Pyrénées-ori­en­tales

Living France - - Destination -

Su­perb beaches, snowy peaks and bu­colic val­leys, me­dieval vil­lages, vine­yards and or­chards and a French way of life spiced up by a lit­tle je ne sais quoi, Pyrénées-Ori­en­tales has it all in­clud­ing long hours of sun­shine as be­fits the main­land’s most southerly depart­ment. You can bathe in the Mediter­ranean, ski in the Pyrénées, and what­ever the sea­son, en­joy a unique cul­ture blend­ing au­then­tic France with the vi­brant colours of Cat­alo­nia and a touch of old L’Oc­c­i­tanie.

It all goes back to the late 13th cen­tury when the an­cient prov­ince of Rous­sil­lon was ceded to the Kings of Ma­jorca. The re­gion pros­pered un­der the new rulers, but when the House of Aragon took over, re­bel­lions and war even­tu­ally broke out and in 1659, at the Treaty of the Pyrénées, Rous­sil­lon was re­turned to the French crown against the wishes of most Cata­lans. Its spirit was strong, how­ever, and across the depart­ment, the red and gold stripes of Cat­alo­nia still flut­ter in the breeze along­side the tri­col­ore. The only ex­cep­tion is the Oc­c­i­tan-speak­ing Fe­nouil­lèdes, which ad­joins Langue­doc in the north-west. It was never ruled by Ma­jorca but was in­cor­po­rated into the newly cre­ated depart­ment in 1790.

Three near-par­al­lel rivers flow across PyrénéesOri­en­tales from the moun­tains to the sea: the River Tech in the south; the River Têt, which reaches the Mediter­ranean east of Per­pig­nan; and the River Agly in the north, which tum­bles down from the rugged hills of the Cor­bières to carve its way through the spec­tac­u­lar Gorges de Gala­mus. Laced in for­est, gar­rigue and vine­yards, th­ese north­ern reaches are a peace­ful haven for trekkers and his­tory lovers. A 450,000-year-old hu­man skull was found in a cave above the Gorges de Gouley­rous, and in the nearby vil­lage of Tau­tavel, the pre­his­tory mu­seum hap­pily com­petes with the wine-pro­duc­ing trail.

Blessed by a glo­ri­ous cli­mate and a fine ter­roir, PyrénéesOri­en­tales is a prime wine-pro­duc­ing area where the sweet for­ti­fied wines of Maury and Rivesaltes in the Agly val­ley, or Banyuls on the coast, com­ple­ment the reds from Col­lioure and the Côtes du Rous­sil­lon and Rous­sil­lon Vil­lages. AOCs abound, but look be­yond the la­bels and you will find much en­thu­si­asm for in­no­va­tive, hand­crafted wines.

Jonathan Hes­ford and his Kiwi wife, Rachel Treloar, moved to Pyrénées-Ori­en­tales in 2005. “We had a dream to make wine from our own vine­yard,” Jonathan says. “I stud­ied the trade in New Zealand be­fore we de­cided to come to France. We found a small wine es­tate in Trouil­las, near Per­pig­nan, which was per­fect for us, and then we cre­ated Do­maine Treloar, our own brand, and built our house within the ‘ cave’. The ini­tial rea­son for choos­ing this re­gion was the promis­ing ter­roir but we also love the scenery, the un­crowded roads, the fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory and the re­laxed down-to-earth way of life. We en­joy the nice mix­ture of Cata­lan and French cul­ture, the cui­sine, and mainly through hav­ing young chil­dren and work­ing in viti­cul­ture, we have made friends with many lo­cals. Now we have 10 vin­tages un­der our belt. We pro­vide

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