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Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Provence

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8 Rue Maréchal Foch
France 84232
Tel: 33 4 90 83 70 69

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Wine pilgrims have been heading here ever since Avignon-based Pope John XXII, an early oenophile, encouraged the locals to produce a wine that would compete with Burgundy and Bordeaux. The result was a dark-colored red wine of great concentration and power, now known around the world. The town itself is a somewhat businesslike medieval ring topped by a ruined Papal palace, with a long, steep climb past dozens of stores selling old and young versions of the local star product. Near the top is Le Verger des Papes, an excellent restaurant and wine store that offers tastings and a sweeping view of the Rhône valley. Don't bother driving around outside of town to check out prestigious wine properties in the area: Most can be visited only with an appointment, if at all. Instead, go to one of the local wine stores. They offer an astonishing variety of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, both red and white. Vinadéa is the best of these, a warm mini-emporium that sells 200 different wines, with tastings for collectors and amateurs alike. They also speak English and are open every day, a huge relief in this neck of the woods. The town bustles, even in low season, with tourists on a mission. You don't catch many camcorder-wielding crowds disgorging from tour buses: Your fellow visitors are likely to be red-toothed couples staggering under the weight of newly bought liquid treasure.

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