Visiting the Pope’s Home…and Drinking His Wine

On Friday morning, while in Avignon, we paid a courtesy call at the Pope’s residence here, only to learn that we had missed him by about 700 years. We took a tour anyway.

IMG_7228A handful of Popes resided here in the Fourteenth Century (Benedict XII, Innocent VI, etc.) when the Medicis were making Rome a dangerous place for Popes. Barbara Tuchman has a lot to say about this in her fascinating book about Fourteenth Century France, A Distant Mirror.

Since there were no Popes available in Avignon to receive us, we headed out to the countryside to see the famous Chateauneuf Du Pape wine region and sample the Pope’s wine. We learned that Chateauneuf Du Pape is produced by 330 wineries in the region, each with its unique approach to the varietal, which can be made by 13 different grapes. The method of growth and production, however, is very strictly regulated by law; no irrigation, and no mechanical harvesting, for instance.

IMG_7290And as you can see here, the vines are grown and cultivated in extremely rocky soil, which was deposited here millennia ago when the Rhone receded to its present banks. These stones contribute to the wine’s unique terroir. At 35 to 65 Euros a bottle, however, we didn’t really like it that much.

we opted instead for a jug of wine and a loaf of bread from the local market, instead.