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Head of Silène in bronze, 1st century AD, Lattes

Trenches for Vineyard Planting from the Great Roman Empire, Lattes

Impressions made by a wine press from the Great Roman Empire, Lattes

Overview of vats in a wine cellar, Ist century AD, Mudaison

Photos: INRAP



The preventive archaeological excavations arising from large-scale construction works between Nîmes and Montpellier (the twinning of Highway A9 and the railway bypass of both cities) have once again uncovered the remains of long-standing wine-production operations. Vineyards, rural settlements and their local wine cellars are emerging from the earth at Lattes, Mudaison and Aimargues, in this Narbonnese cradle of French viticulture.
Parcels of land from the Great Roman Empire (1st and 2nd centuries AD) are located on five different sites in Lattes near secondary highways.  They are distinguished by a series of trenches organized in rows, which hold a vine branch at either end of the trench. "Provignage" (stem layering) [1] to renew the plants is confirmed by the perpendicular trenches. The only remaining traces of the small rural settlement of Fromigue, of about 600 m2, relate to wine-making activity between the first and third centuries AD. They piece together before our eyes a wine cellar (evidenced by the presence of 10 dolia trenches, a dolium being a large earthenware vase or vessel used in ancient Roman times for storage or transportation of goods), a reception tank for pressed juice, and a press, evidenced by two impressions. Some amphorae still contain a coating of pitch, used to preserve the wine. A head of the demi-god Silène in bronze on the end of a hook handle, a rare and remarkable object, demonstrates a "trade in luxury goods between Narbonnese's province and Campania" and the adoption of the fashion of Roman wines in connection with the wine culture: Silène was the foster father of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, later becoming Bacchus in Rome.
Stranger, and older, the site of Saint-Pierre, dating from the fourth and fifth centuries BC, reveal a vineyard associated with a "funeral garden", doubtless for people of high social status. The site of the vineyard lasted until the 3rd century AD.
At the Aubettes site at Mudaison, a Gallo-Roman wine-making operation surrounded with vineyards tells us its story from the beginning of the first century AD to the fifth century. The archaeologists describe two wine cellars, built near each other, in a remarkable state of preservation. "Each contained a series of dolia (evidenced by installation trenches in the ground). The powerful banks of mechanical grape presses are located nearby, as well as the tanks which served to collect the pressed juices." We imagine a courtyard around which were placed wine cellars and presses which must have covered a surface of about 3,500 meters square. Housing nearby for the vintners, perhaps above the wine cellars, was envisaged.
Archaeology is interested, in the context of these vast construction works, in the idea of the "terroir", the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, and its value in various time periods. The site of Missignac, near Aimargues, known since 1995, fuels this research. The land was occupied since the Iron age. Then a villa, outside the frame of the present excavations, was established in the first century AD. Vineyards, livestock holding areas and cultivated fields lined the domain.   Its maintenance, between the fifth and the thirteenth centuries, testifies about the transformation of the villa into a village, renewing what is known about the countryside of the eastern Languedoc.
These vestiges put together the puzzle of this vineyard, the largest one created by the Romans that is still intact. Three places, three illustrations of the wealth of the sites excavated to advance our knowledge of the vineyard and the wine, looking toward our modern life and its works.

Florence Monferran / janet L. Clark

Preserved Grape, 2nd century AD, Lattes

1] Layering: the technique of vine reproduction consisting of burying a vine shoot which takes root and reproduces a plant with the same characteristics as the vine stock with which it is connected (from the wine dictionary)

Denis Nepipvoda honoured by Florensac

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Sunday august 27th, Vincent Gaudy, Florensac mayor, distinguished several personalities for their actions in favor of Florensac. Among them, Sebastien Denaja, former Herault deputy, for his actions and presence in the region. And Denis Nepipvoda, historian guide with Pezenas tourist office, who was able to show the good patrimonial asssets of Florensac and have it loved by tourists and locals. Denis, said to be "only passing his knowledge, so that the public realizes the beauties surrounding them". The other mayors being present should get it, Vincent Gaudy recognized Denis values.
There was then a lunch in a very casual atmosphere, and Florensac orchestra being present, everyone enjoyed it.

 Florence de Martino

Le piano du lac

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Since 2015, the musical troupe has already given 70 representations for more than 16.000 spectators. On august 24th, PianO du lac was in Octon on Salagou lake.


