Cathars, Sunshine & Wine

A view over vineyards in the valley

The Languedoc region is blessed with many things but I think three of the most enticing things for visitors is the climate, the wine and the history and here at Vin en Vacances we have devised a tour that guarantees all of this.

Catharism was a religious cult that spread through many parts of Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries but it was in Languedoc where it flourished and was openly practised.  

As it took hold the Pope tried to control the people and bring them back to the Catholic faith but his efforts failed and he realised he needed armed men to crush the Cathars in Languedoc. He eventually persuaded the King of France to join him in a Holy War, a crusade against Catharism. The king wanted Languedoc to be part of his realm and saw the crusade as a chance to achieve this dream so he raised a massive army led by the Dukes of France and the warrior Catholic churchmen who marched on Languedoc.

Vineyard Alchemy

Vineyards at Sunset

During the first months of the year, a walk through a vineyard is like visiting a cemetery. The vines look dead, standing like rows of headstones and it’s hard to believe they will resurrect to produce juicy grapes in half a years’ time.

The vines are dormant and have been since their leaves fell after the first very cold spell, usually just after Christmas. It was then that the pruning began. The farmer must hand prune every vine and ideally this job must to be finished by the end of March, before the warming of Spring wakes them from their long winter slumber. Pruning is an important and skilled job as it will determine not only the shape of the vine but the amount of fruit the vine will yield.

A New Year, a new chapter…


This year Vin en Vacances is joined by Gregg Meesters who will be running tours and tastings in the Pézenas and Capestang areas.  Here, in his first blog since joining our team he tells us how it all came about.

A New Year, a new chapter…

That’s what 2017 represents to me. In 2015 I moved to the beautiful Occitanie with my wife and 2 girls, looking for a different lifestyle and new challenges. And boy did we find challenges. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the administrative challenges that come with moving from one country to another. I am here to talk about a much more interesting challenge… Wine of course!

Although wine has always been a part of my life – I still remember my dad bringing up his “good” bottles of wine from the cellar and me peeling the labels off the bottles to put in my scrapbook but it wasn’t until we decided to move to the largest wine producing area of the world that I became a wine enthusiast.

Where to eat in Carcassonne

Terrace at dusk

Food & Wine are so intrinsically intertwined with life in France, that we thought we’d share some of our favourite places to grab a bite in and around Carcassonne. With many of our guests staying either in the Bastide or up in La Cité, we’re often asked for restaurant recommendations, so we’ve decided to share some of our favourite culinary hotspots with you! Some will be fabulous tapas bars, or places to grab a quick bite, others will offer a more formal dining experience. So without further ado…. A TABLE!

Taste! Tuscany 2016



Carlos and I were very excited to be running the first of the ‘out of Languedoc’ wine holidays from the range of Taste Tours that I created last year. This one was called Taste! Tuscany and was 7 days of exploring the vineyards, the wines, the olive oils and beautiful villages and towns of this area. I had put the tour on the web site last November and was absolutely delighted when 16 people booked and the mix was perfect; 8 from the USA and 8 from the UK.

I had spent a week in Tuscany on a ‘field trip’ with my professor when I was studying for my WSET Diploma in 2005 and Carlos and I spent a week there in October 2015 getting our bearings and deciding on an itinerary. I had also studied the wines of the region quite seriously over the years so we were well prepared when we set off this September and drove from Languedoc in one of the Vin en Vacances little buses, we were to hire another one in Pisa.