the hill top village of Routier

Local wine compliments local food

ready to pick

the vines in May

wine grapes are small and inedible

a traditional wooden press now almost completely replaced by stainless steel

picking is still done by hand for the premium wines

take time to smell the wine before you taste it

great care is taken not to bruise the grapes

Vineyards on the doorstep!

the magic starts here

vines in every direction

just picked

the location of the vines alters the taste of the wine

The Languedoc has more grape vines than the whole of Australia but their marketing is not so good yet

some vines are not trained on wire but grown as bushes known as goblet

ready to pick

View from the sundeck

after a while you will be able to spot the different sorts of grapes

different soil produces a different taste

vines on the coast

Bottoms up!

Wine around Routier

Wine is one of life's greatest pleasures and you should forget the old saying that "a little learning is a dangerous thing." When it comes to wine, a little knowledge is all you need to get started.

You can read the notes below and explore and taste at your own pace or if you would like some assistance from the experts why not book a tour with the
The Wine Wise Company and educate your palet, see the countryside and meet interesting people along the way.

You can email Wendy for further details -

Some wine experts might argue that the more wine knowledge you possess, the more you can appreciate the delicacies and fine nuances of wine, but we'll leave that up to you.As the saying goes, you use all your senses except hearing to judge a wine. You eye the wine's colour. You savor its smell. You both taste it with your mouth and feel its texture as it swishes across your tongue. And then you contemplate its after effects. To sit in the gardens of Domaine des Etoiles with both new and old friends, sipping wine and discussing life ... what could be better?

Here is some information about the local wine production and tips on tasting.

If you are coming to Domaine des Etoiles via Carcassonne Airport one of the first buildings you will have seen on leaving the carpark is the UCCOAR wine cooperative.UCCOAR stands for Union des Caves Co-Operatives de l'Ouest Audois et du Razès. This enterprise was created in 1976 the wineries Routier and Arzens merged. The UCCOAR Group today represents over 1500 member growers with 10 000 hectares of vineyards in the Languedoc-Roussillon area and has its own experimental vineyards at the Domaine de Cazes, where oenologists (wine experts) and technicians study over 100 different grape varieties planted on 36 hectares, only five minutes from Domaine des Etoiles.

It is staggering that Languedoc Rousillon produces as much wine as the United States and twice as much as Australia from it's 290,000 hectares of vines. There are 26,000 winemakers, 280 wine cooperatives, 2000 wineries, 30 appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOC), and 58 vins de pays. Grape vines were first introduced by Greek traders around their settlement at Marseilles, the vineyards were further developed by the Romans then by the monasteries and the abbeys, so the Languedoc Roussilon vines have always been central to the region's economic and cultural history.

Records show that it was the ancient Greeks who were the first people to plant vines the 5th century BC. The Romans planted vines along side the Domitian Way, the famous road that ran along the Mediterranean coast joining Rome to Spain and Portugal and it is recorded that production was increased in 97 AD to compensate for loss of the vineyards around Pompeii after the volcanic eruption.

Winemaking continued rather uneventfully until the Middle Ages when certain religious orders became interested in developing new flavours and techniques for producing wine. Blanquette de Limoux, arguably the world's first sparkling wine, can be dated back as far as 1531 and its creation is attributed to the monks of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Limoux. At this time the practice was to store wine in animal skins but the monks at the abbey for some reason kept their wine in large glass flasks close with a cork and because of this storage method it acquired a natural sparkle.

The art of winemaking reached a peak in the 17th Centaury but by the 20th Centaury the wines were considered to be very ordinary. A lot of work has been done over the last twenty years or so to transform the quality of the regions wines and to exploit the perfect vine growing conditions. Modern winegrowers have drawn upon ancient knowledge to rediscover the character of the traditional grape varieties and to exploit the individual conditions created by soil type, aspect and climate which give different characteristics to wine made from different grapes grown on different parcels of land or "terroirs". Alongside the rediscovery of the old skills the winemakers have incorporated modern techniques from New World producers to improve their vinification techniques (production methods). Quality rather than quantity is now the goal of many of the regions producers. Their achievements have been rewarded and the area now benefits from Appellation d'Origine Contrölée status which is an internationally recognised mark of quality.

Wine tastes different to everyone so no one can tell you which wines you will like, it is personal and you are never wrong so tasting wine is completely stress free.

Use a clear clean glass and pour in approximately ½ inch (1cm) of wine.
Ideally you should be in a well lit white painted north facing room with no strong smells to detract from the wine - this is not essential for recreational tasting but good light and no strong smells is a great starting point, if all else fails a dimly lit dining room or lounge is better than nothing.

