There was something about the wine that indicated a close link to a Celtic background and then it clicked. It’s the Scottish Saltire on the actual label that indicated there’s a proud Scot around, and so indeed it proved. Alan Geddes, together with his Parisian wife, Laurence (and more recently his son), run the immaculate Chateau de Mayragues, a bio-dynamic winery estate located just 10 kms north of Gaillac in The Tarn, Midi-Pyrénées.
Gaillac, the land of the sunflower, is an area steeped in history, with a wine making pedigree dating back to the Romans making it one of the earliest wine-making regions in France. This Chateau too dates back to medieval times (with evidence of Roman vine activity) and the Geddes family have painstakingly been bringing it back to life since they purchased it in a state of total ruin in 1980. Using only traditional materials and methods and local craftsmen, this has been a true labour of love (as you can see by the images on the website) and their efforts were rewarded in 1998 with the Grand Prix of the Vieilles Maison Françaises, The Chateau de Mayragues is now a listed Monument Historique.
The estate is close to the large national Gresigne forest, one of the oldest natural oak forests in France and the vineyard sits in protected, rolling, wooded countryside on the slopes leading down to the Tarn River. With soils varying from very chalky to very limey, the winter rains and the summer sun make the ground quite difficult to work but the Geddes have persevered and their wines are now winning plaudits and attention, pioneers of bio-dynamic wine making.
It’s not only a winery however, you can stay here too. In fact, the guest rooms lie off the overhanging balcony running around the top of the building – one of the few surviving examples of the local fortified architecture which in ancient times, served as a defensive walkway. There’s even a picturesque dovecote too, built on four columns in the Languedoc style, the pigeon droppings were used as a fertiliser for the vines!
And a bell and bell tower that looks a little ominous – Alan assures us however that it is seldom, if ever, used today. Hmm.
So if you are looking for a peaceful retreat in one of France’s most beautiful regions, with the vines on your doorstep, but still within easy distance of Albi, then this is the place for you. Doubles with breakfast starting at 125€. There are summer classical wine concerts here too. Bliss.
Contributor & photographer: Sue Lowry
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