by Fred McMillin
for April 4, 1997

Winery of the Week

How the Pope Coped

Origins:

1157 Geoffroy, Bishop of Avignon, plants vines north of town.
1305 Bertrand de Got, Archbisbop of Bordeaux, becomes Pope Clement V.
1307 Clement V moves the Papacy to Avignon.
1318 to 1333 To escape the summer heat, Clement's successor, John XXII, had a fortress-residence built north of Avignon, the new chateau of the Pope, or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Vines are planted and wine is made.
1824 London wine authority Dr. Alexander Henderson visits the area and writes, "At Chateauneuf, six miles above Avignon, where the vines are very old, the best wine is made."

One of the places producing
that "best wine" was...

1560 First record of the existence of Chateau La Nerthe.
1760 The current chateau is built.
1785 La Nerthe wines shipped to America (Boston).
1996 "Chateau La Nerthe is the most elegant and substantial property...in the Chateauneuf-Du-Pape [district]"...from "Rhone Renaissance" by Remington Norman.

The Rest of the Story: So, the new French Pope didn't like the situation in Rome, and moved headquarters west to Avignon, leading ultimately to the development of a world-famous red wine district. If you want to taste what all the excitement has been about, the venerable Chateau La Nerthe will provide a marvelous introduction. Their 1993 is now available in the U.S.A...gentle, smooth, silky yet loaded with long-lasting flavors, $30. Serve it with your favorite beef dish, and follow that with a cheese course. 'Twill be a meal to remember.

Just the Facts

Name Chateau La Nerthe
Location Vaucluse, Rhone Valley, France
Vineyard The chateau is surrounded by a rare, 225-acre, single-block vineyard. The dozen or so varietals used in their red Du-Pape are planted there, Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah dominating.
Production 25,000 cases, including a small amount of white Chateauneuf.
U. S. A Importer Clicquot, Inc., N.Y., N.Y.
Contact Christine Deussen at (212) 888-7575 in N.Y.C.

Postscript: In spite of the grand reputation of the La Nerthe Pape, production and sales dropped alarmingly about 50 years ago. Why? The Chateau was occupied by the German Luftwaffe!


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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