International Women’s Rights Day – 8th March 2018

This post was kindly written by Suzanne, a friend and neighbour in Saint-Chinian.  She’s a member of an association called WIC, short for Women’s International Club.  The association is very active and brings people of all nationalities together.  A big THANK YOU to Suzanne for sharing this visit!!

This year, WIC (Women’s International Club) chose to visit a rather special vineyard to celebrate Women. The vineyard is special in that it is run solely by a woman – Lidewij – at Terre des Dames, just outside Murviel-les-Béziers – a beautifully situated spot.

The tour was interesting: after explaining the ups and downs of her adventures in launching herself in this new life, Lidewij took us for a walk amongst the fields of vines, showing us how bio-culture can regulate itself.

The lay-out of the vineyards in the Languedoc region is quite particular in that we have small fields of vines surrounded by hedges and trees, in contrast to other regions such as Bordeaux where the fields are immense. These trees and bushes create nesting places for all sorts of fauna, which have various effects on the fields: the birds eat some of the harmful insects. The quality of the soil is checked, amongst others, by counting the amount of a certain kind of spider per square meter. Due to the presence of the hedges, the spiders accumulate there and then are spread out over the fields by the wind.

The almond trees were coming to the end of their flowering season, but still carried some of last year’s fruit:

Lidewij pointed out the various species of grape that she grows. Unfortunately at this time of year, we couldn’t really appreciate this, what with all the plants being bare and waiting for their spring foliage.

Lidewij also explained how she tried to balance out yield and quality – a complicated equation, as it is almost impossible to obtain both at the same time. A certain type of pruning will increase the yield, whereas another way of pruning will improve quality.

The tour ended with a visit of the storage area and a tasting of a few very interesting wines, red and white.

If you fancy a very enjoyable afternoon, you can contact Lidewij Van Wilgen on She speaks extremely good English and French, as well as Dutch.

Here is some more information about Lidewij’s wines:









Blues in the night

I seem to be on a roll about fetes at the moment, but my excuse is that a) it is still summer and b) that’s when the fetes are happening in Languedoc!!   This post is about an evening of music, wine and food at the cooperative winery in Saint-Chinian.  It takes place once a year, and it always coincides with the open day at the Cave Coop, as the cooperative winery is known locally.

I did not go to open day this year, since I’ve been several times before, but if you go to the next open day,  you will be able to visit the working side of the winery, which is normally closed to the public.  The inside looks not unlike a cathedral – incredibly tall, nave-like and with light streaming in through high windows at the end.  Instead of pews there are wine tanks everywhere!


The reason I went inside the winery, before the fete started outside, was the unveiling of a picture.  Last year the cooperative winery started a project called L’Art en Cave. Under the project a contemporary artist is commissioned to paint a mural on one of the cement tanks in the winery, which is then used as the label on that year’s special cuvee. Here is a picture of the 2013 commission:


This year Miss’Tic was commissioned to paint a mural on another tank, and there was a fair “buzz” before the unveiling, in the presence of the artist.  I’ve since learnt that Miss’Tic is an internationally recognised street art painter.

Miss’Tic has been creating her pictures with the help of stencils since 1985, and I found a few of her works on the walls around the cooperative winery, discreetly placed:

Before the unveiling there was a short speech, introducing the artist, and then a few words by the artist herself.  You can see they were having fun!

Then the moment came to pull on the string, to reveal the mural:


And here it is:

The mural is also reproduced on this year’s Cuvee Miss’Tic



A literal translation of the slogan on the picture would be “wine for a life without seed”, but the actual meaning is more along the lines of “wine for a life without problems”!! I’ve not tried that particular cuvee yet, so I can’t vouch for it:)!

After the unveiling there was of course a “verre d’amitie“, the all-important glass of wine. I joined my friends outside, who had found our allocated seats at one of the many tables, which had been set up in front of the winery.

The event is always well frequented by locals, and the wine grower members of the cooperative all work very hard each year, to make the event a success.  The band that evening was playing R&B music, and the food was all locally prepared.  Here’s a picture of the wine list:


And here is the menu:


The food on offer was as follows:

  • Mussels Languedoc style with a glass of white wine
  • Melon and mountain ham with a glass of rose
  • Grilled duck breast and sausage with vegetables, with a glass of red wine
  • Goat’s cheese with a glass of red wine
  • Pastries with a glass of muscat

With each course came a glass of wine, and you could buy a wine glass, with one filling included in the price of the glass.  You could of course bring your own glasses, which you had bought the year before…

The way it all worked is that tickets of a different colour for each course could be bought, either in advance at the winery, or on the night at a central till.  One part of the ticket would get you the wine, the other the food. For six wine tickets you would get a whole bottle.  And if you didn’t want to drink the regular wine, or weren’t hungry, you could just buy a regular bottle, pretty much at the shop price.

The mussels were cooked on great steel trays over an open fire, and they tasted absolutely delicious!

The sausages and duck breast were grilled over the same fire!

As the evening wore on, the atmosphere changed – the coloured lights started to twinkle magically 🙂 .

Cheese was followed by dessert, and by then the light was getting a little too low for pictures.  The band was playing great music, and the whole evening was just wonderful!

Don’t miss this evening if you are in St Chinian in early August!

Wonder no more

The drive from La Croisade to Cruzy is a very picturesque one.  First you cross the Canal du Midi, and then you pass into open countryside, surrounded by vineyards.  The road makes a slight curve to the right and then you see it, ahead of you, slightly to the left, behind the trees.  You can take that drive on google street view, if you like!!

