We had our hearts set on taking a wine tour through the Châteauneuf-du-Pape area so Leslie and I scoured the internet for a tour company. We were in Avignon for a few days and didn’t want to pass up a great opportunity to tour some of the (well what I think anyway) best wines in the world. Do you know what we found? Nothing. Is it another one of the French jokes on outsiders to hide one of these great wonders? It’s like all the signs they post on the roads in France….you get to a fork in the road and it will point you in both directions to the same town. I love France so I won’t get on their case too much.
So after spending over an hour at an internet café, we decided to go to the tourist office on Rue de la République, which is the main drag there. Inside the tourist office, they had plenty of brochures, but no wine tours. How could this be? We even asked someone that worked in the Tourist Office and she had the most perplexed look…like the place didn’t exist. When all hope was lost, and our heads were hung low….we began to walk out. All of a sudden, someone turned to us as if they were telling us how to get into a secret society. She said if we went into the gift shop that was attached to the Tourist Office; they could set up a semi-private tour.
We went through the doorway, and made our reservation without any confusion. We paid 45 Euros and gave them the name of the hotel. Done and done. It was almost too simple. After spending months in Avignon in college, I was skeptical that the process would be so efficient, but what could you do?
The next morning, at 8:45 we got picked up in a white van. There was a Dutch (at least I think they were Dutch, maybe Leslie will remember it more clearly) couple, and that was it. It was almost a private tour through Châteauneuf-du-Pape that lasted over 3 hours. First, we went to the ruins of the castle that gave the area its name. It was fun enough, but we weren’t there to see an old castle. We were there for the wine. I know I sound like a whino….but you don’t go to Paris to go to McDonalds (maybe you do, I don’t know). From there, we went to three vineyards. We toured each cellar and got to try 3 to 4 different varietals. The first two vineyards were nice, but not worth writing about. The third vineyard was everything we expected and more (http://www.maisonbouachon.com/actus/actus.php?pays=&LangueSite=en). First we took a tour of the cellar. Then, the wine sommelier sat us down to taste the wine. We started with newer wines, and moved to the older ones. It was straight out of the movie French Kiss. He pulled out an old wooden box with tubs filled with herbs and other items that affect the soil in the region. We’d smell a vile, and then take a sip. It was amazing how all of a sudden, the lavender and the cassis would pop in the wine. Leslie’s biggest regret in life should be that she did not return his advances. He was completely smitten, and she wasn’t having it at all. Please get on her case, because she could be in France right now, letting us visit and drinking wine all day long….thank you Leslie….really….thank you.
He also showed us how the way you smell the wine affects the way you drink it. I love wine but had never taken the time to really study it before this. And what better place than at a small table with the owner of the winery?
Although Leslie missed the opportunity of a lifetime, we had a great time (and I’m glad I didn’t listen to their suggestion of spitting out the wine after tasting it—thats just silliness). I’m so glad we stumbled upon the tour, I guess all you have to do is look absolutely confused in order to get the inside tips.