Travels with V
The blue jewel of the Riviera
Antibes part 3
One day we rent a small car and drive up into the mountains to Provence and the famous wine district Chateauneuf-de-Pape. That’s a little over two hours of reckless french driving with life threatening overtakings at deadly speeds, among raging drivers who will give you the finger if you hesitate for two seconds at a crossroads. But V is quick to give the finger back.
Around Chateauneuf-de-pape every bit of open space seem to be for growing vines, even between houses in the villages. We’re staying overnight at the Chateau des Fines Roches wine yard where we also do wine testing and go for a walk. Arriving we’re met with a nice platter of meat, cheese and of course a glass of their full-bodied red wine. It’s a good start!
Chateauneuf-de-pape is not just the district where this superb wine is produced, at its center on a hill is the village with the same name. It means “The pope’s new castle”, and refers to a building that today is a magnificent ruin towering over the village and the surrounding fields. This castle was the pope’s summer house in the 14th century when the powerful French king decided that the pope must leave Rome and take up residence at French Avignon.
The village is extremely pretty and sort of removed from the hands of time, a feeling enhanced by the fact that the narrow streets are empty when we’re there. It’s sunday and everybody is at the mass. But soon wine shops open in almost every house, most of them connected to a specific producer. And they are many, almost 200 firms make wine here. Most of it is red but a few, like “our” chateu also makes a lovely fresh white wine.
For our dinner at the castle we choose fish (as we often do), which means we don’t taste any more of their great red wine. But we buy a couple of bottles to take home. We won’t taste them for some time though, they tells us that storing the bottles for 5 – 15 years will bring out the best in the wine.
Walking in the field where the vines grow we notice that the ground is totally covered with round yellow stones, each about the size of a fist. And this is a big part of the secret with the Chateauneuf-de-pape wine. These rocks that are called “galets” are warmed by the sun in daytime, and at night they in turn warm the vine’s roots.
Driving back to Antibes we realize that we have just one day left to find a restaurant that serves our great passion, oysters. But it’s Monday and many seafood restaurants are closed. Finally we manage to secure a table in a popular place called Chez Mô. There we’re presented to a plate full of of delicious slimy fine claire oysters. And a super fresh local white wine. We’re in seventh heaven.
Checking the weather forecast for back home we see that it’s cold and rainy. But we walk slowly back to our hotel one last time and enjoy the warm air of a mediterranean late summer night. And we know we will want to return to Antibes, some day.