The Magic of Chateauneuf-du-Pape

The wine world has its share of eponymous regions; so famous, that just the mere murmur of their name evokes a sense of wonder.  Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of those regions. The rich, bold and sensuous red wines that are created from this parcel of land in the south of France have been renowned for hundreds of years. 


For those of us who love wine, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is practically a place of pilgrimage. It doesn’t matter from which direction you approach the village. Whether it’s from the rocky plateaus to the north and the city of Orange, from the east and the medieval town of Courthezon, or from the flowing Rhone River to the west – the omnipresent ruins of the famed chateau acts as a beacon to the wine-lover.

Wine grapes are nothing new to the region. Vines have grown wild here for millennia and some, like Syrah, are now very familiar. The Greeks, who arrived around 600 BC, cultivated these vines and introduced varieties from their homeland. The Romans were next, using the Rhone as a main transportation route, expanding the vineyards along its banks. By the 2nd c BC, the entire Rhone Valley was an important wine-producing region and continued to be so, through the Middle Ages and beyond. 

Tasting Wine at Roger Sabon Tasting at Roger Sabon ~ photo by Hilarie Larson

Most of the credit for Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s fame, however, goes to the Catholic Church, who were the major vineyard owners and winemakers of their time. In the 14th century, the Papal seat was moved from Rome to the city of Avignon.  The vineyards of Chateauneuf were close by and, the Papal court soon learned, made fabulous wines. Pope Clement V extended the vineyards and Pope John 12th was so taken with the town, that he built his summer home overlooking the vineyards and river, giving the village its name “New Castle of the Pope”. ‘Vins du Pape’ soon became all the rage and sustained this wine-creating village of 1000 inhabitants for centuries. Wines were shipped to Germany, Britain and America, their fame propelled by famous French authors such as Nobel Prize winner and Provençal hero Frederic Mistral, who wrote, “The wine from Chateauneuf brings courage, melody, love and joy.”

The complete article and radio show interview first appeared in Big Blend Radio & TV Magazine. A portion of the article is reprinted here with publisher's and author's permission. All rights reserved.  

Hilarie Larson

Hilarie Larson is a Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar and Wine Educator who loves to share her travel adventures. Fusing a region's heritage with its people, places and local flavors (especially the wines), Hilarie has a penchant for capturing the essence of a destination. 

Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Big Blend Radio & Magazine, FWT Magazine, Wine Geographic and Wine Folly, for whom she acted as a content editor and contributor for the new book, Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide.

Hilarie is available for education and training through engaging, educational and interactive workshops for created specifically to train staff of winery, restaurant, hotel and related businesses "to think like a sommelier."

Contact Hilarie at Northwinds Wine Consulting


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