Imagine being on the edge of a lake, in a beautiful sightseeing, when suddenly, coming from nowhere, arrive a pianist, a dancer, a flute... All of these in an organised play, act on a raft a show that could be by the Cirque du Soleil. This is the Piano du Lac concept.

It was created by La volière aux pianos and Philippe Séranne and is made of many artists who ally the beauty of a scenery to music and songs. Just don't be sitted next to people who don't stop chatting like if they were in front of their TV.

 Florence de Martino


» next show and booking : follow this link


Guided visit of Montagnac

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 During Festa Vino in Montagnac friday august 25th, Denis Nepipvoda who once again was able to mesmerize his public, thought it was important to draw people's attention on his role: To explain and sensibilise people to patrimoine's respect. Indeed, we saw some of the most beautiful renovations, as well as some of the worst. Next Festa Vino will take place in Caux, september 29th. Meeting is in front of the church at 7pm for a discovery of the church and the museum, with Denis and a comedian, on the life of Jean Pomarède. Then after 8.15pm, Festa Vino with Oenojazz band, food trucks, and wine (Domains de Daurion, de la Font des Ormes).  

Next Festa Vino will take place in Caux, september 29th. Meeting is in front of the church at 7pm for a discovery of the church and the museum, with Denis and a comedian, on the life of Jean Pomarède. Then after 8.15pm, Festa Vino with Oenojazz band, food trucks, and wine (Domains de Daurion, de la Font des Ormes).. 

Florence de Martino

the explanation center of Pezenas architecture

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Inside Peyrat hotel, place des Etats Généraux du Languedoc in Pezenas, there is a permanent exhibition about architecture and patrimoine of Languedoc. Over two floors, discover the architecture of Languedoc and history of the vineyards, through times. It provides keys for exploring and understanding the locality.

You'll learn about Pezenas history, but also Montagnac's. The templers dried Pezenas waters and two cities came out : Pezenas and Montagnac. The Herault was the natural border between Catholic Pezenas and Protestant Montagnac. Languedoc states meet in Pezenas and make it Languedoc capital. Upon XIXth century, vineyards become the wealth of the city. In 1868 phyloxera destroys every vineyard in France, but only reaches Languedoc 7 years later, which makes the wealth of many families. Wine crisis of 1807 stops the extension of the cities. Each village creates a cooperative for the wine. After 1960 a policy of territory management is installed.

9AM to 7PM every day except sunday 10AM to 7PM in summer.
Tel: 04 67 98 36 40.


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Port Cassafières in 1974


In 1970, M. Roger Sicard, owner of the Cassafières domain extended from the Canal du Midi to the mediterrannee, realizes that this canal is changing vocations. Barges transporting cereals and wines are more and more rare. However, barge rentals are more and more available thanks to the british establishing rental companies everywhere. The main one is Blue Line, subsidiary of the Guiness group, based in Castelnaudary, with a true knowledge and adapted barges. M. Sicard will meet the ideal man, Robert Linon, engineer who works on the Canal du Midi in Béziers. He'll obtain an autorisation for Linon to build an inner harbour on the edge of the canal, then the harbour.

In 1971, he hires his director's son, Bernard Bals, mechanic and engines driver at Bec company. He creates the Compagnie de Navigation de Plaisance and buys two boats for rental purpose. He also bought a cabin at the Paris CNIT, to be used as a reception room, and that still exists. His son Gilles will come to work as well. They rent boats but also organize tours until Agde and Marseillan. During 1971 autumn, he buys a truck and a Poclain power shovle. They carry soil on the way to the harbour to enlarge it and create a parking south of the restaurant. In 1972 spring, Brault company digs a way from the Canal du Midi to the harbor. By may 1972, the Tour de France Nautique that started at Chalons sur Marne stops at Port Cassafières. It was Edmond James, general secretary of the Touring Club de France who had imagined that project. His nickname was the Commodore ! Builders as SICOPAL subsidiary of Charbonnages de France bring water tanks, Jo Inskip of Burgundy line bring their 2 boats: The Saint Bris and the Irancy, as well as Pierre de Meulan company. Once this show finished, most house boats are parked in Port Cassafières. As one has to be fast to welcome them, it's Brault company that finished the work.

