Fitou, France.

Finding Fitou

August 7th, 2020.

The first time I had a glass of Fitou was at a tapas bar in the 18th arrondissement in Paris. I had no idea what a Fitou was, but I liked red wine and I thought the name was cute. The owner of the bar quickly became a friend (hey Reda!), and Morade and I would go there often to eat patatas bravas, meatballs and roasted red pepper salad. I almost always washed it down with a glass of Fitou.
Over the years it became a running joke that Fitou was my favorite wine. On the rare occasions when I found a bottle at the grocery store I would buy it. And no matter how cheap it was (sometimes only 3 euros!), it was always delicious.
So when I found out that Morade’s grandma lived near the town called Fitou, where Fitou wine was made, I had trouble playing it cool. It’s like going to your best friend’s parents’ house for the first time. You finally get to see where this person you’ve known for years grew up. I was embarrassingly excited.
Morade and I decided to spend a whole Saturday wine tasting and exploring the region. (I was drinking, he was driving). We picked out a few “Domaines” to try out — Les Fenals, Champs des Soeurs and Mas de la Roque — all independent wine producers.
The first one we went to was Les Fenals. They have an absolutely gorgeous space, with a chateau and rolling vineyards surrounding it. I tried two of their classic Fitous – from 2017 and 2016 – one of their special cuvées (named after their youngest daughter Julie), and one “Vin de France” made 100% from Carignan grapes.
Some technical notes that I was not aware of before this stop: 
-Fitou wine only comes in red
-Fitou is part of the Languedoc family, and is the oldest appelation in this category
-In order to be considered a Fitou it has to have at least two different types of grapes, called cépages in French
-One of those cépages must be a Carignan – a local grape that gives Fitou its signature, kind of fruity taste (I’m not a wine critic pls don’t @ me for this)
-It’s considered a “small” appellation, because there are only 30 wine producers that make it
Oh! And one incredibly important thing I forgot to mention! 
Wine tastings in Fitou are FREE.
Tipsy post-wine tasting Anca was delighted to hear this. The unspoken rule is you need to buy something afterwards, even if it’s just one bottle. Not a problem, I decided we’d make a Fitou collection to give to friends we ran into over the summer.
Our second stop was Champs des Soeurs. and this one was a real coup de coeur for me. The owner, Laurent Maynadier, led the tasting himself. I did a bit of research on him before going, and found out he’s experimenting with putting some of his bottles in the Mediterranean to mature instead of a traditional cellar. That was, of course, the first thing I asked about.
He said he’s always trying to find creative new ways to exploit the land his grapes are grown on, to tell the full story of each wine. Because Fitou is located on rocky hills overlooking the sea, he felt there was an opportunity to take advantage of the Mediterranean in the maturing process.
Laurent’s family has been in the winemaking business for 13 generations. He and his wife Marie, an oenologist, are now involved in the entire process from A to Z.
We spent a lot of time with Laurent, who was just fascinating to listen to. He explained the strict rules imposed on winemakers in France. France has a sort of “wine council” that decides what can and can’t be done when it comes to winemaking, in order to give a wine a certain label. The council is meant to “preserve the reputation” of the land of wine, but like many other councils, it often serves as a roadblock to creativity.
For example, Laurent mentioned he’s developing an orange wine, which is made when white wine grapes are processed using red wine techniques. This gives the white wine a more tannic flavor, and a deeper color. It’s an ancient method of winemaking, but one that’s never been fully embraced by France’s wine lords. 
Anyway, I must have tasted six different wines, both white and red. The white wines in the region are generally Corbières, and while I’m not normally a fan, I really liked this white called Les Pépettes – which only cost 5 euros. We also picked up a few Fitous, La Tina and Bel Amant. 
Laurent also recommended we take a drive through the backcountry of Fitou, on the small winding roads that pass through the vineyards and hills. 
I recommend this drive for anyone passing through the region: 
Start in Fitou with a wine tasting or two, then drive (or have your designated driver drive) to Embres-et-Castelmaur, then look around to Vingrau and back to Fitou. 
It takes a little under two hours, but there are plenty of spots to stop for a picnic overlooking the vineyards. We brought a bunch of cheese and bread, which was very much needed after all that wine I tasted.
Our final stop was in the center of the village, an unlikely surprise we discovered the day before when we came on a recon mission. It’s a small hole in the wall that’s easy to miss. During the Covid-19 lockdown, the team from the vineyard Mas de la Roque converted a garage into a tasting room, where they also sell local products and takeout dishes from their restaurant. That’s where we met Lou, who was so lovely we came back a second time!
My favorite wine from Mas de la Roque is called Le Paradoxe, a Fitou red that’s matured in white wine barrels. The result is earthy, kind of woody and pretty light (again don’t @ me I’m doing my best here). I went a bit overboard and bought six bottles, so if we cross paths this summer you might have a chance to taste it!
I hope this post puts Fitou on your wine map – please send photos if you end up visiting!
Anca and Morade


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

Subscribe to the Newsletter

© Stopover