As a wine lover (but by no means expert!), I was very excited to be visiting Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I knew of the wine, but before organising the trip, I didn’t realise that Châteauneuf-du-Pape is also a village, as well as a wine producing region (which is made up of seven villages).
The village itself is small, with around 3000 residents. It is centred around a pretty crossroads with restaurants, huge trees, a fountain and of course wine shops. Here you can find the tourist office, with lots of info on the area.
The closest international airport is Marseille, which is around an hours drive. There is also the option to take the Eurostar to Avignon, which is 30 minutes from the village.
We flew to Marseille, took a hire car and drove through Salon de Provence, Sorgues and past Avignon to reach Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s definitely best to hire a car if you can, as public transport is scarce around the tiny villages. Alternatively there are tour companies who will organise trips around the region.
Although it’s a small village, Châteauneuf-du-Pape has some great accommodation options, ranging from quaint B&B’s to 4 star chateau hotels. We stayed at the Wine B&B in the centre of the village, run by Danièle Raulet-Reynaud, a lovely little place with 4 rooms. It’s easy to miss from the main road, but once inside, there is a large house with a beautiful big garden where we ate breakfast.
It’s a great B&B, but one of the main reasons to stay here is the host – Danièle was France’s first female Sommelier. She’s had an impressive career that includes: running Michelin star restaurants, travelling the world to give lectures about wine and producing her own in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
After breakfast, she took us to her cellar and gave us an introduction to the regions wines and talked about the amazing Femmes Vignes Rhône, a network of women who are producing wine in the region. Danièle also offers wine and cheese pairing classes for both B&B residents and non guests.
Things To Do
The main reason people come to Châteauneuf-du-Pape is for the wine. There are over 300 wine producers in the area, and 13 different grapes grown and blended in the wines, which means there is a huge variety to choose from. A good starting point is Vinadea in the village centre, literally ‘the house of wine’, this shop offers free tastings and sells over 250 of the local wines. The staff are very knowledgeable and we had a tasting with Marie Clementine, who was lovely. The wines are priced the same as if you were to buy them direct from the vignerons, which is great too.
Following this, it’s worth visiting one of the vineyards. The Vinadea staff can recommend one (or two or three), and many are walkable from the village centre. Most close between 12-2 for lunch, so it’s worth bearing that in mind when planning your day.
The ‘Pape’ in Chateauneuf du Pape, means Pope, and the village was once the summer residence to the Pope Clement V and John XXII. The latter ordered the construction of a castle, built on the hill in the village (although he died a year after it was completed). Sadly much of the castle was destroyed over the years, and even more so in WWII. However it’s still an impressive site and you can enter what was once the wine store, as well as looking out across the village and the Rhone Valley from the old windows.
South of the main crossroads is a small chapel, Saint Theodorit, the oldest building in the village. It often hosts exhibitions and you can still see 12th century Vaucluse frescoes on the walls.
Food & Drink
There are a number of restaurants in the village, we had dinner at Hotel La Garbure which does a set menu for 25 euro. It was delicious and a nice location in the centre of the village. A definite recommendation is the Le Verger du Pape up by the castle ruin. This place has spectacular views of the village, the river and Avignon, and the food was great too.
On the outskirts of the village (5 minutes by car), are a distillery and chocolate factory. If you’re a chocolate fan (and who isn’t?) then definitely check it out. The chocolate factory offers wine and chocolate pairings and sells a huge variety of chocolate, sweets and desserts.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a great place to spend a few days, and the wines we tasted were wonderful. I would definitely recommend it for a weekend break, or as part of a longer trip to Provence. We spent a week in the area and also visited Avignon and L’isle sur la Sourge, which were both lovely. And I managed to bring a few bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape home, to enjoy at a later date!
Thank you to Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tourism for hosting A Lovely Planet.