The history of this famous French wine in the southern Rhône is closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church. From 1309 to 1377, the city of Avignon was the seat of the popes and, from 1378 to 1408, of two counter-popes. Clement V (1264-1314) became the first Pope in exile here in 1309, followed by six more. One of them was Pope John XXII (1244-1334), born in Cahors, who chose Châteauneuf Castle as his summer residence. He had the castle converted into a summer residence and gave important impulses to viticulture. He brought in winegrowers from the Cahors area, who established viticulture here and produced a red wine called "Vin d'Avignon". This was, so to speak, the predecessor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but this name only became common in the 19th century. The emblem of the city of Avignon with two crossed keys (those of Saint Peter) is a reminder of this past. A great lover of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine was the President of the Republic, Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)
The boundaries of the approximately 3,140-hectare area were established as early as 1929, and recognition as one of the first appellations followed in 1935. Classified as a cru (top appellation), the area is located in the southernmost part of the Côtes du Rh ône area on the left bank of the Rhône (see above in the picture in the background). It includes the commune of Châteauneuf-du-Pape as well as some sites in Bédarrides, Courthézon, Orange and Sorgues. Characteristic are the large, rolled pebbles (galets roulés) mixed with red, sandy loam, which release the heat stored during the day to the vines at night (see bottom of picture). However, there are also sandy soils. The climate is hot and dry. On 130 days a year the mistral blows, a cold, dry and often strong downdraft wind that dries the grapes quickly even after heavy rain showers. Equally typical are the bush formations known as garrigue on shallow soils, which give the wines earthy tones with tart plant aromas. At least 5% of grapes of insufficient quality must be discarded (le râpé). The average yield is around 29 hl/ha. The alcohol content must be at least 12.5% vol.
The usual red blend is Grenache Noir (50-70%), Mourvèdre (10-30%), Cinsaut, Counoise, Syrah and Vaccarèse (up to 20%), and the white Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche and Piquepoul Blanc (up to 10%). However, there are also single-varietal types made from Grenache Noir, such as from Château Rayas, but also (rather few) wineries, such as Château de Beaucastel, which use all 13 varieties. The red wines account for around 93% of the production volume. The white wines are always vinified dry and, depending on the vintage, are relatively full-bodied with low acidity
The different terroir and the arbitrary cuvée (mixture of grape varieties) make a generally valid description of this wine very difficult, but one generally distinguishes between two basic types. The spicy type produced by the traditional method is deep dark, high in alcohol up to 14% vol. and can be stored for several decades. The second type is produced with the method carbonic maceration (carbonic acid mashing), has a marmalade-like taste and resembles Beaujolais. The great vintages are 1990, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2010
Between 90,000 and 105,000 hectolitres of wine are produced annually by 280 producers and around 13 million bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are marketed. Around 6% comes from cave coopératives. Well-known producers are Chapoutier, Château de Beaucastel, Château Fortia, Château de la Gardine, Château Mont-Redon, Château Rayas, Clos des Papes, Cuvée du Vatican, Domaine Paul Autard, Domaine La Bastide Saint Dominique, Domaine de Beaurenard, Domaine Bois de Boursan, Domaine Bosquet des Papes, Domaine Chante Cigale, Domaine Chante Perdrix, Domaine de La Charbonnière, Domaine des Chaussand, Domaine de La Côte de l'Ange, Domaine de Cristia, Domaine de Fontavin, Domaine Font de Michelle, Domaine Galévan, Domaine Giraud, Domaine du Grand Tinel, Domaine de La Janasse, Domaine La Roquète, Domaine Le Mereuille, Domaine de la Nerthe, Domaine du Pégau, Domaine des Pères de L'Eglise, Domaine de la Roncière, Domaine Saint Benoît, Domaine de Saint Paul, Domaine de Saint Siffrein, Domaine de la Solitude, Domaine Jean Trintignant, Domaine de Villeneuve, Domaine Patrice Magni, Domaine du Vieux Lazaret, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Maison Delas Frères and Mas de Boislauzon.