The medieval village of Chateauneuf du Pape, tucked away in the Rhone Valley in the southeastern part of France, is one of the most celebrated wine regions in the world. Oenophiles traveling in the area will not want to miss a visit.
Even if you’re only mildly interested in wine, the charming village and castle ruins provide plenty of interest for culture and history buffs.
The village has many old wine caves where you can try samples of the wine, sometimes at no cost or for a small fee. Usually you don’t need an appointment unless it is off-season – then you might want to call ahead to make sure they are open. If you’d like to visit the estates, you’ll definitely need to do some advance planning.
Be sure you save time for a visit to the ruins of the old castle built in the 14th century during the reign of Pope John XXII.
The popes moved the papal seat from Rome to Avignon during this period and the castle at Chateauneuf was built as a summer residence. The popes were great wine lovers and did much to promote the wines of this region.
What makes Chateauneuf du Pape wines so special?
Chateauneuf du Pape wines are popular because they’re very fruit forward (think dark red cherries, strawberries and tropical fruits with good acidity), and they’re ready to drink at a very young age, though some can also be held for several years.
According to wine critic Robert Parker who is huge fan of these wines:
“The best Châteauneuf-du-Papes are among the most natural expressions of grapes, place and vintage. Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are farmed organically or biodynamically, and the region’s abundant sunshine and frequent wind (called le mistral) practically preclude the need for treating the fields with herbicides or pesticides. The wines themselves are equally pure, their flavors rarely masked by aging in new oak.”
Most Rhone Valley wines are blends, and Chateauneuf wines are noted for the option to blend as many as 18 different grapes. The primary grapes are Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. Occasionally you can find a 100% Grenache, but this is rare. 95% of Chateauneuf wines are red with the other 5% being white. High in alcohol, they have the highest minimum alcohol content of any AOC in France, at 12.5%.
Another reason for the popularity of these wines is that they pair very well with many different foods – and frankly, the bottle is so darned attractive!
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Anyone interested in history and culture will enjoy this tour to one of France’s most celebrated wine regions.
- It’s an easy walk to the castle from the village, or you can drive up.
- La Cave du Verger des Papes is a family owned restaurant and wine cellar serving fresh regional dishes, and one of the best places to experience a truly French meal. The food is expertly prepared and the view of the Rhone Valley is very photogenic. This restaurant is located just down the hill from the castle ruins.
- The over-50 traveler may be more interested in wines that do not require as much aging as say wines from Bordeaux – we don’t want to wait too long to drink the good stuff! Hence the wines of Chateauneuf will be appealing.
- Many tasting rooms are closed on Sundays.
- During harvest some tasting rooms will be closed. It may also be almost impossible to secure a vineyard visit.
- The village of Chateauneuf is only about a 30 minute drive north of Avignon. Many people base themselves in Avignon during their stay in Provence and make day trips from there.
IF YOU GO
- Chateauneuf du Pape Tourism website
Be sure to get the whole scoop on Penny’s visit to Chateauneuf du Pape on Adventures of a CarryOn!
*All photo credits (except lead photo): Penny Sadler
The author’s tour of Chateauneuf du Pape was hosted by Michael Ippolito of Wine in Provence.
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