Pau-Pyrénées: Jurançon, treasure hunt version
Are you unbeatable when it comes to appellation secrets? Do the kids know the story of the musketeers better than their parents? Well, there’s only one way to find out: head off on the discovery trail at the Domaine du Cinquau, in “Entre-deux-Gaves”, located north-east of Pau. This trail, laid out for visiting and duly waymarked, weaves its way through vines and forest, all around the estate. Walkers, strollers, equipped with a digital tablet and a visit-loop map, can choose between two itineraries: the mini loop (1 h) and the main loop (2 h). To whet your appetite, the onboard app invites a virtual musketeer to speak through an explanatory video created to guide the walkers. Basically, at each milestone, a general culture challenge, presented as MCQ, is displayed. There’s no treasure to look for, but a tasty treat on arriving: a tasting session of dry, sweet whites from the estate. And, worth noting: the rally (from €3 to €5/pers.) only takes place during fine weather (from April to October).
Domaine du Cinquau, in Artiguelouve. www.cinquau.fr
In the Landes, incredibly-natural Armagnac
Château Garreau didn’t wait to celebrate its centenary in 2019 to pay tribute to Armagnac and to its traditions. Since 1986, this family-run estate hosts an eco-museum totally dedicated to human savoir-faire in this historic region, where transmission and innovation live together on a daily basis. As a research centre, the museum also invites to discover through a myriad of entertaining, cultural and heritage spaces. Les Garreau, who have run the estate for some four generations, have inaugurated visits to the Winemaker Museum (more than 1,000 tools related to this craft of the land), the Wine Stills Museum (where the oldest dates back to 1919), a permanent exhibition of bottles (hundreds of bottles, each more original than the last) and a nature discovery trail focusing on local flora and fauna (around 2 h for the main itinerary). The visit known as “the Prince’s visit” includes a trip to the century-old winery and an Armagnac tasting session. And, while you’re here, don’t miss out on: in August, the night-time farm produce and gourmet market, organized on the estate (commentated walks, musical ensembles, fireworks, and more), in September the “grape-picker for a day” workshops (harvesting grapes, pressing and aperitif tasting session) and, in November, the opportunity to sample the year’s vintage, as distillation time will have come around.
Armagnac ecomuseum. Château Garreau, in Labastide-d’Armagnac. www.ecomusee-armagnac.fr
In Dordogne: Oenologist for a day in Bergerac
Lost amongst strawberries and wooded areas: this conjures up Domaine du Bout du Monde, where Véronique Vialard and Olivier Candon cultivate 3.5 ha of vines biodynamically.
In 2008, Véronique was one of the first-ever to create a blending workshop in the region. “A wonderful way to creates links and to meet other people around a shared passion”, she says. As a qualified oenologist, she leads this initiation. Participants in pairs, get together around wine barrels where large test-tubes and a slate are waiting for them. After a reminder of the principles of wine tasting, the importance of the nose and the robe, they can then have a go at blending different grape varieties. Attempting to elegantly combine Merlot and Cabernet, be it frank or Sauvignon, requires patience and concentration… And, occasionally it takes a few trials and errors before finding the perfect balance. Woody and spicy, floral and fruity aromas are then mixed together in a special bottle, which the apprentice oenologist can even personalize.
Domaine du Bout du Monde. Two addresses: Les Costes, in Ribagnac and Pissot, in Creyssensac-et-Pissot. (€30 per person) www.domaineduboutdumonde.com
In the Basque Country: Zen-style Irouléguy
Although acknowledged as amongst the smallest vineyards in France, Irouléguy bubbles over with eco-tourism stop-offs which are be engraved in memories forever. Wine lovers, on a quest for wide, open spaces, will be over the moon when they knock on the door of Domaine Mourguy, where a whole family operates the 9 hectares of vineyards and proposes to accommodate visitors who so wish in a former stable converted into a guesthouse (Gîtes de France).
To gain better insight into the terroir, why not book a trek on a donkey, an excursion which delights children in particular (from €12 to €36 depending on the duration, the time, per day). The vines, terrace-planted on Arradoy Mountain, express themselves in another light. Last but not least, the village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, just ten minutes away on foot, diffuses the soul of the Basque Country to perfection.
Domaine Mourguy in Ispoure