Food, wine & culture
The cuisines of Languedoc-Rousillon
The cuisines and ingredients used in Languedoc Roussillon, south France are surprisingly varied. Virtually every town or district in Languedoc has a favourite dish often based on locally available produce.
Olives and truffles
Olives are traditionally grown in the Uzège, the extensive scrubby woodlands which extend north of Uzès. Used in countless dishes and also turned into the delicious olive paste, tapenade, olives are a popular ingredient in the region’s dishes. L’oulibo Olive Co-operative is at Cabezac where you can taste all the different types of olives and olive oils which they produce, and buy olives, olive oil and a huge range of products, household goods and souvenirs from the region. Tours can be arranged.
This area is also well known for its truffles, a potent black fungus which grows elusively on the roots of certain trees and is used to flavour everything from olive oil to omelettes. Try a fascinating visit to the Truffle Museum in the village of Villeneuve, just 10 minutes from Trausse.
Fresh fish and seafood
On the coast, the town of Sète is famous for its bourride, a fish stew with a garlicky mayonnaise. Other fish such as sea bass, tuna and sardines, proliferate on the menus of many seafood restaurants. Languedoc is also an excellent place to sample fresh oysters and mussels which are cultivated in the shallow lagoons on the coastal strip.
Cheese and honey
In Languedoc Roussillon’s upland areas, there’s greater emphasis on dishes with figs which grow in plenitude at these slightly higher altitudes. This is the area for various goats cheeses and honey which comes in several varieties, the most expensive is lavender honey. Plenty of vendors sell local cheeses at the Olonzac market where you can also taste locally produced honey.
Cassoulet and winter favourites
Languedoc cuisine relies heavily on local produce: olive oil, tomato sauces, and herbs from the wild garrigue landscapes of the region such as thyme, rosemary and sorrel. Although strictly traditional to the Toulouse area, perhaps the best known pan-regional dish is cassoulet – a filling casserole of haricot beans, mutton, pork or sausages and preserved goose – truly delicious and a real winter warmer. Another winter favourite, particularly in the more mountainous regions away from the coast is wild boar which will feature on many menus and a hearty soup known as ollada, popular on both sides of the Pyrenees.
Every village will have a market day, and there are several markets in the local area on most days of the week. Olonzac market is about 20 minutes away and a firm favourite with our visitors. Further afield, the bigger more well-known markets include Narbonne, Mirapoix, Carcassonne and Limoux. During the summer many towns also have night markets where you can eat, drink and listen to music.
Sunday vide grenier (empty attic) markets are a Languedoc tradition, and you will find these regularly staged throughout the year in local villages. You can pick up anything from toys, fine French linen, china, glassware and clothing.
The Minervois is a major wine producing region in its own right, recognised as an Applelation d’Origine Controllee (AOC) in 1985. Minervois wines are grown between Minerve and Villalier Minervois, from the Montagne Noir to the river Aude with the capital used to be Minerve (a beautiful Cathar village with a tragic history overlooking a deep gorge), the most famous appelation within the Minervois is La Liviniere. The area is attracting other wine investors too. In the vicinity of the village there are excellent cycling, walking and horse riding routes through the vineyards. Trausse village itself boasts several notable wine producers including Jean-Baptiste Senat.
The Minervois, like the Languedoc in general, has been strong in the cooperative movement with almost every commune having its ‘cave cooperative’, sometimes even more than one where local traditions and jealousies were very strong. Recent years have, however, seen the healthy development of individual ‘caves’ where the individual producers are attempting to differentiate their products in order to gain market advantages. This has inevitably had an effect on the strength of the Coops. The trend towards individuals’ attempts at market differentiation has also lead to an increasing development of single variety wines and also a proliferation of labels adapted to various market sectors, sometimes showing imaginary chateaux.
There are a huge number of local vineyards to visit and enjoy during your stay with us. The village of La Liviniere, just a few minutes drive away with many high quality vineyards to visit. An extremely interesting tour can be made at Domaine L’Ostal Cazes, the rose is perfect for long-lazy summer lunches. Also try Château de Gourgazaud, just moments from Trausse in a beautiful Chateaux setting and cellar caves.
Parc de lignieres owns a vineyard in the village within walking distance from the house. The vineyard covers about 2 acres and consists of 38 rows each of which is up to 100m long. The grapes are Grenache which are the principle ingredient of Rioja wines, and which are also found in many quality wines.
Within the special Minervois appellation, La Livinerie, Borie du Morel make a limited quantity pure Grenache wine called Belle de Nuit from a vineyard not very far away from ours. Our vines are now maintained and looked after by Jean-Baptiste Senat one of the emerging vignerons of high distinction in the area. His wines have recently been recognised with 90+ ratings by famous wine critic Robert Parker of the USA. Jean-Baptiste, who calls our juice “grenache anglais” , will blend our grape juice with others from his vineyards and from 2012 onwards it will appear in his range of wines.
The vineyard can easily be walked to from the house and follows a footpath through the vineyards behind the church. The vineyard is an excellent place for a picnic because it has beautiful views of the village chapel, the windmill near Chateau Pulignan, and the Pyrenees. it is also really nice to wander through the vines and watch how they develop.
During July and August, the stunning medieval Abbey in the village of Caunes provides a fabulous location for Vendredis Calssiques, a programme of Friday evening classical music concerts.
Many music festivals and tours will also come through Caunes and there is also annual Carcassonne Festival during July and August which is well-known for its extensive variety of music, film and dance.
Caunes is famous for its red marble quarries and celebrates an annual Marble Festival in early summer. A month-long marble symposium brings sculptors from around the world to complete monumental works which are displayed throughout the village. A quarry trail runs up through the valley and hills behind Caunes with stunning views across to the Pyrenees, and you’ll often catch a sculptor at work.
Well worth a visit to some of the local artisans including the Atelier du Monestier in the Place of the Abbey, and the local potter Líonel Postal makes fine stoneware in both functional and decorative styles.