From our base in Cap D’Agde it was an easy drive to the small picturesque town of Marseillan, home to the Maison Noilly Prat. Noilly Prat is a Vermouth sold all over the world, and I can confirm it is very tasty!
We arrived for the daily English tour in the afternoon and were taken into the barrel house where the giant vats of grapes are kept. These barrels are so big that an adult person used to go inside to clean them (they don’t do that any more due to health and safety as the fumes are probably extremely strong!). I hasten to add that Noilly Prat dates back to 1813 so things were different then!
The process hasn’t changed much since the drink was founded. After maturing the grapes in the big barrels inside, the drink is transferred to smaller oak barrels outside.
Then the spices are added – a different mix of spices depending if they are making the red, clear, or amber type of Noilly Prat. Some of these are secret ingredients! The spices are added when the drink is in a new set of large barrels, and stirred by hand every day.
After touring some displays of the old machines they used to use, and the vintage barrels and spices, we found ourselves in the bright stylish bar area.
This was also a highlight as we had a sample of each colour of Noilly Prat, including a cocktail mix with fresh juice of orange peel. Delicious! The tour guide also came into his own here, making us all laugh with his jokes (maybe it was the drink?!).
The clear (extra dry) variety is used a lot in the USA in dry martinis. My favourite was the amber, which is a specialist variety which can only be bought in Marseillan!
After this lovely experience we had a stroll around Marseillan. It was a lovely small town on an “etang” (ie a lake), and you can take a boat trip out to see where oysters are grown.
Eventually we headed back to base, stopping at Marseillan Plage en route to admire the clear sea and tourist-heavy cafes, shops etc.
All in all it was a lovely excursion and highly recommended if you are in the area.
next blog: Roquefort, France
previous blog: Cap D’Agde, France