It’s the Chateau de Seriege which is the subject of this post, and it has intrigued me for more years than I care to remember!  The Chateau stands majestically on its own, surrounded by a mini park, and a cluster of buildings behind it.  Every time I have driven past it, all the shutters have been firmly closed, and there has never been any sign of life in the imposing building.  Over the years I had heard various stories about its history, and had heard that it had never been completed nor occupied.  But the mystery surrounding the Chateau was about to be lifted last Saturday, when its doors were thrown open for a guided visit.


The visit had been announced for 3pm, and when I arrived there the car park was already very busy.  The lady who was registering the visitors told me that 200 persons had reserved in advance and that they were expecting an additional 200 visitors on top of that.  Groups of 50 would be taken around the property, and she apologised for the wait.  I didn’t mind in the slightest – I had waited for years already to find out more and get close up, so an extra half hour would not make the slightest difference!!


When it was time for our group, we assembled around the steps to the Chateau, where we were welcomed by Gilles d’Andoque de Seriege, the owner of the Chateau, and Alix Audurier-Cros, Professor Emeritus at Montpellier University.


Alix Audurier-Cros explained the history of the Chateau, and how it came to be built.  The Andoque family were first mentioned in the annals of Cruzy in 1495, and over the centuries they increased their wealth and power, to the point where they were able to buy the manor of Seriege in 1775.  With the manor came the right to call your home a chateau, even though it might not fit into the category of what we imagine a chateau to be like.  Alexandre Andoque decided to build a new Chateau at Seriege, and work started in 1884.


At that point Alexandre Andoque was aged 69, unmarried, and without children.  He died at Seriege in 1902, without the Chateau being completed.  The property then passed to one of his great-nephews, who by all accounts was a city person and spent his time in Montpellier rather than at Seriege.

Let’s have a look at what Alexandre had built:  on a basalt base the Chateau is entirely built with quarried stone – one of the reasons why it has withstood the test of time and being abandoned without coming to too much harm.  The facade is highly ornamented, but here and there you can see bits missing – on the parapet, where bits of the balustrade never made it.  It was wonderful to see the Chateau with almost all the shutters open, and interesting to see that some windows had window frames, and others not, and some window frames had glass in them and others not…

Once the introduction was over we were invited inside – how very exiting!!  The walls of the entrance hallway were entirely tiled up to the ceiling, and the same pattern carried on into the staircase hall.P1080633


An interesting effect, but I’m still not sure what to make of it…  The plaster work on the hallway ceiling was beautiful, and in fairly good condition, but you can tell the overall state of things by the peeling paint/plaster.

Because of the large number of people, only part of the ground floor was made accessible, and the first floor was unfortunately out-of-bounds.  The salon to the right of the staircase had been partly decorated, again with tiles.  In this room dark brown, embossed tiles were used as the background for some bright (tile) picture panels.  Our guide explained that the decor inside the Chateau was inspired by the Japanese art shown at the 1900 World Fair in Paris.  The graffiti on the wall seems to be Japanese inspired too; perhaps someone knows what they might mean??

The next room was another salon, which overlooked the front of the Chateau, again with some beautiful plaster work, but no decorations on the walls.

And then there was the tower room, a lovely, small room with windows on two sides, and the windows had glass panes in them!


On the way out I shook hands with Gilles d’Andoque, and thanked him for allowing me to have a look at this wonderful building.  With that, the visit of the inside of the Chateau was finished – we went back out and down the stairs, where the next group was already lined up for their visit, and we then continued around to the side of the Chateau, for the next part of the visit.


At the side of the building the abandonment feels more acute.  As it is east facing there was no sunlight on this part of the building, and it looked somewhat sad.  I’m not sure what is peeling from the cast-iron pipes – perhaps some insulation?

The reason for being here was a briefing about the genealogy of the Andoque family, and a little more information about how the manor developed over the centuries.  We were now outside the “old Chateau”, a U-shaped building, with the open side closed off by a curtain wall.  This is where members of the Andoque family still live!


Here is a close-up of the clock – have a look at those two obedient greyhounds on either side of the clock face, they must have been sitting there for centuries!   I was puzzled by the greyhounds, until I found out that they are part of the Andoque coat of arms.


Once we had listened to all the history of the family, we went on our next and last stop of the tour:  the wine cellars!  The estate has been a working winery for a long time, and Gilles d’Andoque took up the reins of the Domaine in 1945 from his grandfather, Andre d’Andoque.  In turn he passed the reins on to his grandson, Barthelemy d’Andoque, in 2003, and it was the latter who welcomed us in the cellar.  The winery at Seriege is huge, the cellar building is more than 100 meters long and has a capacity of 20,000 hectoliters.  A hectoliter is 100 liters, so that makes it 2 million liters of wine!!  In its heyday the domaine employed a small army of workers in the vineyards and the cellar.  Over the years, Gilles started to modernise the way of working, introducing the first grape picking machine in the area in the 1970’s.  His grandson continues with innovations, using temperature controlled fermentation to produce today’s wines.  The long history of the estate was well in evidence in the cellar, where the old equipment was still in place.

Unfortunately the wine tasting was only later in the afternoon, and I couldn’t stay for that, but I’m sure I’ll be trying the wines from the domaine some other time soon!


A big thank you to the d’Andoque family of Seriege, for throwing open the doors to the hundreds of curious people, and to the organisers at the Office du Tourisme in Capestang!

Here are a few more pictures, from on the way to the car park…