wood caisseLa rentrée–the re-entry, to work, school and regular life after summer vacation–coincides with le vendange–the grape harvest. France has many famous wines, but also many smaller ones that aren’t as well known but often just as good.

bottlesMinervois is a small region just northeast of Carcassonne, with mostly family-run wineries. It’s one of the oldest wine-growing regions in France: around 6 B.C., the Greeks brought grape vines here.

La tour boisée

We recently joined friends new to the region for a tasting at one of our favorite wineries, Domaine de la Tour Boisée, in Laure-Minervois. The domaine is a family operation headed by Jean-Louis Poudou, producing 14 reds, whites and rosés, on 84 hectares (about 207 acres). It recently took on the bio, or organic, label.

Jean-Louis Poudou

Here, wine-making takes its time. We once went to a tasting in the U.S. where the vines were but three years old and the winemaker bragged about “aging on wood.” When we asked where he got his barrels–which are a big expense–he sniffed that he didn’t use barrels but wood chips in metal tanks. His wine was beyond awful.

Pallets of bottles, ready for the next year’s vintage.

By contrast, at la Tour Boisée, the vines of carignan, a variety that’s typical of the Minervois, are 60 years old, and those of alicante, a Spanish grape, are 80 years old. There’s a special wine, called 1905, that mixes 23 varieties planted on a plot in the village in 1905. It’s VERY good.

And the Marie-Claude wine of syrah, grenache and carignan is aged at least a year in oak barrels. Real ones. An investment in time and materials.

An abreuvoir, or watering trough

While choosing a wine is a personal affair, la Tour Boisée’s large selection caters to many tastes. What I want to focus on is the ritual of a tasting.


First, there was a discussion about our preferences. Our group of five adults leaned toward reds (though I’m a big fan of their chardonnay). Frédérique, the owner’s daughter (who has a wine named after her! Isn’t that sweet?), led us through seven wines. Small amounts were poured into stemmed glasses, swirled and sniffed. The wines’ legs were examined–the legs are the traces of wine that flow back to the bottom of the glass after you’ve swirled. Mouthfuls of wine were swished around, breathed through, and mostly swallowed. The drivers took advantage of the crachoir, or spitoon.

tastedWe spent two hours tasting and talking and learning. Then we filled the trunks of the cars with cases of wine. A big difference with the U.S.: it’s pretty much unheard-of to charge for wine tasting, but it’s considered bad form not to buy at least a case. Of course, if you don’t like the wine, you’re under no obligation.

Olive oil
We also got olive oil. The domaine has over 1,000 olive trees.

We didn’t leave without walking around the property. The namesake tower was part of the village’s ramparts.

tour 2

stairs down
Stairs to a secret walled garden. And the reason for the gate….
…is a goat.
lower arch
Instagrammable cuteness everywhere you look

I don’t do sponsored posts, and this is no exception. We just are fans. Many of the Minervois wineries are too small to export their wines, but la Tour Boisée can be found in the U.S., including at Astor Wines in Manhattan.

under olivier






25 thoughts on “La Tour Boisée

  1. Enjoyed your post! One of my greatest disappointments in France is the difficulty of obtaining good local wines from different regions in the ‘grandes surfaces’ or supermarkets. Often the choice is not very inspiring and picking a good one is a bit of a crap shoot. I tend to stick to my favorite Cotes du Rhone but will keep an eye out for the Minervois.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We have found that after finding and getting a good wine the following year one must start the whole process again. This can be the fun of it, but we have bought several ‘pups’ that are not as good (or even awful) the following year.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, convenience for one thing. Being able to unabashedly choose wines from other regions, and not feeling obliged to buy a box! It’s lovely to take the time to visit a winery but for me it’s more of a social thing. Will keep an eye out for a nearby Leclerc. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We generally find a decent selection in our local supermarket and the odd gem in the village shop.
    I am a big fan of the Carignan grape and the Aude and P.O wines in general. We also have a winery in the village”Salazar”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastiskt vackert Och berättat så intressant. Älskar kolla på gamla bygnader, historia från platser! Du skapar sådan kunskap om miljöön, Och viner i orten! Måste vara upplevelse För livet! Kram Till Er alla.


  4. Google translation of your Swedish fan’s comment is amusing- pretty much what I expected (and thought myself), although Google Translate threw in a few words that are new to me. :))

    “Fantastic, beautiful and told so interesting. Love watch old bygnader , history of places! You create such a knowledge of miljöön , and wines in the resort ! Must be the experience of a lifetime ! Hugs to you all.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! Being stupid Americans we take advantage our summers a little bit less. As a result, for working folk, reentree is not such a shock – September feels a lot like August. For my two university student children, though, the shock of reentry is definitely hitting hard. We also live in wine country – Napa Valley – and it is harvest time here now. The white grapes are coming out and the reds starting any day now. It’s beautiful here but something magical about France’s wine country. Thanks for sharing! You may enjoy our wine country blog: http://www.topochinesvino.com. Our latest post is about a winemaker from Gascony making wine here in Napa using varietals from his old stomping grounds.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Now a good wine tasting session of a good wine is a wonder though I have no idea why anyone would want to spit it out unless it was an awful taste, Minervois is one of my favourites, among many I hasten to add, that looks like a very interesting place too x

    Liked by 1 person

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