Posted by: David Stewart | June 29, 2013

Wine tasting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

These are from some notes I took on our Spring 2013 trip

Friday, May 10

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

On our first morning in Orange, we made the short drive through the fields to Chateauneuf-du-Pape (or CdP for short). This village has the most famous appellation for wines from the Rhone valley. It started out during the 70 or so years when the Catholic popes had their headquarters in nearby Avignon in the 1300s. The popes liked the wines being produced in this little area and built a summer house / castle at the top of a hill there, the “new castle of the popes” (chateauneuf du pape).  The castle ruins are still there, brooding at the top of the village and from the labels of wines from the region.

Wines from CdP are usually mixes of several kinds of grapes. The red wines have a strong component of Grenache, but have other cepages as well. The southern Rhone valley location makes the growing season warm in the days, but the many stones or gallets in the vineyards retain the day’s heat and radiate it to the vines to protect them.

After an initial visit to the Tourist Information center in the middle of town for a map and a list of tasting options, we headed off to a few of the places I had identified in my last trip: Brotte and Domaine de Beaurenard.

Avignon, France

Back streets of Avignon

Brotte has a very nice (and free) Musee du Vin or Museum of Wine which has a lot of good information, artifacts and displays around the growing, harvesting and making of wine, where in the world certain varietals grow, what are the types of terroir around the village and so on. The information is in French, but there are cards with English translations as well.  After the self-guided museum walk, you can taste Brotte’s wines for free as well. They have a “Domaine Barville” label which is quite reasonably priced and very good.

Domaine de Beaurenard is next to Brotte and has a nice cellar design and free tastings. I ended up buying a bottle of their red for a dinner later in the trip.

Avignon, France

Bakery, Avignon

Unfortunately, most of the labels I knew – Vieux Telegraphe, Useglio, Domaine du Pegau – were either by appointment or not available. If I come again, I definitely want to do some advance work and set up some appointments.

We hiked up to the castle and took photos of the view. We wandered the town a little and ate lunch in a nice little French place near the center of town called La Maisoneta. They have record albums adorning the tables and walls of the restaurant, but have very nice Provencial food and wine.

After tasting we drove to Avignon in late afternoon to get acquainted with that town. On the way, we drove through some fields of blooming lavender, which doesn’t really come to full bloom until June, but it was lovely to see a little bit of it.

Besides being home to popes during the 1300s, Avignon has been preserved as a fine old walled city with terrific buildings from a number of eras. We tried parking in a free lot outside the city wall, but after circling the lot multiple times, we decided to bail out and try another option. Fortunately there was an underground lot just next to the free lot, so we dived down six stories below ground for an available spot.

Avignon, France

Les Halles market in Avignon, has a living wall of plants

The walled interior of Avignon has a number of well preserved historic buildings besides the main star, the Papal Palace. So we spent the afternoon doing a self-guided walking tour, based on a map we got at the Tourist Information center. Highlights include the market, Les Halles, which has a vertical wall of growing plants; the former poor house; old churches and a synagogue. Although twisty, the route had both busy shopping streets and dead quiet alleys.

Orange, France

Roman Theater, Orange, from the hill in back of it

After rescuing our buried car, we drove back to Orange and climbed up behind the theater to the nice park which is on top of the hill which contains the theater. This offered both a terrific view of the town and theater but also of the surrounding countryside. We took a rather long route back and then ended up at a lovely little Provencial restaurant in town where we had a terrific meal.

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