Day three of this August’s Staycation found us in Châteauneuf du Pape. Sound familiar? It’s more than just fancy wine, it’s a whole REGION of fancy wine. We set the GPS for the general area and when we got close, we just drove in the direction of the prettiest castle around. I love doing this, driving somewhere without a specific plan or itinerary in mind. France has yet to disappoint, with lovely surprises no matter where we go.
And true to form, the castle we selected turned out to be a good choice. This particular château houses a wine-tasting bar and a fancy hotel and restaurant with a pool and terrace featuring spectacular views on all sides. We bought a beautiful red wine, which isn’t hard to do in this region, and a gorgeous white. White Châteauneuf du Pape is hard to come by, and the bottle we tasted instantly became my new favorite white wine. Sadly (for you), they don’t export this wine, so if you’d like to sample some of the divine Domaine Patrice Magni, you’ll just have to come visit us.
Châteauneuf du Pape is a region known for its excessive beauty and the quality of its wine, which is achieved with the help of the rocky landscape. The grapevines grow amidst layers of quartz stones that cover the soil. The heat generated by the sunlight on these stones affects the taste of the grapes. “Châteauneuf du Pape” literally translates as “new castle of the Pope” and the history of wine and the Vatican has been intertwined for centuries (read more).
On our tasting route we passed a sign pointing in the direction of the Domaine du Vatican, which Johann assured me was not really associated with the Vatican in any way. Still, even for a non-believer like me, naming your wine “Domaine du Vatican” seemed a little… Blasphemous. At the very least, it smacked of trademark infringement. I was glad I didn’t have to write their product brochures.
“The 2008 vintage of Christ’s blood has spectacular topnotes of blackcurrant!” “Domaine du Vatican, it’s sin-sational!” “Buy this wine. He will know if you don’t. And you’ll go directly to hell.” “Free holy grail fridge magnet with every two-case purchase!” “Our wines are second to nun!” Actually, that brochure practically writes itself. Maybe I’ll call and offer my services.
We wandered the village of Châteauneuf du Pape and learned that we had just missed the annual wine festival, which was due to start the following weekend. To be honest, though, having a wine festival in a village that is pretty much wall-to-wall wine tasting bars with a couple of cafés and bakeries thrown in seemed a little redundant. The whole place is a wine-tasting festival! Only the very laziest sort of customer would need the free wine-tasting bar moved ten feet forward for his convenience. I’m sorry. I’d love some free wine, but I just don’t see how I can be expected to take those extra six steps to your bar. You’re gonna have to put it out on the sidewalk for me.
You know, put that way, it does sound kind of tempting…
More pictures of our day in Châteauneuf du Pape are at right, under “Photos.”