Thirsting for a papal history lesson as you enjoy a nuanced, flavorful wine with sumptuous texture, intensity and heavenly aromatics including black currants, blackberries and herbs de Provence?

Look no further.

Forever entwined with papal history, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC) is one of the most renowned and popular appellations of the enchanting Rhône Valley. Indeed, Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine and its surrounding namesake region is loosely translated as “The Pope’s New Castle.”

In 1308, Pope Clemens V moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon, ushering in the seventy-year era of the Avignon Papacy. Of course, there are many explanations for the relocation (such as security and stability while Rome was undergoing various upheavals). But the so-called Avignon popes were also said to be avid wine-drinkers, and promoted the local wines there (along with other French wine like Burgundy). Pope John XXII (who canonized St. Thomas Aquinas) also built the castle (now castle ruins), which sometimes stands in as a symbol for the ico¬nic appellation.

Hundreds of years later, in 1923, it was the first wine to be introduced as an Appellation Contrôlée, the precursor to apellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). Naturally, it is not just its historical significance that makes Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines such a delightful appellation.

Grown over about 8,000 acres, wine production here accounts for more than all the wines produced in the Northern Rhône Valley combined. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, grown in the Southern Rhône, enjoys frequent sunshine and mistral winds to carry away moisture and thus, intensify the dry climates.

A handful of grapes are used to produce the wine, including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise and Terret Noir grapes. And while there are both red and white varietals of the appellation, a whopping 94 percent of the wine produced is the rich, full-bodied red wine. With notes of blackberries, strawberries, black currants, kirsch, black and red cherries, textures are luscious when young and like the mark of many fine wines, only get better with age. The freshness and spice of a red Châteauneuf-du-Pape pairs beautifully with hearty dishes like grilled beef, duck, sausage, lamb, stews and rich seafood dishes.

The white appellation tends to be a significantly younger wine. Most should be imbibed within four to five years, although a few can age much longer. Grenache Blanc, Counoise, Vaccarese A crisp wine, the wine possesses floral, fruity notes with an alcohol content of about 14 percent, this appellation is becoming increasingly sought after. Excellent food pairings include chicken, various hard and soft cheeses and virtually all types of seafood, ranging from shellfish like lobster and shrimp to sushi.

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