Posted by: David Stewart | December 23, 2012

These Guys Really Have Stones – Chateauneuf-du-Pape

“I’m not permitted to buy any wine on this trip,” I mumble around the rim of a glass. And it’s a very good thing.

I would be much poorer.

Near the French city of Avignon, there is a wine growing region which has benefited as much from history as from its skill in making wine. Chateauneuf-du-Pape (or “C-d-P” as it is often abbreviated) was favored by the popes who lived in France for about 70 years during the 1300s.

As a result of this papal sponsorship, you can usually identify their wine in the shop with the papal seal embossed in the bottle. Very recognizable, and great branding.

The red wine is dominated by the Grenache grape and has a very different flavor profile from either the Bordeaux blends or the northern Rhone Syrahs. I have Cuvee du Vatican in my cellar, which you can get for a fairly reasonable price in US.


A stoney C-d-P field

Supposedly the stoney fields that the grape vines are planted in create excellent growing conditions. The stones retain heat during the day and reflect it back to the vines at night.

The medieval town is crowded around a hill dominated by the chateau itself – a castle built by one of the popes. It’s a ruin now, but a nice hike up through the village to enjoy the nice views of the Rhone River valley.
I had a few hours to drive over and visit the town without much in the way of planning. There is good tasting available here, and a nice Tourist Information Center to get pointers for places to go. One of the wineries has a very nice wine museum with English captions.

There is a cluster of terrific restaurants in the old town and I picked one based on its Yelp rating. I picked the fixed menu choice and enjoyed a fantastic meal in relative calm. Then a group of 15 tourists from Malta dropped in, and I decided it was time to hit the road.

More photos from my Flickr photo stream:


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