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Editor'S Choice - 2019

Minervois, paradise parallel to Carcassonne

So much well-placed stone has made this medieval and Cathar reverie an appetizing and photogenic destination. However, around it there are small regions where they claim everything 'slow' - food, wine, life ... - and where they ignore the overcrowding of their capital. The Minervois is one of them and deserves, at least, a whole summer furrowing its throats and vines.

THEY ARE NOT GREEKS, THEY ARE CATHARS

Though Francewith his I freed, its egualité and his fraternité by slogan, it seems a mass of homogeneous people, when diving for its ethnographic anatomy are regions that still feel those roots that eclipsed authoritarian centralism. Breton pride or Occitan sparks are some of the most scandalous.
In the case of Minervois it falls within the latter, with a considerable Cathar feeling dressing. All this historical 'saudade' rebels by stepping on its capital. Minerve has a name reminiscent of the famous Greek goddess, but No corner of this whole adorable set of stones can have a Hellenic sigh. Hence, its etymological origin is sought in another invading town, the theory that defends that it comes from the Celtic the most valid since in its origin the city was called Menèrba, which would be translated as'on the stone'.

Minervois, an appetizing and photogenic destination © Corbis

All this introduction makes sense and gives way to the epic by checking, on-site, that this France has little to do with Rococo and palaces. It is a city come at least, demolished by time and the difficult communications he has inherited from his warrior past. What used to be a defense, today is rather an insurmountable natural barrier. The positive point is that the picture that leaves is hypnotic, with a very thin bridge that gives access to another century.
Inside, it seems that everything froze after the bloody cross against the Cathars. The walls and towers and fortified gates are still standing, while the castle is imagined thanks to the occasional surviving wall. The vestiges of his past Cathar are claimed with a museum dedicated to the persecution of this belief, with a 'Dove of Light' sculpted in the church square and even with the replica of a catapult of the time. However, such belligerence does not accelerate the pulse, but rather guides between alleyways and anecdotes. On the outskirts, any viewpoint is perfect to better understand why this isolation now exerts its magnetism about tourists and visitors.

Cathar land © Corbis

THE CHEERFUL SHADOW OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN

All these religious and cultural peculiarities have a geographical explanation. Minervois sits on the south skirt of the Black Mountain, a massif named 'Tolkieniano' that fixes the northern border of the Massif Central. Its small peaks and its characteristic color (although sometimes the eye is left somatized by the name) star in all sunset and panoramic while its particular and schizophrenic orography leaves gifts to the visitor. The curves that the river Cesse draws outside Minerve They are a good snack for the caves, castles and idyllic villages that rest in the mantle of this mountain massif.

The narrow roads that tame so much undulation they lead to essential stops like the castles of Lastours, some Cathar ruins of some fortresses that defended their dominions from the northern invaders. Although they do not make up the most amazing bastion in all of France, they do have a peculiar beauty to be balancing on the crest of the mountain and finally a somewhat romantic decline.

The castles of Lastours, like medieval motes on the hillside © Corbis

The other great attractions raised by man are his flirty little villages. Any of them deserves a visit and more when the weekly market is announced, although several of them are a destination in itself. Aigne Not only does it have those arguments of stone and sinuousness that intoxicate any visitor, but, above, it has a curious snail shape, with a road that is closing in a spiral and that, the more it closes, the more old is its appearance of orange recesses and scenes of a parallel leisurely life more paused and stagnant. Beaufort, meanwhile, is a conquered hill, with its corresponding castle and its visual heritage. Finally, Felines Minervois brings its mills and small palatial castles to the inventory of icons in the region.

Aigne © Corbis

BETWEEN THE 'CRU' AND THE RECOGNITION

However, all these peculiarities in the end are another dressing to the new great argument to get lost in these latitudes. The wine has been sublimated and returned in order to revitalize all these places, to fill everything with vines but also with future, wine tourism and interesting wineries. The most curious thing about MInervois is that, its non-existent fame, causes many to overlook that in its delimitation there is a 'Cru' or, what is the same, a land for the cultivation of wine from Champions League. That is, here there are willows, there is a curious and varied geology that allows you to try many varieties, a solution to the need to stand up to other regions with more popularity.

Among the plain that preludes the MIDI channel and the hills that precede the Black Mountain grow the strains of local varieties such as Garnacha, Monastrell, Cariñena or Muscat, while Syrah appears giving glamor to the wines. These plots planted to remnants that share boundaries with cereals and the forest are the great attraction of wineries as Domaine la Prade Mari, where they show you their commitment to an ecological fertilizer as a differentiating element. Or of More Paumarhel, a visit that is based, above all, on a safari along paths that lead to small payments. But Minervois also boasts photogenic wineries like the charming Château de Gourgazaud or Domaine L'Ostal Caizes, two old offices open to the public in the town of La Livinière.

Domaine L'Ostal Caizes vineyards © D.R.

A CURIOSITY WITH TAIL

Among vineyards, villages and castles, the road also brings its own oddities. Lauriole's curiosity is a surprising phenomenon that happens while a flirty hill watered with horses is crowned. The habit of being climbing all the time and some gutters with some cheating mounds They make the driver believe that, at this point, the slope is still ascending, when the reality is that it has the opposite orientation. Yes, It is not a work of art or a charming town, but This little paranoia at the wheel makes many curious queues to check, with the handbrake removed, if what is said and advertised on the posters is true.

Lauriole or the perfection of the countryside © Corbis

LEMONADE WITH LOVE

In this process of tourist maturation without stress, an old lemonade factory plays a key role. Under the roof of this construction in Olonzac, Jean mac Y Stephen a few years ago they opened the Villa Limonade, a Chambre d'Hôtes (wonderful concept that is not worth translating) where everything is thought and attended with love. In addition to being that house in the countryside that we have all dreamed of, this accommodation is also a perfect cover letter of the entire wine offer in the region, since its owners met studying oenology in Montpellier. In its five rooms, in addition to wine, it demonstrates that eagerness of its owners to do things in a wayless, giving each experience a differentiating touch. In the end, an attention that makes this Villa a home that is rented for hours even without corrupting.

Lemonade with love © Villa Limonade

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