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HISTORY OF CHÂTEAUNEUF DU PAPE

In 1157, Geoffrey, Bishop of Avignon, owns some vineyard parcels in Châteauneuf Calcenier [1] and in 1308, Clement V, the first Pope in Avignon, had a few acres of vines planted, parcels that then grew under Pope John XXII, his successor: these lands were to become the winegrowing core of Châteauneuf du Pape. The same John XXII is precisely the first to have called Châteauneuf wine: “The wine of the Pope”, and it is under his reign thet the famous plots of Châteauneuf were planted: Mont Redon, Maupertuis, Fagueirol, Cabrières, Beau-Renard, Bois Sénéchaux.
After the Popes had left Avignon and returned to the Vatican in Rome, the wine business was managed by the bishops and later by the archbishops of Avignon. In 1727, they wrote to the consuls to prevent early wine harvesting from damaging the quality of the wine.
Quite notably, in 1737, the winemakers of Châteauneuf du Pape requested authorization to be allowed the marking of their barrels with the CDR (Côte du Rhône) seal, as were the neighbouring villages of Tavel, Lirac, Saint Laurent des Arbres, Saint Génies de Comolas, Montfaucon and Roquemaure, by royal decree. Royal power declined this authorization, and it is quite difficult to say if the criteria for refusal were only motivated by quality!
In 1750, Châteauneuf du Pape vineyards spread over 650 hectares, then 668 in 1800, by that time the wine was known and sold throughout France but also abroad, in Italy-Rome and the Vatican, England, Germany, the United States. In the late 19th century, Frédéric Mistral and his friend Alphonse Daudet were the bards who sang the wine of Châteauneuf. But the rejoicing, fame and wealth of its inhabitants and wine growers didn't last long: the phylloxera struck its lands as it had everywhere else in 1870, ruining the local economy.
The parry was found by transplanting an American vine: in 1900 the vineyard once again extends over 600 hectares, and launched a reconquest of the lost markets. However, this success attracted imitators who made mediocre wines under the illegitimate name of Châteauneuf, damaging the real appellation’s reputation. In 1923, a group of wine growers call upon the baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie to create a syndicate of Châteauneuf wine growers, launching a process that will make the appellation one of the strictest in France, in terms of geographical delimitation, yield control, and grapes sorting. In June 1929, the delimitation trial is won and in 1937 the ancestor of the INAO confirms these prescriptions by law.

These efforts for quality have been persistent and are today shared by a large number of wine growers: this quality has not gone unnoticed, and great wine reviewers and critiques as Thierry Dessauve or Robert Parker have acknowledged that, when the wine is successful, it is one of the 10 greatest wines in France.

 

[1] Châteauneuf will officially bear the name Châteauneuf Calcenier until 1893, but popular usage has used Châteauneuf du Pape long before.

Bibliography:
Châteauneuf du Pape, Michel Dovaz, Editions Jacques Legrand, 1992.
Les vins du Rhône et de la Méditerranée, Editions Montalba, by a group of authors, amongst whom: Jean Giono Marie Mauron Henri Bosco and Pierre Charnay, 1978.

 
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