Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rocked Us…Literally

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a historic town in France’s Rhone Valley, near Avignon in the Provence region. It is known for its history and for its rich, full-bodied, spicy red wines.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape translates into ‘New Castle of the Pope‘.  When the French popes moved to Avignon during a turbulent period for Rome, they wanted to source their fine wines locally (they were already huge fans of the wines produced by monks in the Burugundy Region). Chateauneuf-du-Pape (near Avignon) was a perfect place for the Pope’s court in the early 14th century and vineyards.

After the popes left Avignon, winemaking continued despite the loss of an illustrious, monied local patron.  Believe it or not, around a hundred years ago the bulk of Châteauneuf-du-Pape was sold to Burgundy to add to their local wines to boost the strength and alcohol levels. In 1923, it got its own Appellation Contrôlée (AOC).  These regulations set the minimum alcohol level of the wines and set limits on yields as well as which types of grapes could be grown in which area.

We drive through Chateauneuf-du-Pape with a few farmers.  They were astonished to see the soil filled with rocks, pebbles and sand.  Locals explained poor farmland is usually good for something else, like growing grapes.

At a tasting, the leader explained that grapes like people, are not interesting if they are not challenged.  In Chateauneuf-du-Pape, like Burgundy, the grapes are challenged.  Not only is the soil lacking in organic matter, the climate is hot, dry and windy.  Irrigation is forbidden.  Viticulturalists must apply for special permission from the French government to water.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s local rocks (galets roulés), retain the sun’s heat and release it at night.  Locals believe that this permits the grapes t ripen more quickly and work as a mulch to prevent too much evaporation from the soil.  The strong winds (the mistral) carry away moisture, intensifying the grape’s flavor.

There are different ways of pruning plants.  Before leaving the US, I left very specific instructions on how I wanted my Crepe Myrtles pruned.  Winemakers are equally fussy about pruning.  Bushvines are common even though yields are limited.

We learned that in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they often use cement tanks instead of barrels.  Their main grape is Grenache, which is prone to oxidation.  Wood barrels allow more oxidation and so these grapes often sit in cement tanks while their Pinot friends from the next row over get to age in wood barrels.

Grenache is the most common variety; it produces a sweet juice. It is frequently mixed with Syrah or Mourvèdre. I had a picture of Grenache labels at the end of rows of vines, but this one came out better.  Although the town is known for its reds, this is one of the varieties of grape that is used in making whites.

 

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Ladies (And Gents) Love The Lambic

Lambic beers are a unique to Belgium and different from most other beers.  Lambic‘s fermentation is caused by exposure to native, wild, airborne yeasts and bacteria.  As a result, it is strongly tied to its place of brewing.  It undergoes a relatively long period of aging of up to 2-3 years.
There are several different types of Lambic beers.  They include:
Faro – light, sweet from the added sugars, low on alcohol
Fruits – flavors include: Framboise (rasberry), casis (black currant), kreik (cherries) and peche (peach).  They are often sweet, fruity and the flavors remind you a bit of Jolly Ranchers.  Mort Subite and Belle-Vue are probably the best known and most easily accessible of these.
Gueze – golden to light, amber, sour, acidic, rarely bitter, sometimes harsh with a champagne like sparkle.
Muscat – made from grapes and more like wine.
Lambics may not be our American Neighbor’s sort of thing (his everyday beer is Budweiser and I’m not lying about the everyday part).  Even if you don’t want to drink them everyday can really compliment a food, be fun to taste, or a nice change of pace.

 

 

Chartreuse, It’ll Put Hair On Your Chest!

France has a food and drink culture.  Apparently, every region of France has its own liqueur(s). He received some Chartreuse as a present.  Now, I know where the color Chartreuse comes from.  Even the cork is bright green.
Chartreuse is surprisingly good.  It is made from over 150 herbs, plants and spices.  One of them is anise, a spicy black licorice, flavor.  The Peres (fathers) Chartreux originally created as an “Elixir of Long Life” from a recipe given to them by François Hannibal d’Estrées, a marshal of artillery to French king Henry IV, in 1605.  Today, it is produced by Carthusian monks in the French Alps.  Only three living monks know the recipe to this drink and they’ve taken a vow of silence!


They didn’t skip on the presentation.  The numbered bottle came with seals in a special wooden box!  

The yellow version is sweeter and milder than the green, which will put hair on your chest.  V.E.P. stands for Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolonge, is Chartreuse aged for a longer period of time.  Its a high-end luxury liquor which means that even though it will still put hair on your chest, it’s a little more mellow than the regular.

Although I’d never heard of it before moving here, I understand that hip cocktail joints are using it in drinks.  The New York Times wrote an article about its increasing popularity in the US, proclaiming it “[a] fetish among cocktail enthusiasts, but obscure to the general public, Chartreuse has been steadily infiltrating cocktail menus in New York and elsewhere, with bartenders increasingly reaching for it to add depth and nuance — and instant classical cred — to their creations.”  Popular cocktails include: the Chartreuse SmashThe LumièreThe Beauty SpotThe Last Word, the Champs-Élysées CocktailGreenpointEureka Punch and CCR.

Chartreuse was originally intended as medicine and has a distinctly herbal taste.  I’m not sure if it will work every time, but it cured my cold!  As Brian Fontana said in Anchorman:  “They’ve done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time.”