1. First, have a really good look at the wine in the glass. Hold it up to a light background (a wall, white table cloth shirt or T shirt) and note the color and how much light the wine lets through (this is known as the opacity). No for the sexist bit - wines are like women and should be bright and radiant when they are young, and definitely not cloudy. Older red wines will show off less of a brilliant color and have darker edges (the area where the wine and glass meet). White wines that appear brown and lifeless may be "corked," a term that refers to a wine that has been exposed to excessive heat or air in the bottle (the term comes from having a bad cork) and has completely oxidized, meaning all of the sugars and alcohol have been broken down into vinegar, throw it away and start again.

2. Swirl the wine in the glass for a few seconds to allow it to "open" up. Look at the texture of the wine in the glass, thick - sticking to the side of the glass creating "legs" or thin. Swirling also allows the tannins in the wine time to breathe or aerate. (Tannins are a polyphenol component of red wines that come from grape skins and seeds as well as oak barrels). They are responsible for that bitter taste you get in red wines. Allowing them time to "open up" will expose them to air, leading to the breakdown of some of the rough tannins and a smoother, creamy tasting wine). As the wine "opens up" it will also expose the underlying fruits and spices. Red wine, which is full of tannins, will usually take longer than white wine to reach its full potential. Younger wines may also need more air exposure to really show their potential, as the tannins in these wines have not had time to develop.

3. Smell the wine. Place your nose just inside the top of the glass and breathe in slowly. From the scent you will get a good idea of what to expect from the flavor of the wine. You should note any fruits, spices, or unique aromas. Give the wine another swirl then smell it again. Did anything change?

4. Finally, taste the wine. Take a sip of the wine and allow it to fill your entire mouth. Give it a bit of a swish around, like mouthwash but not quite as enthusiastic and breathe in a little air over the wine. Try to pick out particular flavors, noting the acidity, level of alcohol, and any other unique qualities. Once you swallow the wine, observe how long the wine sticks around on your palette, as well as how dry it makes your mouth feel (a result of the tannin content).

Have fun describing the flavors you can detect by using the names of smells and tastes that everyone is familiar with throw in a sprinkling of words like complex, big, round, acidic and you will soon sound like James May, Top Gear presenter and new friend of Oz Clarke international wine ponce!

To further enhance your new found knowledge here are some notes to help you select local French wines at home or on holiday. Alcoholic content is not very important but any wine that has won a medal is worth trying although be prepared to pay a little bit more for the privilege. And although it sounds ridiculous bottles with a little bit of gold on the label are a good bet - try it out!

Minervois - classified A.O.C. in 1985
Red, rosé and white wines, Muscat and "vins nobles", produced within a triangle formed by the three towns of Carcassonne, Narbonne and Beziers, covering an area of 45000 hectares, only 12500 hectares of which are in production.

Grape varieties : Mourvedre and Syrah bring an aromatic complexity and finesse to the Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache for the red and rosé wines. There are many white grape varieties : Marsanne, Roussanne, Maccabeu, Bourboulenc, Rolle, Clairette and Muscat.Characteristics : the eastern part of the Minervois offers well-structured reds with a fine blackcurrant robe, the central part produces wines that are distinguished and supple, while the whites are fresh and rich in floral aromas. In the western part the reds are lively and aromatic, the whites drier. At a higher altitude the reds are more full-bodied while the whites draw their inspiration from the scent of heather.

The Muscat from Saint-Jean-de-Minervois is a "Vin Doux Naturel" subtle fruity and well worth trying. The village is in the north-eastern most corner of the Minervois appellation and the local vineyards were awarded with their own appellation for sweet Muscat in 1950, at this time the wine was largely being produced for home consumption by the locals. The 1999 vintage from Bertie Eden, great-nephew of one-time UK Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, who under the umbrella label of Comte Cathare owns Domaine de Montahuc, is simply stunning. If you can find it buy at least two bottles!

Cabardès - calssified A.O.C. in 1999
This is a small, lesser-known Appellation, located North West of Carcassonne. It was the first appellation to combine the Atlantic/Bordeaux grape varieties with those from the Mediterranean coast. At least 40% of the blend must be Merlot or Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon, and of a further 40% minimum must be Syrah or Grenache - with the balance up to 20% being Cot (Auxerrois or Malbec) or Fer Servadou (also known as Braucol in Gaillac and Pinenc in Madiran).
Look out for the wines of - Chateau de Pennautier in UK wine merchants and plan to go wine tasting and visit to the wine bar and restaurant there during your holiday.

Cabrières - classified AOC in 1937, a small but significant terroir around the village of Cabrières where a few vineyards are planted on the same seam of schist that runs through the premium wine producing areas of Faugères and St Chinian. Historically the region has produced pink wines, but in recent years production has turned to quality reds. Look out for the white wine "Clairette du Languedoc", and the red and rosé Coteaux du Languedoc "Cabrières". There is a lovely story about the Countess of Cabrières who fell in love with Prince Theodebert of the Franks and took grape vines to the Moselle.

