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For All You Wine Lovers Out There...


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Guest Kakugo

I recently took a trip to France and took the occasion to go here:




No presentations needed. ;)


I confess I drink only very very rarely and very very little: wine almost invariably gives me stomach troubles after just one sip and with two ulcers already logged in I need to be careful.

But I have a couple of friends who absolutely love reds and, with no idea about what buying them as a wedding gift, I decided to take a detour a buy them a few bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape.

I may not drink, but I have always had an eye for quality. ;)






The village itself was very peaceful: the hordes of tourists will arrive in a couple of weeks at most.

It's also very well kept and spotlessly clean.






Overlooking the village are the ruins of the castle the Popes had built as a Summer residence (and stronghold) when they resided in nearby Avignon. Chateauneuf du Pape after all means "The Pope's New Castle". ;)




"Our tears mingled with the Rhodanòs". The mighty Rhone River flows in the distance, watering one of the best winemaking areas in the world.






The ruins are presently being excavated under a government-funded project. The castle itself was pretty much abandoned the moment the Popes returned to Rome and the surrounding area was immediately taken over by vineyards. They still surround the place.




This very nice and lovely girl was part of the crew escavating the site. Despite being working in what is essentially an open air pit, she took the time to answer questions posed by an elderly couple about the state of the project.


Now the wine itself... you can pretty much buy it straight from any producer in the area. Differently from most of the Rhone region, plots here are small, although like everywhere else in France everything is completely mechanized: harvesting, pruning etc. This increases productivity enormously and scientific methods give an incredibly consistent high quality.


Chateauneuf du Pape is a relatively modern wine: until the close of the XIX century, vineyard owners here mostly concentrated on wine to be mixed with Bourdeaux or Bourdeaux "clones".

Like everywhere else in Europe, vineyards here were almost wiped out by a catastrophic Phylloxera outbreak around 1890.

French farmers elegantly solved the problem by grafting their own cultivars to American rootstocks, which are naturally resistant to Phylloxera.

In 1893 commandant Joseph Ducos, a retired military officer who owned a vineyard in the area, planted the first grafted vines in his domaine. After experimenting with various cultivars, he focused on Grenache, which quickly became the most widespread.

Chateauneuf du Pape is either pure Grenache or a blend containing at least 75% Grenache. Grenache is a long-lived, slowly maturing plant: right now the best wineyards are those planted at least 50 years ago.


Oh, and after the wine lesson there will be the riding report. ;)


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Guest Kakugo
What a great reason for a ride. Thanks for the wine lesson. How many bottles fit in your bags?


I have a waterproof rollback I use in lieu of a top case. I reckon it could take two six-bottles wooden crates without problems and still have room for a few other things as well. ;)


I bought three bottles for my friends (including a much sought after 2010, the best vintage in recent decades) and two others. One for my uncle and another to keep in the house if I ever need a quick very good present or have somebody I want to impress over for dinner. No problem going back for more. ;)


Two quick things.

First, most domaines also maintain a small shop in the village itself. There are also a few wine merchants carrying large selections: if you are unsure about exactly what you want, I suggest you visit the latter since you can taste and compare.

Second, buying the wine there is ridiculously cheap. All over the world Chateauneuf du Pape has insane prices because it's rightly considered a top name. Not here. I won't post prices because it would cause wine lovers a lot of grief. ;)


And now for the riding.

When in France there are a few roads I always strive to ride.

One is the Route Napoleon, so called because it was the road taken by Napoleon to get back to Paris in 1815 during the 100 Days.

I've ridden it many, many times, so I tend to take fewer and fewer pictures each year.










This is a small chapel at the side of the road called Notre Dame de Gratemoine. Always very peaceful there, the quiet only being occasionally broken by the sound of an engine.

If I am ever getting hitched, I want it to be here or in a very similar place. ;)


The best bit of the Route Napoleon is the part between Castellane and Barreme. Very fast, very twisty... not for the fainthearted nor the pretend racers. ;)

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Nice report. The road between between Castellane and Barreme does indeed look interesting. Linky

I had a chance to see some of the region and of course sample the wine back in the 80's when my ship was in Toulon.

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Paul In Australia

Excellent report Kakugo

I am planning a ride in Europe and this will now go on the itinerary. Red wine is my mistress( well one of them anyway). Great photos. Thanks and don't stop now. You are superbly placed to do a series on motorcycle wine touring.



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Guest Kakugo

The route I took from my hotel to Chateauneuf du Pape started with the famous Serres-Nyons road. Another very fast road and not for the fainthearted. Beware if you are riding there in the Fall because very thick fog is an ever present hazard. Just ask how I know, ;)

While riding in a Gorge along this road, I was literally showered with rocks falling from an overhanging cliff.

Most of them hit my chest and arms, but I heard a very distinct noise of one hitting plastic, and hard.




I feared my headlight had shattered (big €€€) so I stopped to check. Luckily only a very small mark on the painted area of the front fender. I got away with it very lightly. As for me, body armor did its job and no rocks hit my brand new helmet. :thumbsup:




Most of road was resurfaced last Fall with no expenses spared. This is a popular destination with riders, chiefly from Germany and Northern Europe, meaning big €€€ for local businesses. Driving them away with poor tarmac is the last thing the local Departement wants. :thumbsup:






This is a single, family-owned vineyard in the Rhone valley (lots in Chateauneuf du Pape are far smaller due to being mostly on hillsides). Probably small fries compared to North American agriculture, but you cannot but stand in awe of French agriculture. Methods are often decades ahead of other European countries and mechanization is complete: even relatively small, family owned farms own at least one multifunction grape harvester, meaning it not only harvest grapes, but it also can be used to prune the vines and treat them with pesticides. Most widespread brands are New Holland/Braud and Lacruz.

My grandfather, with his love of complicated engineering solutions, would have loved them.


Excellent report Kakugo

I am planning a ride in Europe and this will now go on the itinerary. Red wine is my mistress( well one of them anyway). Great photos. Thanks and don't stop now. You are superbly placed to do a series on motorcycle wine touring.




Hope to meet you soon then.

I meet a few Australians every year here in the Alps. :thumbsup:

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I recently took a trip to France and took the occasion to go here:




How flooded was the flooded road?

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Guest Kakugo
I recently took a trip to France and took the occasion to go here:




How flooded was the flooded road?


In all honesty as dry as a bone. ;)

I think the sign has been put up earlier this Spring (lots of rain in April) and they just forgot it there.

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Guest Kakugo

If you are in the area and you don't ride the legendary Gorges d'Ardeche, you don't know what you are missing.

I rate this as the best road in France and not very far removed from the jawdropping Spanish roads I love so much.

It's fast, it's technical and paved with very rough, almost racetrack quality tarmac.

Only one bit of advice: you don't wanna to mess with me on that road, regardless of what I ride. ;)






Since this time I found almost no traffic (more in a minute) I took the occasion to ride it as intended, meaning no stops and no slowdowns until the last panorama going towards Vallon-Pont d'Arc, where I stopped for refreshments, meaning a lot of fruit juice and a bag of dried apricots, and to pat myself on the back.


Only traffic I met on the road was single caravan (which I managed to overtake immediately) and two French riders going so slowly they made me long for being stuck behind a caravan. Have I mentioned one of them had an action camera? I hope he erases the moment where I blast past him at the speed of light, singing King by Eluveitie at the top of my lungs. I cannot sing to save my own life. :rofl:

One of the bikes looked oddly familiar.




Yes, that's a CB1300 like my "other" ride, only this has been extensively and, shall I say, tastelessly modified. ;)

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