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Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

The Old World vineyards are woven tightly into European countryside for many centuries already and can be traced from the Atlantic to the Caucasus and from the Mediterranean to the Baltics. It is a wonderful landscape created in the unity by man and nature - vast vineyards, spreading across valleys and hillsides and unique historic towns and villages, encircling them.
Iter Vitis route, incorporated into the program "The Council of Europe Cultural Routes", seems like a verdant vine that leads us through rural areas of 18 European countries. Cabins and castles, churches and bridges, canals and windmills, mountains and hillocks follow one another like bunches of rich and juicy grapes, each telling a story of big and small places, people and traditions.
It goes without saying that Iter Vitis wine route makes a romantic bend also through France - the Old World winemaking Mecca.

The Gaillac district in France is one of oldest wine-growing regions there, its major towns including Albi, Montauban and the city of Toulouse. The town of Gaillac was founded in the year 972 and its first vineyards were planted by Romans in the 1st century BC.

Today Gaillac vineyards cover 2500 hectares of land and spread over 73 communes with an annual output of more than 165,000 hectoliters of AOC wine, produced by 100 independent wine producers and three cooperative cellars.
The soil of the left bank terraces of the Tarn River, flowing along the southern border of the town, comprises pebbles, gravels and sands called "boulbenes" that are particularly favorable for red wine grape varieties. Wines that are produced there are famous for their deep color and fruity, spicy notes. Clay-calcareous soils of the river's right bank slopes, spreading more to the south, give excellent Duras and Syrah grapes. These wines have thick, full and harmonious taste, but Cordes Plateau calcareous clay soil adds some fruity notes, making them cunningly seductive, elegant and exquisite.

Foto: Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

Follow alluring aromas of Gaillac wines, you can take a journey around the small towns and villages of the area. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the 14th century Place du Griffoul, the medieval square of Gaillac. Intensive aromas are oozing from fruit and vegetables that are brought here from across the area and laid down in the sun-filled marketplace. Lively chatter of buyers and sellers is surrounding you, quieting only when the bell heralds arrival of the town consul.
Life of Gaillac inhabitants flowed seemingly quiet, the same way as the lazy waters of the Tarn River, running peacefully through the town. At the same time, vigorous trade was taking place in the port and cellars of the town. Carts were rattling along the streets as barrels were taken from cellars to the port, and boats, loaded with wine barrels were travelling up and down the stream.

Foto: Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

Life was bubbling also in other towns on the Tarn, such as, Montans and Giroussens that were important pottery production centers of the time, with kilns burning and thousands of pottery and terracotta items coming out of them.
Only few would know that Graulhet in France was a major tanning and leather production centre, long before this industry flourished in China. Another sip of local wine and yet another interesting fact comes to the surface: it turns out that Graulhet's name comes from frog (graulhas), as frogs were extremely widespread in wetlands of the surrounding countryside.

Foto: Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

The first fortified towns "bastides" were built in this area during the reign of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse. Lisle-sur-Tarn, made of typical Toulouse pink bricks, was one of the first of its kind, and it is still easy to imagine idyllic, 13th century town life there.

Foto: Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

Route de Saurs makes a perfect shortcut through Gaillac vineyards. Shaded by ancient trees, towers of small rural churches appear here and there behind vast and verdant vineyards. It is a tranquil and harmonious landscape, yet with thousands of years of history passing in front your eyes as you travel along the road.

Foto: Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

Town of Salvagnac has become a favored holiday destination among Frenchmen nowadays, and its green valleys and sunny hills offer perfect relaxation to those tired of the urban life. Aside from rural charm, Salvagnac boasts beautiful architectural monuments, such as Notre-Dame church with Nicolai Greschny's frescoes and the towers of the old castle - historic relicts for the inquisitive ones.

Foto: Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

The historic Puycelsi commune resembles a stone ship, which rises above the fields that are gently waving in the wind. Initially, the medieval village was built on a massive rock, but after the WWII almost entirely abandoned, turning into a ghost town. Nowadays, as its inhabitants start returning, Puycelsi has become a member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France - the most beautiful villages of France.

Foto: Fortress Towns and Gaillac Vineyards

When you finally reach Labastide-de-Lévis, lie down under its trees and look up at the dark line where the mountain peaks meet the sky. The white tower of St. Blaise church attempts piercing the sky, while white pigeons, inhabiting its attic for many centuries, circle around it.

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