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Thursday 04/24/08 - Wines

Wines For Your Reading Pleasure


Fitou wine is well-established, particularly in the UK - most people know the name, can pronounce it easily, and may even have tried a bottle or two. But ask them where Fitou is and the chances are they'll look at you blankly. So here's your chance to shine at your next dinner party: serve a few bottles of full-bodied, feisty red Fitou and regale your guests with a little background.

First and foremost, a couple of facts. Fitou is the oldest appellation in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (and not a lot people know that). It is divided into two zones that border Corbi?res, with the smaller zone lying around the coastal town of Fitou itself, and the larger zone's vineyards dominating the land between Villeneuve-les-Corbi?res and Tuchan. Although the communes here can produce golden-hued Rivesaltes vins doux naturels, most of the wines are reds, made mainly from the Carignan grape variety blended with Grenache, Mourv?dre and Syrah. Good Fitou vintages tend to be herb-flavoured with a wild, spicy character; think simple, medium- to full-bodied, rustic reds.

Next up, the place itself. Fitou is small but lively winemaking village in the south of France, in the Aude d?partement of the Languedoc region. It's about 10 minutes drive from the beaches of the Mediterranean, an hour and a half from ski resorts in the Pyrenees, and you can even do a day trip to Spain from Fitou. A number of expats (mainly British, Dutch and Germans) have chosen to make their homes here; Fitou appeals to families with young children as it's quiet enough to feel very safe while providing all the necessary services and amenities to make life comfortable year-round, including a primary school, bar, several restaurants, a boulangerie, a supermarket, launderette, a snack bar - and of course, lots of wine (which can be bought direct from the producers). It's a popular village with foreign visitors as it is still largely unspoilt, but it's hardly an expat enclave, and everyone is well integrated; it's a very small, friendly community.

Properties range from small village houses (maison de village) through to modern villas and apartments in the Domaine de Capitelles, a new development situated up on the hills surrounding the village. Cheaper properties tend to change hands quickly, especially if they have an outside area, as gardens are hard to come by. The Fitou area is considered to be a good place to look for older property to renovate; lower-priced village houses invariably need modernization or at least decoration, and by renovating an older property it is possible to create a home that is exactly to your tastes while saving money.

Fans of modern building styles will need to look elsewhere. Occasionally, recently-built villas come onto the market but they are far and few between, and there are very few plots of building land left; you'd need to look a little further afield to be able to build your own home from scratch. House prices in and around Fitou have boomed since the Millennium, but have now become relatively stable. As an example, in the nearby village of Paziols, a two-bedroom village house renovated in a modern style is currently on the market for ?104,500, while a pretty, three-bed village house with original features (wooden beams, open fireplaces and a period staircase) and plenty of charm is selling for ?129,600. For more details of these and other properties, visit www.viboimmobilier.com.

About the Author

Louise has lived in France, in the city of Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon for the past 5 years.

Louise writes for a number of French life magazines and was asked to write a number of articles on life and experiences in France by French real estate agents Vibo Immobilier (http://www.viboimmobilier.com), based in the wine village of Fitou.

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