Chapter 10. General View on Cellars / Caves

This is a New Chapter I was thinking about on creating a while ago , trying to show / mention the cellars / caves / chateaux I’ve visited in the past 20 years or so …therefore , with a little bit of patience from Yourselves – Dear Visitors , I’ll make sure to pinpoint some extraordinary places , once again ,especially for the Wine Enthusiasts !

Chateau  De Montbazillac – Year of Visit – 1991

This was so longtime ago that I can hardly remember …what I do remember is that I was not even imagining of becoming a wine lover / enthusiast…I was only 17….

The Chateau de Monbazillac, property of the Monbazillac Cellars Company since 1960, is a unique and original architectural blend of medieval defensive fortifications and Renaissance exuberance.

Set in the heart of the prestigious vineyard of the same name, the Château de Monbazillac’s garden terraces afford stunning views across the Dordogne valley.

Fully furnished, the castel is open all year round to visitors, either travelling independently or on group tours.

After visiting the Château each visitor is offered a complementary tasting of Monbazillac wine

Caves de Sarragan

Caves de Sarragan – Year of Visit – 2001

The mining of the stone quarries at Les Baux de Provence dates back to the antiquity period , when at this time the stone was used for local dry masonry construction . This soft stone, rich in hard limestone, was later mined by the Romans in open-pit quarries. Due to the facility with which the stone can be worked and sculpted it was used for heavy brickwork but also for decorative architectural elements such as pillar capitals and archways for some of the many monuments in the nearby town of Arles.

Over time the open-pit quarries, which produced a lot of waste, were replaced by underground mines where the stone was more consistent and much  easier to work. Once the stone is cut and worked to
the desired shape it ages well with weather acquiring a hard and flat surface.

The quarry known as “Caves de Sarragan” was mined for close on two centuries. In the beginning it was mined via a 25 metre shaft located on the west side. At this time the only lighting used was oil lamps. One of the reasons why this mine was preferred was its constant temperature of between 14° and 16° Celsius , especially during the winter periods when the icy Mistral wind would blow.

Much later the gallery, which connects the mine with the exterior, was dug out to enable the installation of mechanical equipment. The stone blocks were now mined using a digging bar to trace the corner holes followed by sawing and squaring off of the block using diverse soft stone tools. The stones were then transported to their sometimes distant destinations by ox drawn cart and further by barge. These destinations were originally in the region around Lyon and later as far as Algeria.

Wine which originally came to this region with the arrival of the Greeks in Marseille and has been growing ever since on the hillsides of the Alpilles. Today the quarry at Sarragan located next to the “Caves de Sarragan” is the only working mine in operation. It uses modern day equipment to replace
the once 300 quarry workers who worked in the mines of les Baux during the great period of manual mining.

I’ve been in 2001 while working on a cruise ship and took part of an excursion in Provence seeing Avignon , Chateau des Papes and caves de Sarragan

Châteauneuf-du-Pape  /  Palais des Papes

Years of Visit – 2001 / 2005 / 2006

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is firmly entwined with papal history. In 1308, Pope Clement V, former Archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the papacy to the city of Avignon. Clement V and subsequent “Avignon Popes” were said to be great lovers of wine and did much to promote it during the seventy-year duration of the Avignon Papacy. At the time, winegrowing around the town of Avignon was anything but illustrious. While the Avignon Papacy did much to advance the reputation of wines from Burgundy, the papacy also promoted viticulture in the surrounding area, more specifically the area 5–10 km north of Avignon, close to the banks of the Rhône River. Prior to the Avignon Papacy, viticulture of the area had been initiated and maintained by the Bishops of Avignon, largely for local consumption.

Clement V was succeeded by John XXII, who regularly drank the wines from the vineyards to the north, as well as Burgundy wine, and did much to improve viticultural practices there. Under John XXII, the wines of this area came to be known as “Vin du Pape”; this term later became Châteauneuf-du-Pape. John XXII is also responsible for erecting the famous castle that stands as a symbol for the appellation.

The village and three other surrounding communes produce wine, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône wine region. Unlike its northern Rhône neighbors, Châteauneuf-du-Pape permits thirteen different varieties of grape; the blend is usually predominantly Grenache. Other red grapes include Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Syrah, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse. White grapes include Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picardan, Roussanne, and Picpoul. In recent years, the trend has been to include fewer (or even none) of the allowed white varieties and rely heavily (or solely) upon the Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. One may suspect that this is a response to international wine-market trends and the desire to have this sometimes-rustic wine appeal to a broader commercial audience.

