Chateauneuf du pape Féte de la Véraison
I have given much thought as to whether I would provide this review or not. My reason is completely selfish, I am surprised that such a magnificent event has remained so obscure for so long, however, here goes.
For three days in early August, this small village turns back the clock to the 14th century, Pope John XXII is in his summer residence in Châteauneuf-Calcernier as the town was then known, and the wine grown in the region (a particular favourite of the Pope) was beginning to enjoy throughout France, the reputation it would later come to enjoy throughout the world.
I first heard of this festival as a Medieval Fair. We have enjoyed medieval fairs in North America and thought the opportunity to attend one in a village of such renown was too special to pass up. So I began my research, finding very little on a Medieval Fair, but enough to keep me interested and so I contacted Andre at Hotel La Mere Germaine. His first response was almost prophetic, “You are coming for the Wine Festival?” he asked, “I thought it was a Medieval Fair?” I said, “oh yes it’s that too!”. Now it was sinking in, “A wine festival?” I asked, He proceeded to explain the festival to me.
For three days the village reverts back to its 14th century roots, with hundreds of performers, from rouges to pontiffs, minstrels and merchants, knights and ladies, and all the citizens of a medieval village. We arrived in CdP around mid-afternoon to a town in transition, much of the village was still this picturesque village in the French countryside, while in many parts a rage of activity, was underway as over 100 stalsl transformed the village into the medieval market.
Our first stop was the town hall to pick up our glasses (more on these in a few minutes) however, our enthusiasm was premature as they weren’t ready yet and so we wandered the streets, getting our bearings, and finding some wonderful wine cellars along the way, and tasting some wonderful wines, a late lunch, and we decided to return to the hotel for a nap and battery recharge while Chateauneuf du Pape completed its transformation.
First Hint: Don’t be too quick to make your first wine purchases, there will be many, many, many more to try. I don’t know how many, however, it would not surprise me if someone told me there were over 100 wineries present, many more served that were not present and still more if you count vintages, maybe as many as 1000 wines and 3 days.
When we awoke from our rest, we enjoyed our magnificent view of the vineyards from our hotel window and proceeded downstairs to an experience that almost defies words. The village was now transformed, with flags and banners everywhere, thousands of lights across the streets, and market stalls lining every street. We now made out way back to the town hall in order to purchase our special glasses. For €3 we received our souvenir glasses, printed with the festival name. This glass entitled you to taste any of the wines on offer throughout the festival. Yes you read correctly, those hundreds (if not thousands) of wines are now yours for the tasting. However, remember you only have 3 days.