Eighteen kilometers (11 miles) to the south of Narbonne and originally a Gypsum mine these thirty kilometers (19 miles) of tunnels, eighty meters (260 feet) below the surface, have become an ideal storage place for the ageing of local wines. The lofty passages that remain after the extraction of the gypsum (sulphate of calcium carbohydrate) are magnificent cathedral like structures with barrels of the local wines gently maturing lining the tunnels. The constant humidity at this subteranean level is ideal for the ageing of wine, there is even a small underground lake.
The Larfarge Plaster company (Plâtres Lafarge) were responsible for the mining operation and the conversion of the gypsum into plaster (the gypsum is heated to between 150° & 200° Celcius, 300° to 400° Fahrenheit, to extract the water). The entry, via a magnificent wooded gallery, leads you to a veritable museum of wine making and Mediterranean culture.
The reconstructed scene of the gypsum mining, a Gallo-Roman villa, the barrel maker (cooper's) workshop plus a presentation of wine making tools and methods over the years.
The tours are :
The tour lasts about an hour and at the end you can sample and buy the local wines from Rocbère, Peyrac de Mer, Portel & Sigean.
The Réserve Africaine de Sigeon is just 3kms (2 miles) away and another three beyond takes you to the Mediterranean.