You know when you've been Chateauneuf du Paped! This weekend I spent a fabulous time in the capital of the Southern Rhone, Avignon. A beautiful town, once home to the pope and just bursting with French flair, above average cuisine and saturated with CNdP, Gigondas, Hermitage, Tavel, Beaumes-de-Venise, Vacqueyras and all the other fabulous wines of this region.
I visited the region exclusively to tour the appellation of Chateaneuf du Pape and took a tour with Francois from Avignon Wine Tour. Going behind the scenes at the Domaine de Beaurenard vineyards and tasting a variety of wines here and at the excellent Brotte museum, Roger Sabon winery and also with Domaine de Nalys, some of the most well established producers of Chateauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhone wines.
The Chateauneuf du Pape area is best known for its red wines and this year got an extra bit of critical acclaim when one of its top producers, Clos du Papes, was awarded with the Wine Spectator "wine of the year" award. However, there are some very enjoyable white CndP wines though they make up only 5% of the output of the appellation. Speaking of "appellations", another enjoyable fact about the CndP area is that it is from here, CndP, that the AOC was created with local producer (and qualified lawyer) Baron Pierre Le Roy putting together the rules and regulations for Cotes du Rhone wines that would eventually be adopted for all the wine growing regions of France. This structure was later copied by countries the world over preventing an American company from calling their sparkling wine "champagne" for example.
Although I had the privilege of trying the latest releases in both CndP and Cotes du Rhone wines from many fine producers the highlight of the tour was certainly the Brotte museum. An extremely informative and well thought out history of the region as well as an explanation of wine production. The tour ends with a tasting of wines from all over the Southern Rhone with the sommelier asking if there are any specific wines you want to try and then fishing them out for you. I'd like to think this is because I am very special and/or attractive but I think everyone gets the same treatment. At the Brotte museum you can try Gigondas, Tavel and Muscat de Beaumes de Venise which of course are not wines produced within CndP. So if you do tour CndP, which you definitely should, here is the best place to get a more rounded view of the Southern Rhone.
Avignon itself is a very attractive town, very expensive on the main avenue but with zero litter and filled with wine and souvenir shops. Never in my life have I been approached more often for money and cigarettes though. Avignon has a serious hobo problem that the town council really should be striving to clean up. Avignon is a tourist town and the sheer amount of drunks and people sleeping rough on the street casts a shadow over one of the gems in the French tourist crown. My advise if to stay outside of the walls and try not to walk around alone after dark! Try to stay off the Rue de la Republique for your restaurants. Not only are these hiked up tourist prices but they're not the cleanest either with a cockroach joining myself and my dining partner on Saturday night.
Avignon, beautiful but grubby.
Appia Residences Hotel Prague
Appia Residences Hotel Prague