In a Mediterranean climate alternating mildness and violence, the Corbières massif exposes its grandiose landscapes on a territory definitely contrasted between the dryness of the scrubland and the exuberant colors of the vines.
The Corbières is a region of medium mountains in the south of France, belonging to the Occitanie region. The massif is mainly located in the department of Aude but extends into the Pyrenees Orientales for its Catalan part.
Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the Corbières massif is bounded by the river Aude to the north and west and extends over seventeen cantons. The main cities around are Narbonne, Carcassonne and Perpignan.
The Corbières are a secondary massif of the Pyrenees whose peak of Bugarach is the highest point at 1231 meters. Other peaks compete for the top of the massif: Serre le Bec at 1037 meters, Mount Tauch at 917 meters, Montoulié de Périllou at 707 meters and the mountain Alaric at 600 meters.
Further down, in the valley of the Aude, the streams have carved their grooves and the wide valleys extend southward where they become narrower. The main river of the Corbières is the Orbieu.
The Mediterranean climate produces very hot summers and mild winters. The region is arid and battered by winds that blow nearly three hundred days a year, including a hundred days with violence. The dominant wind, the tramontana, is used to gusts of up to one hundred and forty kilometers per hour that disconcert anyone who is not used to it.
It can be dry and cold and it sculpts the vegetation. Under its influence, trees and bushes have no choice but to adopt a leaning position that never straightens out and gives the Corbières landscape unique and characteristic sloping lines.
Discover the history of the AOC Corbières.
Rainfall is characterized by its stormy form, with excesses that sometimes create violent floods that can inundate the vineyards of the lowlands. The opposite excess of long droughts – giving rise to poor, sunburned vegetation – sometimes causes blockages in the ripening of vines.
This climate limits cryptogamic diseases, in particular mildew and rot, and favors the implementation of organic farming. In a hot year, the vines can suffer from water stress. The climate induces very high sugar levels and low total acidities.
Geology and landscapes
The Corbières massif is mainly made up of limestone and schist. It was born 65 million years ago when the Iberian plate came to seal itself to the European continent. Establishing the link between the Massif Central and the Pyrenees, its geological variety displays unusual reliefs and colors.
The entanglements of reliefs, the movements of the ground and the erosion impart a tormented aspect to the landscape which is surprising if one considers the low altitude of the massif. The rocky and dry aspect of the scrubland is further accentuated by the omnipresence of low stone walls and capitelles, the dry stone huts that served as shelters for shepherds. The greatest concentration of capitelles is found around the commune of Fitou.
The area of the ancient lake “Pla” stands out in this arid universe with its luxuriant vegetation and its famous vineyards – always delimited by stone walls – that grow on its beautiful orange-colored earth.
Before the summer drought crushes the garrigue with its blazing sun, the flowers take advantage of the spring to embalm the massif with its thousand and one sweet scents that the wind carries over the hills. In summer, only thyme and rosemary survive the sun before giving way to mild autumns and winters… except when the tramontane rages again.
The fauna found in the Corbières an environment finally welcoming and the nature being preserved there, their complete and coherent ecosystem subsists in all quietude.
Small and medium-sized mammals are legion with the polecat, the badger, the weasel, the fox, the hedgehog, the hare, the wild boar and the wild boar. They evolve under the attentive eye of the birds of prey, always on the lookout like the buzzard, the kestrel, the common goshawk, the kite, the duke, the owl, the tawny owl, the booing cat…
The most common field birds are the skylark, goldfinch, blackbird, nightingale, common linnet and red-legged partridge.
Reptiles are in their element in this rocky paradise and the garter snake, the green ocellated lizard, or the wall lizard known colloquially as the “Saint George’s key” live happily.