Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a wine region within Southern France. The area became notorious in the 14th Century when Avignon, France, became the seat of the Pope during the Catholic schism. The Popes were lovers of wine and in particular, of Burgundy wines. However, they needed to find a closer source than Burgundy. In 1321, Pope John XXII requisitioned wine from this particular area and the production became named ‘Vin du Pape’ for wine of the Pope. Later the name evolved to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, referencing the wine of the ‘new castle of the Pope’.
I’m sure Pope John XXII was thrilled when the Beastie Boys crooned the verse, “Like a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape / I’m fine like wine when I start to rap.”
In addition to its rich history and presence in Beastie Boys songs, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the wine king of Southern France, claiming price points similar to Burgundy and Bordeaux. The region is known for the rocky terrain, many meters thick, which was created many years ago when the area was once the bed of the Rhone river.
Now the Rhone rests a few kilometers away and the rocks, galets roulés , serve as heaters and water insulators for the terroir.
I was lucky to get a special glimpse at this wine area with a group traveling from Virginia. Our first stop on the wine tasting adventure was at Château Beaucastel, a lovely maker of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The morning we visited, I had just finished the book, Of Wine And War. Wine was considered France’s national treasure, and the lengths to which the French winemakers went keeping their good wine from the Nazis was really interesting. From sending the bad vintages, to building faux walls, and even burying in in the soil, they tried everything to preserve the historic vintages for France. Our guide at Château Beaucastel said not many vintages had likely escaped Nazi hands as there were not many pre-war bottles left today.
The group also visited domaine de la Mordorée, Domaine Grand Veneur, and La Bastide St. Dominique, all which produce Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Schwingen in Switzerland: Wine Museum in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Schwingen in Switzerland: Châteauneuf-du-Pape rocked us….literally