The papacy relocated to their new quarters (châteauneuf) in Avignon in 1308 under the former Archbishop of Bordeaux, Pope Clement V. Over the following 70 years of papal reign the vineyards flourished and the Church greatly influenced the importance of agriculture in the region. Beyond dancing on the remains of the bridge and visiting the former Papal residence, Châteauneuf du Pape is perhaps one of the better known wines in the world even though many people may have never sampled a bottle or two. Now is actually a good time to experiment as the 2007, 2009 and 2010 vintages are highly regarded and may still be found in reputable wine shops.
As an appellation d’origine contrôlée and appellation d’origine protégée it’s use is restricted to 5 communes in the Vaucluse (84): Châteauneuf du Pape, Bédarrides, Courthézon, Orange and Sorgues. There are 13 varieties of grapes that are authorize for either white or red wine production: grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, picpoul, terret Noir, counoise, muscardin, vaccarèse, picardin, cinsaut, clairette, roussanne, and bourboulenc. White wines are typically made from the grenache blanc, bourboulenc, clairette, picardan, roussanne, and picpoul. Red wines, probably bowing to the pressures from New World competition, are dominated by as much as 80% grenache with lesser amounts of mourvèdre, syrah, and perhaps a little of the other red grape varieties.
Cultivation requirements are for 2 meters between plants with rows being 2.5 meters apart. The vines are pruned short. The Guyot pruning system is authorized for the Syrah vines while the other varieties are pruned to a wire no more than 60 centimeters high. Refer to vine training techniques for a good overview.
As the season progresses, the grape clusters are pruned back limiting production to no more than 35 hectolites per hectare. During 2005, there were 311 producers with a total of 3,210 hectares under production which yielded 101,870 hectoliters of juice.
In general the terroir is warm and sunny, situated on the left bank of the Rhône, north of Avignon, littered with stream rolled cobble stones which heat up during the day to provide warm for the vines over night. However, the strength of the appellation rests in the subsoil composed of red clay and ferruginous sands.
Given the quantity of allowed varieties each producer and each vintage is likely to exhibit some differences. My best advice is to not get hung up on a specific label, drink around and enjoy the diversity of a natural, honest viticulture.
One hectare is 2.47 acres. One hectoliter is 26.42 gallons or slightly more than 133 750ml bottles. At $50, a single hectare can produce over $23,000 in retail revenue annually.
Oranges are named after the commune of Orange were they grew and thrived becoming quite popular. Orange was also the capital of a former Dutch principality.