Wine tasting in Chateauneuf-de-Pape was one of the highlights of our overall France trip! When planning the trip, since it would be our first trip to the land of foodie/vino heaven, it was a bit intimidating trying to determine which regions to hit, since there are so many famous ones to choose from: Champagne, Bordeaux, etc..But at the same time,we needed to fit it into our itinerary, or rather overall “trip goal,” of experiencing France’s city-life (Paris), a taste of a typical Provence small town/village in the countryside (Aix) and lastly –our favorite type of town–one right by the sea (Antibes).
And of course within this overall goal, heh perhaps most importantly, we wanted to try the region’s different types of food and vino! (making a first-time visit to another country requires some strategery indeed). So, not knowing much about French wine at all, I relied upon my numerous hours of reviewing travel books and sites and one region that kept popping up was Chateauneuf de Pape.
We took the early train from Paris to Avignon (about 2 hours via TGV), then we rented a little “bean car” –although not so bean-like–twas a Ford Focus (actually the Euro version is quite nice!) for the four of us. From there we headed to the nearby medieval village of Chateauneuf-de-Pape, passing by rows of grapes and greenery. It is actually quite easy to wine taste since there are numerous wineries closeby (instead of say, having to drive miles out to each one). First we parked in a convenient (and free!) parking lot, then walked up to the the main village area. As with most medival or old towns, Chateauneuf-de-Pape is built on top of a hill overlooking the nearby lush green countryside and sparkling Rhone river.
(I’m just going to refer to Chateauneuf-de-Pape as CDP from here on out 🙂 CDP is a cute, very small and quaint village with picturesque rustic buildings dotted with wooden-shuttered windows (its a wine taster’s paradise since almost every other place is a wine tasting shop. But, I prefer visiting the actual wineries for a more intimiate experience).
We had a classically French breakfast of a pastry (flakey buttery savory quiche) and cafe—sitting outside to enjoy the vivid blue sky and bright sun—It was a very nice and warm welcome to Provence, coming from the more gloomier/drizzly weather in Paris. And Alan and Mimer were kind enough to share some delicious macarons they’d purchased in Paris, from this famous and legendary pastry chef Pierre Herme, (http://www.pierreherme.com/?___store=english&___from_store=french).
When biting into the little “cookie sandwiches,” you first bite into a thin crisp shell which gently collapses into puffy “cookie innard” and then you get to the airy sweet creamy filling. I never cared much about macarons in the US, but I suppose that is because the ones I’ve tried are stale-like crunchy and almost chalky textured. Ah, how one’s mind opens from traveling heh.
So! Vat did we learn from our winery tours and chatting with the wine staff? (By the way, its always fun to chat with the locals—getting to know the people and also learning about the wine). Chateauneuf-de-Pape wines must be made by combinations of only 13 grapes–any other kind, and its not CDP. Can I remember which types of grapes? No 🙂 But I think after tasting so many CDP wines consecutively, my taste buds are starting to get the hang of what aspects make up a wine from this region.
On a side note, man, learning just one region–CDP–reinforces the saying (can’t remember the more eloquent way of saying it) but “the more you know the more you realize how much there is you don’t know.” But that I think, is what makes wine-tasting so fun–the variety of flavors are so infinite, due to the different combos of grapes, regions, weather patterns, soil, fermentation process etc. that you’ll always be able to taste something different and also gain a better understanding of the characteristics of a type of wine. Heh and of course another fun thing about wine: As with life, the more you experience, the more more you learn— So salute! and git to learnin about them grapes!