Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day fifteen Provence.

Today was one we've been waiting for for months - Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The little appellation beside the Rhone named after the town in its centre. The town named after the collapsed fortress on the top of the hill, 'new castle of the Pope'.

The dilapidated fortress on the top of the hill.

The town, about half an hour from Caromb, was baking hot and the first time we have had to pay for parking so far in France. The town is also packed with cellar doors and wine merchants as you would expect. We had put off our visit to Chateauneuf-du-Pape until near the end of our trip to coincide with the vintage. Driving into the town all that can be seen from the edge of the road right up to the horizon are vineyards. Rows and rows of grapes on both sides of the road.

The view of the vineyards from the top of the hill.

The picking, pressing and fermenting is happening all over our part of Provence. Most of the vines around Caromb are mechanically harvested, for table wine. The vintage in the north is much more refined and hand-picked. Lines of pickers dot the hillside vineyards. Provence seems crowded with tiny narrow tractors that are designed to fit between the rows. These little tractors have been rolling slowly through all the towns since we have arrived towing their little narrow trailers piled with grapes.

Vintage at Caromb.

We left the car and headed to the wine museum. There were displays of old wine-making equipment and some information on phylloxera in the area. We headed back up the hill to taste some wine where we ran into the usual problem of being in our 20s and walking into cellar doors. It is very difficult to be taken seriously by cellar door staff, particularly in a world renowned appellation. On several occasions we were ignored and we walked out, assumed to be children that weren't worth worrying about.

Old wine-making gear.

We happened across a cellar under the fortress on the top of the hill - Cave du Verger des Papes - and were greeted by the owner of the cellar who spoke very good English and we later found out had spent some time in Hobart a few years ago. He opened 6 bottles to show us some classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape styles, including whites that we hadn't seen before.

Elysia enjoying the cave.

We tasted a beautiful roussanne from 2005 picked from 100 year old vines. The chateau's wines are renowned for their ageing capabilities. We spent an hour talking to Jean-Baptiste and made him promise to come to Piccalilly for a visit when he's in Hobart next.

We headed back down into the town to try and find some lunch and settled on a little hotel on the main street. We were seated in a little courtyard with six or seven other tables. After half an hour we walked out of the little hotel still hungry as no one had even been to our table to ask if we wanted any drinks, let alone to take an order.

By the time we were back on the street everything was closed for siesta so we headed back to Carpentras to pick up some ingredients to take home. We grabbed a cucumber some tomatoes and capsicums to make a gazpacho (we were going to order it at lunch) using the fantastic local olive oil.

We sat and read until dinner time when we sat down to baked demi-sec goat cheese salad with cos lettuce, tomatoes and garlic croutons. Unfortunately we were unable to capture a photo of the salad because we ate it so quickly. All in all a sunny day with great wine but, unfortunately, very little to report food-wise.

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