Start the Day Right
So you’ve traveled to Chateauneuf-Du-Pape and found somewhere to stay, what next? The obvious answer is to have some petit dejeuner with a side order of wine. That is possible, but I would like to recommend something else.
Weather permitting there is no better way to start the day than with a walk around the Vineyards themselves via the “Escapade Au Coeur Du Vignoble De Chateauneuf-Du-Pape”. A signposted walk that takes you through the heart of Chateauneuf, the vineyards.
There are a few routes, with distances from 2.8km up to 7km, see above. We did the longer route and can’t recommend it enough.
The signposts are in French but with a little help from Google Translate (or link to English translation) they provide some fantastic information about the village history, the viticulture methods used, the soil and the climate.
You’ll also see up close one of Chateauneuf-Du-Papes unqiue features. The Galets. These are smooth rounded stones that litter the vineyards.
These act as mini-radiators, soaking up the sun during the day and realising it during the night, which can accelerate ripening (not fantastic). However, they also provide protection for the ground and trap moisture (fantastic), which can be a saviour in hot summers.
Ewa commented that after the tea plantations of India this was the most beautiful walk she had done. Can’t get better than that as a recommendation.
OK but what about the WINE!
Fine, you’ve done your daily exercise now for the reward; tasting all that wine. Well, you’re in luck, there is a lot to taste. The list of Domaines you can visit, most within the village itself, is pretty incredible.
The word to look for on store signs is “Dégustation” or to translate ‘Tasting’. If you see this head in and ask to try some of their wine. Some shops are dedicated to a single Domaine while others have a selection but most will be happy to provide a taste across their range.
Try to have a description of what type of wine you’re looking for and a price range. We saw wines from €12 a bottle all the way up to €100+. In our case we were looking for a couple of bottles that would age well, a bottle that we could drink young (most Chateauneuf-Du-Papes cover both these requirements) and also a bottle for a friends birthday. Armed with these requirements most shops were more than happy to have us taste through their full range.
A note of the tasting. It’s best to spit, at least at the start. For those who know me, this sounds like sacrilege. But let me explain. Chateauneuf-Du-Pape wines can be beasts when it comes to alcohol. Most averaged around the 14% mark. Even if you’re only tasting a small amount this adds up quickly. Take it easy to start with or you’ll likely find yourself on your back after the first hour!
The wines we loved.
After tasting around 30 wines we managed to narrow down our favourites. We can recommend them all if you’re a fan of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape wines.
Domaine Olivier Hillaire – Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015
2015 from Olivier Hillaire, a standout for Ewa but one that it took me a few tries to learn to love. We were lucky enough to talk to the owner and after seeing our interest he provided a vertical tasting across his wines. This was the first opportunity I’ve had to really compare vintages in this way and it was eye-opening. The differences between years were immediately noticeable.
I leant towards the 2012 but a look in Ewa’s eyes suggested I wasn’t winning this one, we went home with the 2015. The price of a bottle was about €30.
Domaine Font de Michelle – Gonnet Père & Fils – Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016
Where the previous wine was something a little different from your standard Chateauneuf-Du-Pape the 2016 from Domain Font De Michelle was a text book example of the region. Plum, cherries, pepper, smoke. Big and bold. Just a pleasure to drink. Some may need this with food but for me I’m would be happy to have this just by itself. Just yum. Another one priced around €30.
Le Moulin des Saints – Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2012
Our final selection was one we would like to age as the tannins, when we tasted, we’re still a bit ‘grippy’. Still the fruit came through nicely and there was an overall smoothness that we both liked. The price point was better than the two previous selections at around €15 and we’re looking forward to trying this one again in a few years.
If you need a break from all the wine take a stroll up to the Chateau of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. The remains of the castle stand as an iconic symbol of the region’s wines and it’s history. There is not much remaining of the old summer residencies of the Popes but the views are something to behold.
On the way up to the ruin be sure to drop into the Cave Du Verger Des Papes (Cellar of the Orchard of the Popes). Not only is it a beautiful wine cellar, dug right out of the rock, but it contains two wine vats from Roman times. Head all the way to the back to see one of the most beautiful tasting rooms.
A well deserved rest
After all that head down to the main village area, sit down at one of the bars and enjoy a well deserved rest.