Before wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. began promoting them, the wines of Châteauneuf were considered rustic and of limited appeal in the U.S. However, his influence increased their price more than fourfold in a decade. In gratitude, the Châteauneuf Winemakers Union pushed for his becoming an honorary citizen of the village.

Now , remember this : contrary to the popular belief ( amongst wine connaisseurs and sommeliers ) Chateauneuf du Pape is made out of 14 types of grapes ( 8 RED AND 6 WHITE ) and NOT 13 !

– GRENACHE

– CINSAULT

– COUNOISE

– MOURVEDRE

– MUSCARDIN

– SYRAH/ SHIRAZ

– TERRET NOIR

– VACCARESE / VAQUERAIS

– GRENACHE BLANC

– BOURBOULENC

– CLAIRETTE

– PICARDAN

– ROUSSANNE

– PICPOUL

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a French wine Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) located around the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône wine region in southeastern France. It is the most renowned appellation of the southern part of the Rhône Valley. Vineyards are located around Châteauneuf-du-Pape and in the neighboring villages Bédarrides, Courthézon and Sorgues between Avignon and Orange and covers slightly more than 3,200 hectares or 7,900 acres (32 km2). Over 110,000 hectolitres of wine a year are produced here. More wine is made in this one area of southern Rhône than in the entirety of the northern Rhône region.

The Palais des Papes (lo Palais dei Papas in Occitan) is a historical palace in Avignon, southern France, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe.

Since 1995, the palais des Papes has been classified along with the historic center of Avignon, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, under cultural criteria I, II and IV.

Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309, when the Gascon Bertrand de Goth, as Pope Clement V, unwilling to face the violent chaos of Rome after his election (1305), moved the Papal Curia to Avignon, a period known as the Avignon Papacy. Clement lived as a guest in the Dominican monastery at Avignon, and his successor Pope John XXII set up a magnificent establishment there, but the reconstruction of the old bishops’ palace was begun in earnest by Pope Benedict XII (1334–42) and continued by his successors to 1364. The site, on a natural rocky outcrop at the northern edge of Avignon, overlooking the river Rhône, was that of the old episcopal palace of the bishops of Avignon. The Palais was built in two principal phases with two distinct segments, known as the Palais Vieux (Old Palace) and Palais Neuf (New Palace). By the time of its completion, it occupied an area of 11,000 m² (2.6 acres). The building was enormously expensive, consuming much of the papacy’s income during its construction.

The Palais Vieux was constructed by the architect Pierre Poisson of Mirepoix at the instruction of Pope Benedict XII. The austere Benedict had the original episcopal palace razed and replaced with a much larger building centred on a cloister, heavily fortified against attackers. Its four wings are flanked with high towers.

Under Popes Clement VI, Innocent VI and Urban V, the building was expanded to form what is now known as the Palais Neuf. Jean de Louvres was commissioned by Clement VI to build a new tower and adjoining buildings, including a 52 m long Grand Chapel to serve as the location for papal acts of worship. Two more towers were built under Innocent VI. Urban V completed the main courtyard (known as the Court d’Honneur) with further buildings enclosing it. The interior of the building was sumptuously decorated with frescos, tapestries, paintings, sculptures and wooden ceilings.

The popes departed Avignon in 1377, returning to Rome, but this prompted the Papal Schism during which time the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII made Avignon their home until 1403. The latter was imprisoned in the Palais for five years after being besieged in 1398 when the army of Geoffrey Boucicaut occupied Avignon. The building remained in the hands of antipapal forces for some years – it was besieged from 1410 to 1411 – but was returned to the authority of papal legates in 1433.

Although the Palais remained under papal control (along with the surrounding city and Comtat Venaissin) for over 350 years afterwards, it gradually deteriorated despite a restoration in 1516. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789 it was already in a bad state when it was seized and sacked by revolutionary forces. In 1791 it became the scene of a massacre of counter-revolutionaries, whose bodies were thrown into the Tour des Latrines in the Palais Vieux.

The Palais was subsequently taken over by the Napoleonic French state for use as a military barracks and prison. Although it was further damaged by the military occupation, especially under the anti-clerical Third Republic, when the remaining interior woodwork was cleared away for use of the structure as a stables – the frescos were covered over and largely destroyed – ironically this ensured the shell of the building’s physical survival. It was only vacated in 1906, when it became a national museum. It has been under virtually constant restoration ever since.

The majority of the Palais is now open to the public; it also houses a large convention centre and the archives of the département of Vaucluse.

Published on September 3, 2011 at 14:58  Leave a Comment  

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