

I know that you know that I lift wires at this time of year.  But you know what else I do?  Answer a lot of questions from tourists. It seems like I get at least four or five emails each week about travel plans around Carcassonne and in the Languedoc Roussillon in general.

My emails tend to be very personalized based on what languages you speak, where you’re flying into, whether you have a car or not, etc.   It’s fun setting people up with really good trips, but it takes a lot of time.   And sometimes, people don’t really need super-personalized advice.  If you want a few wine travel ideas around Carcassonne, you might just want to check out Wink Lorch’s Wine Travel Guide – Ideal One-Day Itinerary.

Wink tends to pick places that are equipped to greet you in English.  And for these short one or two day trips, the estates often have restaurants or rooms to stay in so you don’t need to spend half of your wine holiday in a car looking for a poorly marked country road.

The One-Day and Two-Day trips around Carcassonne have really good ideas. Like a short run down to Limoux where you can visit small indie estates and then go to Gayda for a nice meal and a place to stay.  That trip’s especially nice if you have a spouse or travel partner that only drinks white wine.  Or you could do a quick jump north and visit Pennautier who also have a restaurant, rooms, etc.  I would naturally add that while you’re already in Pennautier, you should hop over to O’Vineyards . . . OF COURSE. 🙂   I’m just a few kilometers away and I’d really love to see you.

Also, if you’re planning your trip on a Sunday, good luck. You’re best off emailing me.

Anyway, I like Wink’s guide and appreciate the work of her head Languedoc researcher Richard James.

And I’m going to steal this idea of an ideal one-day itinerary if you’re looking to spend a day around Carcassonne or if you are flying in with RyanAir and have a day to spare before driving to your next destination.

Ideal One-Day Itinerary


Leave Carcassonne, going northwest on the N113 that sort of follows the Canal du Midi.  Check out O’Vineyards in Villemoustaussou.  33 (0)6 30 18 99 10

Winery visits include young wine tasting from tanks as well as barrel tastings.  Call ahead and we can do a table d’hote where you eat with the winemaker and family.  It’s a lot of fun.

winery visit


Then you have two options.  You either lounge around the vineyard all day drinking delicious wine and soaking in the countryside vistas, or you can get back in the car and head to another destination.

UK Angels visit O'Vineyards near Carcassonne

Possible destinations include:

  • Chateau Pennautier – Big, fancy winemakers in Pennautier
  • Chateau BrauOrganic winemakers in Villemoustaussou (call ahead)
  • La Cité de Carcassonne – visit ramparts, have a coffee, just chill out. Whatever you choose to do, you’re doing it in a medieval castle!! How cool is that?

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

  1. 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.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. 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.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.