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Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the Papal tradition of planting vine and its grape varieties

July 20, 2011
Philippines Wine Shop Clark Wine Center is pleased to share with you articles, news and information about wine, wine events, wine tasting and other topics related to wine and the appreciation of wine.

Vine cultivation, already known to the Gauls, was widely developed by the Romans. Monks were the first to clear the land and cultivate these vineyards and Bishops were instrumental in extending vine cultivation. In 1157, in keeping with Roman tradition, Geoffrey, the Bishop of Avignon, planted vines and personally managed his own estate and was most certainly the owner of a vineyard located in his fief in Châteauneuf.

In the 13th century the village of Châteauneuf, with its 1000 inhabitants, grew rich and had already developed a flourishing vineyard (approximately 300 hectares).

In 1308, Clément V planted additional vine stock before he died some years later just after crossing the Rhône to return home. The Pope at Avignon was undoubtedly one of the first wine producers in Châteauneuf.

Under Pope John XXII, wine from Châteauneuf was regularly supplied to the Papal residence. John XXII was beyond doubt the prelate who participated most in developing the reputation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines and his legacy, the first appellation in the history of Châteauneuf, was the prestigious appellation of “Vin du Pape” that was later to become “Châteauneuf-du-Pape “.

John XXII was also responsible for building the famous castle. Today the remains of the proud Papas summer residence house the headquarters of the “Echansonnerie des Papes” a brotherhood that bears high and with pride the reputation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape . The final homage to this Papal lineage, the first to take pride in cultivating the sun-drenched fruit of their precious land.

A prosperous vineyard

Despite a decline in the 17th century due to wars, heavy frosts, epidemics and other endemic diseases, the vineyards developed considerably from the 18th century onwards. In about 1800, 668 hectares that included 325 hectares of vines in small plots of approximately 1400 m2, produced, in a normal year, an average of 11 000 hectolitres of wines. The wine trade took on great importance and the inhabitants continued to plant new plots of land.

By virtue of the quality of its wine, Châteauneuf du Pape remained prosperous until the phylloxera disaster. Cultivation methods had varied little through the centuries. The first important charges occurred just before the outbreak of the second world war when mechanisation was first introduced.

Grape varieties : the first harmonious blends

Nothing is known of the vine stocks that made up the Châteauneuf vineyard before the 18th century, even though the poet Frédéric Mistral claimed that the “Counoise” grape variety was a gift from Spain to Pope Urbain V. In 1808, the vineyard was planted with old plants of local origin and new plants from Spain that produced “a warm-hearted but delicate wine that should be left to mature for four years”.

Around 1830, the first vine “with a fine plant known as Cirac” was cultivated at Châteauneuf du Pape. It was because of their desire to enhance their wines and improve quality that, as the years went by, the winegrower tried many new grape varieties. One thing of which we are certain is that for centuries, the vineyard was always planted with various grape varieties. When the phylloxera disaster struck in 1866, more than thirteen different grape varieties were on record. Grape variety diversification is the result of work by several generations of winegrower to select the vine stocks most likely to improve the quality of their wines.

At the end of the last century, Joseph Ducos grouped together on his estate ten carefully selected grape varieties. Even then, the characteristics and flavours of Châteauneuf wines were very varied and, like all Rhône Valley wines, generous.

  • Grenache and Cinsault for “sweetness, Warmth and mellowness.
  • Mourvèdre, Syrah, Muscardin and Camarèse for robustness, maturity, colour and a thirst-quenching taste.
  • Counoise and Picpoul for vinosity, charm and a special bouquet.
  • Clairette and Bourboulenc for finesse, fire and brilliance.

The royal road : a flourishing trade.

From 1500 onwards, Châteauneuf wines acquired a certain reputation as can be seen from the many bills of sale made out to purchasers from Orange and Avignon. According to Nostradamus, other important prelates had wine shipped as far as Italy. In his history of Provence, he recounts the attack led by Parpaille (1562) against “Châteauneuf known as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, an area that produces most excellent wines, some of which are shipped to Rome”.

In 1793, the wine growers were able to sell their wine at one third above the maximum price for local, as “Châteauneuf wine is known to be of superior quality in all seasons”. The Marquis Tulle de Villefranche shipped his wines all over France, to Italy, Germany, Britain and also to Boston and Philadelphia in the United States. His wine was distributed through a network of agents so that it could become better known and appreciated by his aristocratic friends. He therefore played a very important role in promoting Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.

Most winegrowers, like the Marquis, chose to give first priority to quality. It is therefore not surprising that by the end of the 18th century, trade was flourishing. There were already four wine merchants in Châteauneuf , and a great number of buyers came from Avignon, Orange, Carpentras and even from as far afield as Lyon. Barrels of wine were shipped to all parts of France from the port of Roquemaure and sometimes from Armeniers. Other were transported by road.

Frédéric Mistral sang the praises of Châteauneuf du Pape wine, which he had savoured when visiting his friend the Provençal poet, Anselme MATHIEU. Wine grower and poet, he was the first to have the brilliant idea of selling wines in bottles decorated with an attractive label bearing the words “Vin DI Filigree” followed by 5 lines of verse that included “Lou vin de castou noù souno la voio, emai lou cant, emai l’amour, emai la joio” (wine from Châteauneuf brings courage, melody, love and joy). Mistral delighted his fellow authors Lamartine, Alexandre Dumas, Alphonse Daudet together with a host of other celebrities who were to become the best possible ambassadors of this “royal, imperial and Papal wine”.


Clark Wine Center was built in 2003 by Hong Kong-based Yats International Leisure Philippines to become the largest wine shop in Philippines supplying Asia’s wine lovers with fine vintage wines at attractive prices. Today, this wine shop in Clark Philippines offers over 2000 selections of fine wines from all major wine regions in the world. As a leading wine supplier in Philippines, Pampanga’s Clark Wine Center offers an incomparable breadth of vintages, wines from back vintages spanning over 50 years. Clark Wine Center is located in Pampanga Clark Freeport Zone adjacent to Angeles City, just 25 minutes from Subic and 45 minutes from Manila.

Wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Alsace, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa, Chile and Argentina etc. are well represented in this Clark Wine Shop.

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