The 17th century Canal du Midi connects Toulouse with the Mediterranean Sea and was built originally to transport wine. It enters the sea at Séte but also has a branch going out via Narbonne. Nowadays it is used more or else exclusively by pleasure craft (who can access other waterways as well).

It is one great way to relax. I have seen Irish boats there. It doesn’t intrude on the landscape and the towns on the bank are just so laid back. Have had some lovely meals in restaurants here, not to mention the wines.

Chateau de Pennautier is just six kilometres north west of Carcassonne, itself on the canal. At a height of 230 metres, the vineyard has great views and makes some terrific wine. It is the biggest producer in the Cabardès appellation and has been building market share since 1620!
Wine Museum near Carcassonne

Cabardès is the only appellation allowed to mix the traditional Bordeaux grapes with those of the Med (mainly Syrah and Grenache). My bottle, reduced at the time in Dunnes Stores, cost less than a tenner and proved to be well worth it.

It smells of berries and the colour is dark red. This medium bodied wine has a fruity taste but nicely balanced by moderate acidity and tannins. It has a decent length on the finish. This is a real easy drinking wine (remember though it packs a hefty enough 13% punch) and may be enjoyed with or without food. PR: 8/10

Gaillac is one of the oldest vineyards in Frances, grapes having been harvested here since Roman times. Gaillac, south of Cahor and north east of Toulouse, uses some rare grapes and in the 2008 red that I recently drank, old local varieties Far Servadou and Duras were the main ones.

Co-ops dominate in the area. My 12 per cent bottle was by Terrasses d’Auton, bought in France in June. Colour was a very deep red with both blackcurrants and blackberries on the nose. No shortage of grip here but the cassis came through well on the palate to balance. A hint of liquorice also in a well structured rich wine, a really pleasant surprise and one for the notebook. PR 8/10

Having recently sampled a magnificent rosé from the coastal area, I was really looking forward to my Bandol 2005 13% red by Le Club de Sommeliers, another holiday purchase. The main grapes used in this red were Mourvedre, Grenache and Cinsault and it had 18 months in oak to its credit.

Colour was dark and it had moderate berry nose. The tannins are immediately obvious but no shortage of fruit to balance and this medium bodied wine has a good finish. The back label note said that it is supple in the mouth (agree) and that there are notes of spice (yes, but muted).

Must say though that at the end, I was slightly disappointed. Nothing at all wrong with the wine but next time I’ll be looking for a different example. PR: 6/10