4h 30 min
+700 / -700
Cycling the Minervois and St Chinian Vineyards
Departing from Montouliers, the cycling loop offers beautiful views of the Minervois and Saint-Chinian vineyards.
The route follows pleasant secondary roads and traverses small villages and passes several wineries where local wine tastings are available. The landscape alternates between vineyards and small hills through which the road threads its way. There is a fairly physical climb then a descent into Minerve with magnificent views of the village and the Cesse canyon.
If you are in good shape, you can extend this circuit with a short loop which leads to Saint-Chinian to the East.
Depart from Montouliers
From La Calade, follow Route de Bize through pine forests towards Bize Minervois until the first junction, turn right following the road alongside the river Cesse until the next junction. Turn left towards Agel. This quiet village is made up of narrow streets around the 12th century medieval castle.
From Agel to Azillanet
On leaving Agel on your left, you follow the river Cesse, which has significant seasonal fluctuations in flow. It is also possible if you’re in the dry season that the wide riverbed is only composed of stones and rocks. You continue on the D20 and quickly reach Aigues-Vives, a village that takes its name from a gushing spring. Then onto medieval Aigne, made up of a single street. You continue on the superb D177 which takes you to Azillanet.
FROM azillanet to minerve
On the first foothills of the Causse, the town of Azillanet, crossed by a stream, enjoys fertile land suitable for agriculture. Take a break in the village and enjoy the washhouses, the gardens, and the astonishing Lion fountain sculpted in the rock, all near the Saint-Laurent church. After Azillanet, the loop heads north via a climb of around 2.5 km on the D10. Your effort is then largely rewarded since you then descend enjoying a superb panorama of the Cesse canyon and Minerve.
The marvelous village of Minerve, perched on its rocky promontory which dominates the gorges of the Cesse and the Brian is the highlight of this circuit and is definitely worth a visit. The ascent into the village leads to the Dove of Light, sculpted in memory of the pyre of 1210 during the Albigensian Crusade. With its terraced gardens and cobbled streets, Minerve is one of the prestigious gateways to the Haut-Languedoc Regional Natural Park and is one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”. There are a number of good restaurants here – Le Relais Chantovent if you’re looking for Michelin quality, Aux 2 Rivières for more traditional fayre or a fantastic creperie called D’ame Crêpe
from minerve to assignan
This section begins nicely downhill on the D10, which you follow to La Caunette, crossing the Cesse. La Caunette houses a remarkable Romanesque church which overlooks the river. A medieval gate surmounted by battlements gives access to the old village. Standing on the square, the Château de Pardailhan dates from the 17th century. After the village, you will see a high chimney on your right, a vestige of La Caunette’s mining past, then the route intersects the D907 requiring increased vigilance, before taking the little-frequented D177 and climbing quietly for 3 km to Vialanove. You then continue for 7 km to reach Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, through very pleasant wine-growing plain landscapes. Saint-Jean-de-Minervois is also renowned for its famous muscat à petit grain – tastings are recommended at Domaine de Montahuc or the Cave le Muscat. After Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, the landscape transforms into reliefs of hills and scrubland within which the road winds its way to the extreme east of the route, Assignan, 6 km further on, from which you see the Tower of the Dovecote in the distance.
FROM Assignan to Montouliers
In a calm and preserved environment, Assignan has been transformed since 2015 into a “wine tourism village”: narrow streets coloured in purple, a wine bar, a gourmet restaurant, a thai restaurant, an art gallery, organised picnics in the vineyards and the impressive winery Castigno shaped like a huge bottle. After Assignan, still in scrubland landscapes, you reach Villespassans, on the Minervois wine route. A long and beautiful descent brings you back to the junction just before Agel which takes you back to Montouliers to complete this perfect cycling circuit in the Minervois
If you would like to read about more things to do in this area you can download this free PDF guide
For more details and maps of lots of cycling routes you can download the Herault Tourism leaflet here