Friday, June 17, 2011

Chateauneuf du Pape, tasting Tavel and lunch where Hannibal marched

17.06.11 Chateauneuf du Pape (the village, and the wine), tasting Tavel and lunch where Hannibal marched
Papal ruins overlook Chateuneuf and its grapes. More photos here

Maison Brotte was our first port of call in the small French town of Chateauneuf du Pape. Mainly because it was easy to find but also because it is recommended in the Michelin Green Guide to the Wine Regions of France.
The charming lady who met us at the door –I  had euros in hand – explained that the visit to the very interesting wine museum is “gratuit” which means free (for nothing). Libre also means free but you might still have to pay for that unused parking space! Don’t worry. I got caught once or twice myself with those two.
The museum is quite informative and they have some old implements in-house and in the surrounds. After that, you get to taste their Domaine Barville products. Not just Chateauneuf but also wines such as Gigondas and other Cotes du Rhone. We enjoyed our samples of their white and red Chateauneuf. The red was 2009 but we picked on the 2007 when buying.
After that we visited the Chateau (or at least its ruins) that gave the village its name. The popes, then living just a few miles away in Avignon, decided they needed a summer residence and picked on the hilltop here. Now just one huge wall remains intact but from here you have a very impressive view. Of course the chateau dominated the town which is, appropriately, twinned with Castelgandolfo, the current summer residence of the popes.
Our first tasting of the day had been not too far away in the village of Tavel who make the “best Rose in France”. The town’s other claim to fame is that it supplied the stone for the Statue of Liberty.
Met a very pleasant lady here who first plied us with the Tavel 2010 which was excellent. Next came the 2010 Cuvee Royal which was even better and which formed the bulk of our purchase here. For a few Euros more...
In between the wine visits, we stopped at Roquemaure, also a wine town (scene of the St Valentine’s Day Festival of the Kiss and where Hannibal crossed the Rhone).Hardly a sound as we arrived at lunch-time but we did find a little restaurant, called L’Ecole Buissonniere (school of truants), very small and not in the  main area. But we had a lovely lunch of Chicken fricassée, served with rice and a shallot and thyme sauce. Brilliant dish for just 9 euro; my glass of local rose came in at 2 euro.
Took a stroll to the river after that and, on some kind of small platform, saw a few ducks and an adult and baby otter. That is what I thought at first but soon began to have my doubts. Does anyone recognise the furry animals from the photo?
After Chateauneuf, we headed back to Fontvieille where we found a boules tournament being played out all over the car parks. Might well have been an international as Italian flags were flying in front of the town hall. Our mission was to the traiteur and he didn’t leave us down with enough of a prepared beef dish (in the style of the Camargue cowboys, the Gardians) for two for just over a tenner. Should go well with a bottle of that Chateauneuf or will I keep it all for Ireland. Decisions, decisions.