Sunday, December 07, 2008

Biker Day Out

After the success of October's biker weekend, my TWDB and I took one look at the weather yesterday and jumped on the bike. Amazingly, we haven't had the chance since October to go biking, so we felt the opportunity keenly while the weather held out.

We also had a task to do - go and taste wine at the Mas de Daumas Gassac. Yeah, I know, such a chore, dahhhling! Pal B had reserved a huge bottle of their 2006 cru and suggested that we go along for the ride, take lunch and visit the cave so that he could collect it. Nice one!

The plan was to meet for lunch first - tasting on an empty stomach half way through the morning is not terribly advisable if you want to be compos mentis and functioning for the rest of the day - so that gave my TWDB and I the chance to go to Aniane via the coast.

We headed down to Palavas and then took the canal-side track that goes all the way to Les Aresquiers beach near Vic le Gardiole. We had the lagoon on one side, the canal and another lagoon on the other, and this thin strip of rough track that took us almost 10km!

We passed the little fishermen's cottages, all brightly painted at the Palavas end. They have now become very desirable, of course, being cute and very peaceful, and perfect for fishing. A bit smelly in the summer though - the lagoon does get to whiff a bit in the heat.

From Les Aresquiers, we took the road to Frontignan, producer of sweet muscat wine, and then took the D2 towards Poussan. We thus left the flat coastal plain with miles of straight track and smells of salt and sea, and entered the arrière pays of hills and windy roads. The smell of salt changed to pine, damp earth and fresh herbs. The sun also played tag with us, bequeathing ever fewer moments of its much-appreciated warmth, so we were getting quite chilled by the time we reached Aniane in time for lunch.

I had done some homework on likely restaurants and found a pizzeria called Chez Fabrice that seemed to be suitable. Unfortunately, out of season, it's closed at lunch time, as was most of Aniane. So we wasted no more time and went back to Gignac where everything was open.

As we stood looking at a selection of three, the owner of one came out and invited us inside. So that is how we discovered Le Brasier restaurant, and we were absolutely delighted to have done so, too. The food was beautiful - freshly cooked, fresh ingredients, and very tasty. I started with ris de veau, then had grilled gambas with a selection of vegetables and aioli, and even finished with a lemon & meringue pie. The other two started with a homemade fois gras and then had a lotte à la plancha with the same fresh vegetables and aioli. We washed it down with some Villa Dondona from Montpeyroux which, at 25€ a bottle was a bargain so delicious it was. The owner was a character and told us about how she splits her time between Gignac and Rio de Janeiro where she has friends, a flat, and a financial interest in a restaurant.

After lunch we made our way to the Mas de Daumas Gassac behind Aniane. Although the wine is Vin de Pays, and not AOC, it is recognised as being one of the region's great wine producers and is internationally renowned. The reason why it is not classed as AOC is because some cépages, such as cabernet sauvignon are used, and as this is not a recognised local cépage, it means that the wine doesn't qualify for Languedoc AOC status. This doesn't stop it from being a very fine wine, however.

After tasting, we visited the cave, saw the huge aluminium vats, then the rows upon rows of barrels reminding me of the scene in 'Asterix in GB' when the Roman soldiers have to open every single barrel of wine they've found in their search for the barrel of magic potion.

By this time it was getting late, and no warmer. It was going to be a chilly ride back to Montpellier. There's a special feeling of well-being on a motorbike. I am not the one driving, but it doesn't matter, the feeling is the same. Quite apart from the fact that I'm sitting behind my TWDB and thus more than happy, comes an extra depth of feeling - joy and peace, happiness at riding in touch with nature - the smells, being so involved with 'outside' (cold, warmth, damp) which you also get on a bicycle of course. On a motorbike though, you can go further, faster, and more excitingly which gives it an edge over cycling.

We went from town to the sea, to hilly inland, experienced the glow of warmth from the sun, the chill of a sun-less wind, and the odd spot of rain. It was definitely a fully-rounded ride, topped with a delicious lunch in the company of pal B, and tasting some of the best wines of the region.

Another perfect biking day. More please!


  1. Oh, those Montpeyroux wines are sooooooo good.

    Dondona seems welcoming enough, but I wonder how you make rendezvous, seeing as the web site says it's only open from 01/01/70 to 01/01/70.

  2. Is that Palavas-Aresquiers piste negotiable by car? It sounds fun, but looking along it on google earth I can't see any vehicles at all.

  3. It could be except that there are barriers stopping vehicles. It's a very fragile environment and having cars pounding up the track would soon wear it out. The only other people we saw were cyclists and joggers.


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