After our overnight stay at Le Chai de Marguerite, where we were welcomed into a beautifully decorated 19th century maison de vigneron and where we enjoyed a delicious 4-course supper made with home-grown vegetables with our hosts around their candlelit table, we left reluctantly but eager to revisit Minèrve, the small village from which this region gets its name.
Perched on limestone rocks at the confluence of two rivers, it is now classified as one of the Plus beaux villages de France. Historically it’s remembered for the occasion in 1210 when it was a refuge of Cathars besieged by Simon de Montfort and where 140 parfaits were burnt because they refused to renounce their faith. Now it is a major tourist attraction in summer, but at this time of the year seemed to be just waking up after its winter hibernation. There were shocking signs of the extent of the drought we have had this winter, in the dry bed of the river Cesse which should be full of water at this time of year. The other river, the Brian, always has some water in it even in summer, so that was still running.
Man-made stone walls and natural rock seem to grow into and out of each other in this village.
These fruit trees in the valley had been sprayed with copper sulphate.
The limestone makes the soil of the vineyards look as white as the rocks around them. The vines really have to work hard to find enough water to grow here – something which is known to make good wine and the sweet wine of St-Jean-de-Minervois is a well-known local speciality.
We’d eaten too well, if such a thing is possible, the day before so for lunch in Minèrve we could manage only a salade gourmande (for me) and a pizza (for Lo Jardinièr), in the sun on a café terrace overlooking the gorge.