I’m back (finally!) with another one of my Provence travel diaries. The first one I covered was my morning in L’isle-Sur-la-Sorgue.
When Adam and I went to the South of France, his only request was that we visit Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This wine is a specific “appellation d’origine contrôlée,” located in the Rhône wine region, and it was the first appellation to be recognized by the French government.
They take their wine incredibly seriously in France, putting strict regulations in place about how the grapes are grown and how much wine can be produced. Each appellation is defined by its geographic borders and there are laws and regulations that differ in each one.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the smallest regions and it is entirely focused around the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Within the 7,746 acres of vineyards that make up the region, there are 320 growers producing roughly 13 million bottles each year. The wine is notoriously expensive, known for its drinkability, history, and its flavor that falls somewhere between jammy, fruity, and herbal.
To be honest, I’d never heard of Châteauneuf-du-Pape before we started planning our trip, but Adam was hot on it (he likes to consider himself a budding wine expert). But, I was able to get an extra day in Provence thanks to the wine, so that’s a win for me.
A Day Trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape
We planned our day trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape last minute — despite knowing ahead of time that we were going. As in we spent the morning in Aix-en-Provence then, from the road, I was making phone calls to vineyards hoping we could grab a reservation. I’d use my best French to get on their good side, hoping they wouldn’t reply too quickly (my French is okay, not good). Despite our last minute approach, here are the two vineyards we visited on our day trip.
This was a lovely location with incredible views stretching out across the vineyards, with the mountains looming in the background. I could have sat out here all day. But this is where we realized that French vineyards haven’t tapped into the same ambiance of American vineyards. There was no seating outside to speak of. It was lovely inside, but we would have been delighted to sit out here with a glass of wine on this gorgeous day! Regardless, we bought several bottles and the woman who did our tasting was wonderful.
Adam felt strongly about visiting this vineyard, and I felt that we got more education here from the man who did our tasting. We scooted in shortly before closing, but he chatted all about the soil and its rockiness — something that was fascinating to me. It barely looks real, but, of course, they can’t touch the soil thanks to the rules of the appellation, so it is. Adam picked up several bottles again here (the fact we packed in our carry ons on the way back is mind-boggling).
Looking back, we might have done a guided trip, though we did that in Bordeaux and wished we’d done our own, so perhaps there are pros and cons to each. The happy medium is probably doing your own — but with a slightly more thinking ahead approach than we did to avoid the in-car stress of hoping you can grab a tasting reservation somewhere.