Vic-Bilh means small old country. It doesn’t do the region justice, but it does give a hint of the history and hidden nature of this corner of South West France. Château de Crouseilles is tucked away in the foothills of the Pyrenees just South of Madiran, at the crossroad of the Gers, the Béarn and Gascogne. I is the beating heart of the Cave Coopérative de Crouseilles.
A History of Families
The cooperative was created in 1950 and now brings together 120 vine growers from across this region, known for their powerful red wines and elegant, sweet and dry whites.
The vines here go much further back, to the 11th century, when monks made fortifying wines for pilgrims needing sustenance on their way to Saint Jacques de Compostela.
The vines cover 2 appellations; Madiran et Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh, ancient names became Appellations d’Origine contrôlées (AOC) in 1948.
Between them, these two appellations cover 1 400 hectares of which 650 are farmed by the 120 members of the cooperative Les Vignerons de Crouseilles whose properties date from the 10th, 14th and 16th centuries.
Despite having just two appellations, the region is a diverse terroir. You’ll find pudding stones, clay, gravel and limestone, a terroir protected against the excess of the oceanic climate by the looming Pyrenees. Innovative wine making and individual initiatives by growers on these soils have given birth to a range of wines that cover all price points and styles from traditional to modern.
The cooperative is a force behind the re birth of this region. It brings back to life plots that had been abandoned by previous generations, encouraging organic and sustainable viticulture and pioneering wine tourism.
A History of Art
The symbol of the property is a Chrism monogram. It’s an artistic representation of the first two letters of the name of Christ, that dates back to the 12th century, the time of the monks. Today, art continues to be at the heart of the Château de Crouseilles.
Aslo, as well as discovering the cellars, caves, vineyards and tasting room of course, art lovers will want to spend time with ‘Les Sept Folies’. These seven interactive monumental works of art in the grounds of the property. Those were decisive in the château winning The Best of Wine Tourism Award for Art and Culture. Each piece places an emphasis on the different elements that make up the unique personality of the place, the countryside, the history, viticulture, climate and the people.
For the more adventurous there’s an escape game in the barrel cellars of the chateau. And for family fun, there’s festivals and events all year long. They are passionate about keeping their traditions alive through theatre, art exhibitions and concerts and festivals.
You won’t want to leave, but don’t worry ! Some of the growers have guest rooms where you’ll be sure of a warm welcome… and a glass of that fortifying wine.