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