This is a wine region we have wanted to visit for many years. Several years ago my brother-in-law introduced us to these delicious wines, and since then we have enjoyed them from time to time and particularly on special occasions. Chateauneuf du Pape wines are very spicy, big and full of complex flavors. From our rental condo in Vaison La Romaine, we traveled 35 minutes south to the town of Chateauneuf du Pape and the surrounding area that makes up one of the most famous wine regions in the world. The backroads in this region are some of the most beautiful we have seen in the Rhone Valley. The vineyards are beautifully manicured, with rows very close to one another. This is the last week of the harvest, and we spotted small groups of workers here and there along our route.
The rules of the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation are very strict, and all the wines are made from grapes called the “Magnificent Thirteen.” The red wines of Chateauneuf du Pape are the most celebrated. They all are blended wines. It is up to the discretion of the winemaker of what red grapes will go into the making of the vintage. For example, at the Chateau Mont-Redon, we tasted two red wines. One had 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Another Mont-Redon wine was a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 8% Mourvédre, and 2% from four other Rhone varietals.
The town of Chateauneuf du Pape sits high on a hill, and at the very top are the ruins of the Chateau des Papes. The Chateau was used as a summer home of the Popes in the 14th century. If you visit this area you must visit these ruins. They afford spectacular views of the vineyards and the Rhone River. There is an excellent restaurant at this spot, Le Veger des Papes. With the amazing views of the Rhone Valley and River below, it is a very popular spot for dining.
A stroll through the town shows that perhaps 85% of the businesses are wineries or “degustations,” which are tasting bars where one can taste and purchase wine. There are restaurants and other shops, but it is truly about wine in the small town of Chateauneuf du Pape.
On our visit to Chateau Mont-Redon and later at Chateau La Nerth, we saw the remarkable soil of rocks that line the vineyards. They are called pebbles, but they are actually small stones that are smooth and rounded. It almost looks like a landscape architect selected these stones to decorate the area. These “pebbles” are the result of ancient glacier activity and the power of the Rhone River. Well below the rocks, the soil is made up largely of clay. We had made an appointment at Chateau Mont-Redon, but we quickly learned that it was not necessary. Several visitors appeared in the tasting room and they were warmly welcomed. There are no tasting fees for visitors, just delicious wines to try. Surprisingly enough, most of the wineries offer a discount to guests. In California, we pay top dollar for wines sold in tasting rooms and often find them discounted at wine shops. In the Rhone Valley, it is quite the opposite. We purchased six bottles of Chateau Mont-Redon wines, three white wines and three reds. The red wines ranged in price from $28 to $35 dollars. These would cost twice as much in the U.S.
If you do spend some time in the Chateauneuf du Pape region, we highly recommend a visit to Chateau Mont-Redon. It sits high above most of the wineries in the area and has wonderful views. Of course, the wines are magnificent! Our GPS could not locate this winery, so make sure you have directions before you visit.