Avignon (P1): Popes, Palaces, YMCAs, And Wine from Visan?

123 days into our EU Austerity Drinking Tour takes us to the heart (or at least funny hat) of the Rhône Valley: Avignon: home to Popes and Châteauneuf-du-Pape: arguably France’s biggest red wine.  We leave a very Roman Nîmes and a very horrible, horrible hotel (so horrid it was our last hotel for the next three months).

EU map New York to Avignon Day 123In Avignon, we get lost three times hunting for the bus. We give up, grab quiches, and hoof it with our luggage across town.  The YMCA awaits.  It looks empty. We expect little, check in, then discover this:

We audio tour the broken bridge with its own rock-hefting saint: Pont Saint-Bénezet:

Aaron Avignon BridgeThis triumphal papish gateway feeds us into the castle-walled, palace of the popes.

avignon palace of the popesGame of Thrones looks like a cheap video game.  We dig deeper through bare halls, finding massive stone bread ovens, underground gold hordes, and empty dining halls.  But the real gem that survived the French Revolution is the papal private chamber:

Avignon Papal Private ChamberFresco: an art forgotten since Roman antiquity struggled back into glorious, technicolor, medieval magnificence in the small rooms where Popes napped.  Stilted, Monte Python scenes of fishing and rabbit hunts survive.

After a few massive chapels we clamber to the turreted roof-top:

After, we discover the gift shop.  Thanks to museum subsidizing, regional wine prices are quite good, so we grab a bottle for the evening.   Back outside, Avignon becomes a perpetual, golden sunset. Ancient Alley AvignonWe weave along ancient alleys, hike to a park on a hill (with its own vineyard), and watch the sun finally dip into the distant Mediterranean.

Sunset AvignonBut what about that wine?

Back at the YMCA we open: Domaine la Florane, Terre Pourpre, Visan Côtes du Rhône Villages, France, 2009. €11.90

La Foraine Terre PoupreThis “Purple Earth” comes from a Rhône village AOC called Visan: an ancient enclave that Avignon’s Popes fought to control to get its wine not too far upriver.

Appearance:  A strong, deep ruby with a short shave of a clear rim, and extra thick legs.

Aromas: Young, medium aromas of black cherry, fig, violet, and custard (yes custard) don’t overpower.

Palate: A dry, moderately acidic, but notably tannic structure carries an average alcohol of 14% and a plump, medium plus body.

Flavors: Strong red and black cherry, fig, light cigar: all these finish with a lovely hazelnut that lasts quite a while.

Conclusions: Florane’s Terre Pourpre provides very balanced structural elements that allow loads of fruit to come forth. It is very good (4 of 5).  Not big enough for red meat roasts, but grilled chicken and medium cheeses are fine.   It’s definitely worth stepping up from a basic Côtes du Rhône to the Visan Village level.  I can see why Popes fought for the land.

Next Monday continues our visit to Avignon with, of course, a proper Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

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About Aaron Bartels

Follow Wayward Wine (WSET3) to tour the world's exciting vineyards, breweries, and distilleries, while discovering new drinks.
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3 Responses to Avignon (P1): Popes, Palaces, YMCAs, And Wine from Visan?

  1. sand110 says:

    Gorgeous Avignon light and sun create all of this and more.

  2. Pingback: Avignon (P2): Fort St Andre, Monastary Charteuse, and Chateauneuf du Pape from St Clementin | WAYWARD WINE

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