The story of the Countess of Cabrières

Côtes de la Malepère - classified AOC in 2007
This Appellation is dedicated to red and rosé wines situated in the 39 communes of the Aude, to the west of Carcassone, a region which combines the influences of the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The production is 30,000 hectolitres. The main variety for red wines is Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Côt and rosé varieties are Cabernet Franc, Cinsaut and Grenache.

Blanquette de Limoux - classified AOC in 1981.
Titus Livy a Roman historian (59BC - 17AD) wrote in praise of the white wines of Limoux. At that time they were still wines (no bubbles). During the VIIth century Benedictine monks founded an abbey in Saint Hilaire. It was there in 1531, that a monk discovered the natural transformation of still wine into sparkling wine (with bubbles). The sparkling Blanquette de Limoux was the first AOC achieved in the Languedoc region in 1936. Blanquette de Limoux can contain threegrape varieties, Mauzac (which most constitute a minimum of 90% of the wine),Chardonnay and Chenin blanc.
The grape varieties are vinified separately before being assembled and bottled. Just before bottling, a tirage (wine + active yeast) is added to the blend so that a second fermentation will take place in the bottle. The carbon dioxide produced during this second fermentation is trapped in the bottle and gives the wine its effervescence. After nine months, the bottles are opened and sediment is filtered out before a final corking.Limoux Méthode Ancestrale - classified AOC in1938.
Blanquette is produced by an alternate process in which only Mauzac grapes are used, the fermentation is entirely natural, and the bottling occurs during the season of the changing moon in March. This version typically contains less than 7% alcohol.

Crémant de Limoux - classified AOC in 1990.
It's creation was a consequence of the push to improve the quality of local wines and it permits higher proportions of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc in the blend. There is a minimum of 30% included, with a maximum of 20% of either.Limoux Chardonnay gained its own AOC 1992. It is a still white wine produced from the Chardonnay grape in the typical burgundy fashion. Limoux is influenced both by a Mediterranean and by a cooler Atlantic climate, and as such is particularly well suited for white wine and produces well balanced, rich, yet refreshing Chardonnays. Its reds also take advantage of the region's two climates, mixing the Mediterranean grape varieties with those of Bordeaux.
Look out for wines from Domaine Begude

Maury is a sweet, fortified dessert wine. Although the grapes are different, they are used and marketed very like Port. It is produced in the communes of Maury, Rasiguères, Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet and Tautavel. The wine is usually red and made from at least 75% Grenache Noir, the other principal grapes being Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Maccabeu, the latter not exceeding 10%. In addition, the varieties Carignan and Syrah, up to a maximum 10%, are also permitted. Matured for twelve months in wood before bottling. The end result can be wonderful. There is just one producer:

Mas Amiel

Fitou was the first red wine in the Languedoc to be recognised as a wine of quality and obtain AOC status in 1948. It covers an area of production of 2,500ha of vines, producing 100,000hl (13.3million bottles) of wine with an average of 40hl per hectare, the lowest yield of the Languedoc AOC. The principal grape variety is Carigan, which has to constitute 40% of any blend.
Grenache, Llandoner Pelut (the 'hairy' Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah are also often blended with it. These wines are made for drinking young, and tend to be tannic with fresh forest fruit flavours.

Classified AOC in 1985, the Corbières vineyards cover 15,500 hectares between Narbonne, Carcassonne and Perpignan. Apart from the rosés and the whites, 93% of the wine production is red. These generous wines are wines to be kept, their distinctive aromas are spices, worn leather and coffee.

Cheaper but still good for mid week drinking on a budget or an alcoholic ingredient for a special dish are the Vin de Pays. Look out for these names on your local supermarket shelf.

Vin de Pays de Cathar
Vin de Pays de la Haute Vallée de l'Aude
Vin de Pays de Hauterive
Vin de Pays de la Cité de Carcassonne
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Prouilhe
Vin de Pays des Côtes de Lastours
Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Peyriac
Vin de Pays des Hautes de Badens
Vin de Pays du Val de Dagne
Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Miramont
Vin de Pays des Côtes du Brian
Vin de Pays du Val de Cesse
Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Littoral Audois
Vin de Pays des Coteaux de la Cabereisse
Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Narbonne
Vin de Pays de la Vallée du paradis

And as Steve says: "I love cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food!"


© 2011 Domaine des Etoiles
Domaines des Etoiles - Cottages & Bed and Breakfast• 2 Chemin des Moulins • 11240 Routier • France 
Tel: +33 (0) 468 69 18 46 email:
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