I had the pleasure of going to Chateauneuf du Pape this month; one of the most famous and important wine growing regions of France. One of the reasons it is important is because it is so large. It includes more than 7,500 acres of vineyards. The name literally means “Castle of the Pope.” The region was named that in the 1500s, when Pope Clement V moved the papal court there. He instituted the creation of vineyards in the region. The vineyards were mostly cultivated by the following pope, Pope John the XXII.
The red wine produced in the area is a robust, heavy bodied, complex, and intense wine which ages well. It is made from a mixture of a large variety of grapes, mostly Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. The reds tend to be very high in alcohol content. The white wine is a mix of Grenache Blanc and Clairette. It is also a full-bodied, complex wine, and is a good alternative to Chardonnay.
The grapes here are grown in soil that is quite rocky; actual river rocks are at the base of many of the vines. We were there during harvest and as we were headed toward one of the castle ruins still left, we stopped by the side of the road and sampled a grape from the vines which you could already start writing tasting notes on; the sweetness of the juice and tartness from the skins were simply beautiful. I look forward to getting my hands on this vintage and being able to say that I was able to taste those very same grapes that are now in a bottle!