Sunday, November 5, 2023

How the Popes Changed French Wine History

                 Pape Clement V changed the location of the Popes from the Vatican to France

This is the first article in a three-part series during November on the illustrious wines of France's Southern Rhone wine district.

Did you know the Papacy moved from Vatican City in Rome to the French city of Avignon from 1309 to 1376?  For nearly seventy years seven Popes ruled the Catholic Church from southern France's Rhone Valley.   Today, their majestic Papal Palace remains one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in all of Europe.

                           Avignon's Papal Palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The first French Pope, Clement V, was the former Archbishop of Bordeaux.  Fearing chaos in Rome after his controversial election to Pople, he refused to move to Rome.  Instead, Clement V did the unthinkable and set up oversight of the Papacy in the Episcopal place of the Bishops of Avignon.  Located on a natural rocky outcrop, the palace offered unobstructed views of the Rhone River just below it. 

                      The hilltop "new chateau of the Pope" offers a 360 panorama of vineyards

Clement V loved the countryside just outside of Avignon and stayed at various chateaux in the rural area frequently for extended periods.  His rule as Pope was cut short when he died in 1315.  His successor, Pope John XII, decided to build a summer chateau in this very area.   His Papal residence was called Chateauneuf du Pape, the "new castle of the Pope."   It wasn't long before the area around the chateau prospered and a village evolved at the foot of the castle.   A sea of wine grapes was soon planted as far as the eye could see as Clement V and all of the subsequent "Avignon Popes" were great lovers of wine.

Come experience the Chateauneuf-du-Pape harvest with Wine-Knows in September 2024

Today, this area is one of the most famous wine appellations in France:  Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Wine-Knows will be visiting Chateauneuf-du-Pape next year for the grape harvest.  At this point, we have spots remaining for two or three lucky travelers.

Learn about the magnificent red wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the next article of this series which will appear on November 15.  In the meanwhile, explore Wine-Knows' trip to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which also visits Champagne & Burgundy!

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