 Jonction des deux bassins  La darse en 1971  Jonction des deux bassins
                                     Mise à sec peu conventionnelle                                                      Darse

In 1973, a group of british investors wants to take over the harbor, Summerway cruisers and Med cruisers offer to bring 50 boats. Boats come from England and are manufactured by a french man, baron de Tourtelon, strange character. The chief of the base is M. Cairns. Director is Garry Lowe and his partner P.S Horner. The business will soon collapse as Lowe will be put in jail, and the business will be sold at auctions on june 20th 1974. Some british have also built a restaurant, which burnt them and was then rebuilt afterwards. Compagnie de Navigation de plaisance takes over, they need to develop the business, build infrastructures, face competition, and this family business can't fight. It's Beaver Fleet based in Agen that will take over. This is the end of this family saga, in which Mme Sicard was the manager, Gilles was the men of all situations, François and Catherine during their summer holidays came to help at the reception or drive the boats. Today it's Le Boat company that manages that harbor.

Bernard Bals

Christian and Joachim Belmas: the animal carvers

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Christian and Joachim Belmas: the animal carvers. Christian Belmas was formerly a dock worker at the Port of Sète. He has always been a game hunter in the waters of the Etang de Thau. He chairs the Inter-communal Association of Maritime Hunting. He remembers hunting in the old days and the necessity of having his own "pépettes" or calls to attract ducks and other fowl. With the primary material, cork, being available on the quays of Sète, he began, like everyone else, by making very simple shapes. As his technique became more refined and the "forms" became more and more realistic, his hunter friends began to ask him to make some for them. Very quickly, wood carving became for him a way out, a window opening on nature. He made it his main activity.

Christian Belmas has been making them for more than 35 years. A lover of traditional hunting, he has finished between 5,000 to 6,000 wooden models. Coming from a long sétoise tradition, his "pépettes" are found everywhere in France but also abroad in the bags of foreign enthusiasts of this kind of hunting. To his great satisfaction, his son Joachim, also a lover of nature, follows in his footsteps and carries on the tradition.

A new customer for the Belmas family is the "Regional House of Hunting and Fishing" in Montpellier, inaugurated in November, 2015.
It is the first of its kind in France. It brings together under the same roof the Regional Federation of Hunters and the Regional Union of Fishing.
Its purpose? Simply to spread the word about these hunting and fishing enthusiasts and to educate the public about their activities.
For this commission, both of these Sètois sculptors had to create fish and, naturally, birds, forms which they had had little experience with.

Another accomplishment, their contact with a new admirer, Renaut Emmanuel, Three Star Chef (Michelin Guide), of Megève, who had had the opportunity to admire their sculptures at the home of the late Benoît Violier. He ordered from them some bird sculptures that would come to decorate he tables of his restaurant, "Flocons de Sel". At last word, the customers of Megève so much appreciated having lunch with the sculptures on the tables that some people wanted to buy them.
When you're a little bit "ignored" in your own city, it is comforting to be appreciated elsewhere.
But let's be clear, Christian and Joachim Belmas do not lack admirers.

Jean-Marc Roger/Janet L. Clark


Brined Fish (in Occitan, the Aïgo-Saou).

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A recipe from the book "Memories of the Life and Cooking of Agathoise Women" by Madeleine Cornal, as dictated to her son Michel Adgé.



Brined Fish is a common dish of Agathois fishermen, which they even cooked on their boats while out fishing.
Take the fish you have on hand on the boat, essentially mackerel on the boat, and whitings and cabotes in town, and then scale them as necessary, gut them, remove the gills and wash them.
Put about two liters of water in a large casserole, depending on the amount of fish you have. Add some salt, an onion, some peeled potatoes, one or two peeled cloves of garlic and a bay leaf. Boil this until the onion and the potatoes are cooked.

Then add the fish, starting with the ones with the firmest flesh (the cabotes) and ending with the fish that cooks the most quickly (the whiting and the mackerel).
Once the fish are cooked, mix them with the vegetables and add a dash of olive oil and vinegar.
Reserve the remaining broth and with it, and depending on the fish, you you can make a good soup by adding pasta.
This recipe can be improved. In the evening, lightly sauté a small onion, a clove of garlic (minced) and a fresh tomato. Once these ingredients have been well-simmered, add the fish broth and let it boil. You can then add pasta or spaghetti or serve it on toasted garlic-rubbed croutons.
Whichever recipe you use, you'll have a very good soup that costs almost nothing.

Jean-Marc Roger/Janet L. Clark