Les Journées Européennes du Patrimoine are an excellent opportunity to see and learn about places not usually open to the visiting public. I knew of Domaine de la Tour (Nebian in the middle Hérault valley) as somewhere for concerts, art expositions and big private parties. I'd also cycled through the building complex that sits atop a modest hill overlooking the middle Hérault valley just south of Clermont l'Hérault.
Like most grand estates in the Languedoc, Domaine de la Tour would have
been funded by profits from wine production during one of the boom
periods for the region. While still surrounded by vineyards, these days
the grapes are all destined for the local co-operative. Nevertheless,
much remains of what once was.
The theme of the day was was a guided tour of the features for managing water on the estate. Most impressive was a pumping house above a well that housed an early 20th century electric pump once used to plenish a water tower above the winery over 200 meters away. Although now dismantled, the old water tower is clearly visible at the left end of the old photograph.
The chai is still lined with 35 wine barrels that each held 280 hl giving a capacity of over a million bottles. In the days before de-stemmers, pumps and pressure hoses a great deal of water would have been needed for cleaning.
Also in the chai is an interesting museum space with various bits of "vintage" equipment artefacts, old photographs and other memorabilia.
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