A Brief History of Chateauneuf-du-Pape

A Brief History of Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Once upon a time...

...in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, there was a castle that the pope lived in. In the 14th century a castle was built on the hill over the village. This was during the Avignon Papacy when the Pope(s) lived in Avignon rather than Rome. Why? Because French King Philip IV finagled the election of a Frenchman, Clement V to the papacy.

 

This new pope was not too popular in Rome and moved to Avignon. The castle (now in ruins) was built for his successor Pope John XXII. The next seven Popes in Avignon did not live in the castle. Over the objections of the French cardinals, Pope Gregory XI had just moved the papacy back to Rome but died shortly after his return. After the Great Schism of the Catholic church in 1378 the antipope Clement VII moved back to the castle for his own protection. This was the beginning of a four decade period when there were two Popes - one in Rome and one in Avignon, which was very confusing for many Catholics - especially in France and Italy! Although Avignon belonged to the papacy - it was in France, and the influence of the King of France, that supplanted the pope’s influence. In the eyes of many the Avignon papacy was blamed for all kinds of misfortune and bad luck - the War of Religion, the Black Death, crop failures and subsequent mass starvation, devil worship, etc…

At the time of the French Revolution, remains of the castle were sold off to multiple buyers and most of the stone was used for building in the village. Only the tower of the Donjon was preserved.  During the Second World War the Donjon was used as an observation post by the occupying German army.  When the Germans were in retreat they tried to destroy the Donjon with dynamite and almost succeeded, though part of the south tower exists to this day.

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95% of the wine produced in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is red.  It can include 13 different grape varieties but is mostly grenache.  I enjoy this wine, especially when it has about 10 - 20 years of bottle age.  They are not "hip" wines; they are high in alcohol and low in acid, and I think they are undeniably delicious wines to enjoy.  We have a great selection! These are decadent and hedonistic wines, maybe just as decadent and hedonistic as the antipope!

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