Thuir, lively little town in the Aspres, is probably most famous for the Caves Byrrh. Created by the Violet brothers in 1873, and otherwise known as ’vin tonique et hygiénique au quinquina’, Byrrh used to be a world renowned Catalan apéritif.

The brothers apparently started off as travelling salesmen, selling various things including ’tonic’. With the arrival of the railway in Perpignan in 1858, they saw the chance to take full advantage of the new industry that it brought to the region, and put together the recipe for Byrrh, which was to become famous throughout the world. It is created from good quality Roussillon wines and quinine water, and said to be medicinal.

Credit Graham Harris

Instantly popular, a station hall was ordered from the Gustave Eiffel workshops. From it 30 million litres made their way annually to 350,000 customers world-wide. Now, not only Byrrh but Cinzano, Dubonnet, Ambassadeur and Suze are made and matured in the 600 huge oak barrels that line the chais leading to the biggest oak barrel in the world. 10 metres high it contains 1 000 200 litres and took almost 15 years to build.

A fascinating guided tour takes you through the station concourse, shows you how the wines are flavoured and fortified to make the aperitifs, passes by evocative old advertising posters and ends with a tasting.
Open 7/7. Entrance 5€


Lots more details on their website, including a quiz, a virtual tour, a cocktail invitation,  recipes…….


  1. Umm… I’m sorry to have to tell you: there’s a massive error here “the biggest oak barrel in the world. 10 metres high it contains 420,500 litres.”
    I’m not sure where this figure comes from because the barrel contains 1,000,200 litres! (I’ve lived next to Thuir for 25 years, and know this figure by heart! But I’ve also just checked it on the Caves Byrrh website).

    1. Hello Laird. Copied directly off their website at the time. Now says “Cette cuve d’une capacité de 1 000 200 litres détient le record du monde. Elle a été mise en vin en 1951et il aura fallu prés de 15 ans pour la construire.” so they must have put a few more litre in. Thanks for pointing it out.

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