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A sip of the new generation Wandering down from Conques and the Aubrac, it’s an easy and logical journey on to the now regenerated, up and coming wine growing region and appellation of Marcillac. It’s a relatively unknown appellation which has risen from the ashes of the almost extinct wine production that the monks from Conques and the wealthy merchants of Rodez enjoyed many centuries ago. Renowned for its reddish soil, if you look carefully you can still see the overgrown and forgotten vines of the past. And steeply terraced vineyards now cling to either side of the valley in a south facing arch, bordered to the north by the forests, producing spicy and rustic reds (as well as some rosés) predominantly from the Fer Servadou (Mansois) grape and they slip down very comfortably with earthy local cuisine. © P. Thebault There’s a vastly updated cooperative here at the Vignerons du Vallon with an excellent visitor centre a short distance from Rodez which showcases the history and production of Marcillac. But better still in the summer months, the local village of Valady is a wonderfully indulgent way to relax, unwind and experience local wine and cuisine at their weekly Saturday fete. www.vigneronsduvallon.com/en
Far right, Aubrac; mid top; the market at Villedranche-de-Rouergue; below far left: the Cathedral at Rodez; below Street in Villefranche-de-Rouergue assault on your senses in Villefranche-de-Rouergue Before you head on further south, allow yourself yet another indulgence and head west over the rolling hills to Villefranchede-Rouergue, one of the region’s five 13th century “new concept” bastide towns with a distinctly southern feel. From the rawness of the Aubrac and the deep gorges and ravines cut by the rivers Aveyron and Dordou, arriving in the evening to the grid style streets, tall timbered merchant’s houses and limestone arcades has a refreshing feel to it. But come morning, particularly on market day (Thursday) the town explodes into a melting pot of colours, scents, sounds and irresistibly tasty treats. One of the best in Aveyron, the body of the market fills the main square (Place Notre Dame) but spills out in every direction showcasing fruit, veg, spices, sticky sweets, warm breads and patisseries, herbs, flowers, meats slow turning on the spit and vast pans of steaming shell fish, all teasing and tempting you into the many backstreets. When you’re ready, escape down to the calm of the esplanade near the riverbank where you can cool off in the sleepy shade of a plane tree before continuing on your journey south.