While not the most famous nor the most popular wine appellation in southern France, Cabardès is not one to be overlooked either. Huddled in the arid rolling hills surrounding the medieval fortress of Carcassonne, Cabardès has a surprisingly large array of flavors depending on the climate, as the 1,360-acre (550-hectare) appellation is positioned on the cusp between the Languedoc-Roussillon and Sud-Ouest regions. This duplicity in flavors, aromas, climates and landscapes can easily be perceived in the Cabardès wines, with a noticeable Bordeaux grasp, yet a typically Languedoc depth.
Wine production remained relatively local here until the completion of the Canal du Midi in 1681, which completely revolutionized the winemaking methods in the region, instantaneously making exportation an important part of the game.
But despite Cabardès’ medieval origins, the appellation is one of the youngest in France, having only become official in 1999 – a newborn by oenology standards. The wines are the only ones to mix a minimum of 40 percent Atlantic varieties (like merlot and cabernets) and 40 percent Mediterranean varieties (like syrah and grenache), with the remaining 20 percent consisting of côt and/or fer servadou, a unique composition heightened by the dominant winds of this mountainous region. To this day, there are over 300 winemakers in Cabardès, most of which have wineries and vineyards open to the public.
The region is located just over an hour southeast of Toulouse via the A61, or 30 minutes north of Carcassonne via departmental roads. Domaine de Cabrol in Aragon (via D118), Domaine des Sesquières (via D6113 and D8) in Alzonne and Domaine Escourru in Ventenac-Cabardès (via D6113 and D35) all offer tasting sessions and guided visits of the winery and the vineyard. However, Château de Pennautier (via D203) steals the spotlight with its lavish castle, which can be visited for €9 at 11AM on Wednesdays in July and August. The domain and park are open to the public year round.