Day Trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape
While our Viking Cruise ship was docked in Avignon, Viking organized an afternoon tour to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region, known in France as one of the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regions. Here, in one of the hottest wine regions in France, you get wines with wonderfully warm and spicy aromas such as cinnamon, cloves, and freshly roasted coffee.
The name "Châteauneuf-du-Pape" means "the pope's new castle" but the name does not allude to the papal palace. The town was probably already called Châteauneuf when the popes arrived. In 1893 the villagers, realizing the marketing potential of the name, added "du-Pape". Only one tower remains intact of the summer palace. Time, religious wars, and finally a German bomb during World War II have seen to that. But it is still quite impressive as is the stunning view over the vineyards and the river Rhône.
Vinyard Waiting For Warmer Weather
The vines are pruned for removal of the unwanted wood. For those of you who do not understand why the vines are pruned, we suggest that you visit Pruning Grapevines for a good explanation of why it is necessary. (hint: 70 to 90 percent of the previous year’s growth is removed each winter.)
Rocks in the Vinyard
The only purpose for those rocks is to keep the heat in the ground! The stones attract heat during the day, and the soil is therefore kept warmer at night.
Click here to read a good article on the Wine Enthusiast site, which will explain in more detail about these rocks.
Tour Bus in Vinyard
It was a bit brisk this particular day, but still an interesting view of a vineyard in the winter. The vines are left dormant until Spring.
Those are the (in the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains) and Mont Ventoux (just to the east of the Dentelles de Montmirail), as we looked east from the vineyard.
As can be seen in the above images, the vineyards are distinctively rocky, and these rocks are useful to the vines because they keep the daytime heat "in" the soil for a longer period of time, which keeps the roots warm overnight. This entire area has a unique clay sub-structure, and the combination of the heat retaining rocks, on top of this clay structure, produces a unique variety of grapes.
A Barrel of Wine
Have you ever wondered what 7,000 liters of wine would look like? In the image to the left, I am standing next to a barrel that contained that amount of Grenache! In this area of the winery, there were another 15 of these barrels, each full of wine.
Castle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
In 1317, one year after his election, Pope John XXII ordered the construction of a castle at the top of the hill above the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The castle was destroyed by the German Army, as it retreated from this area in August 1944.
Click here to read a good Wiki Article about this castle.
Castle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The Chateauneuf-du-Pape village center, looking north. We were wandering about the village, and because it is very small, there wasn't much there to look at more closely.
Celeste and I posing just in front of the Castle ruins. This castle has been built, partially destroyed, and rebuilt a number of times since the Roman era. The final destruction occured during WW2 when the German Army garrison blew up the building because they were storing ammunition there.
Walking down to the Village
Taking a break before continuing down the very steep walkway. I could not keep myself from wondering how many people may have taken a tumble down these stairs after too much wine?
Center of Village
The fountain in the center of the village was pretty, and a natural gathering place for the entire village. All of us felt like we were in a Medeival Village!
A quick break from all of our Village exploration, before we head back up the hill to the tour bus. It was chilly enough to where sitting in the warm sun felt really good.
Wine Tasting Class
Celeste and I are learning about the famous wines grown in this area. Touristy? Yeah, but the guy knew his wines, and the area's history, so in the end it was well worth the experience.
When you become aware that there are over 320 wine companies in this region, you realize how important these vineyards are to this region of France.
Did I mention the types of wine grapes grown in this area? We had been told at the wine tasting, but when I Googled it, I was amazed at how many types are grown in this region. I've provided you with a link to the "Wine Searcher" website for each wine, because if you are interested in wine like I am, you will want to know more about these types. Whenever "Wine Searcher" did not have information on a type, I've linked it to Wiki or "Wine Folly". Click any grape name below to be taken to a page that will provide you with an in depth description.
- The Mainstream grapes
- Other allowed red grapes
- Authorized white grapes
- The 5 very rare grapes that are allowed
After our tour of the vinyards, we were taken to this winery, where they gave us an interesting short course on how to taste wine, the gentleman teaching us is a partner in this winery.
Anyone can taste wine - the Wine Folly website tells us, all you need is a glass of wine and your brain and follow these 4 steps;
1) Look: A visual inspection of the wine under neutral lighting
2) Smell: Identify aromas through orthonasal olfaction (e.g. breathing through your nose)
3) Taste: Assess both the taste structure (sour, bitter, sweet) and flavors derived from retronasal olfaction (e.g. breathing with the back of your nose)
4) Think/Conclude: Develop a complete profile of a wine that can be stored in your long term memory.
Or if you are a "Wine Spectator" fan, then click here to read their take on how to taste wine (hint - they are similar to 'Wine Folly')
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