History of the Wine and the Avignon Popes-2017/10/20
We know a surprising amount today about the drinking habits of the Avignon Popes, who promoted wine-growing in the Rhône area, most famously around Châteauneuf du Pape.
Each pontiff had very particular tastes. And they and their entourages quaffed prodigious amounts of the stuff, judging by the accounts of the apostolic chamber.
Apparently in the course of a normal week, over 10,000 litres of wine were consumed by the papal entourage, 1,000 litres at the Pope’s table alone.
Elsewhere, the accounts estimate wine consumption in the Palace at two and a half litres per person per day.
And that was nothing compared to major feasts. When Clement VI – the bon vivant of the Avignon Popes – was coronated in 1342, 160,000 litres of wine were drunk in the Palais des Papes alone, and wine fountains flowed freely in the city itself for four weeks.
The wine was not always of the finest quality and did not keep for long. The bottlers added spices to disguise the taste and help preserve it, and the Popes would sip this brew in their chambers for medicinal purposes.
Around 16 people worked in the papal cellars: three or four bottlers, a dozen assistants and a scribe thanks, presumably, to whom we know all of the above.
The wines on the menu at the Palais des Papes:
Vines were already being enthusiastically cultivated by clergy in the area well before the first Avignon Pope, Clement V, arrived there in 1309.
Monks had cleared land and created vineyards along the banks of the Rhône river north of Avignon and in 1157, Geoffroy, the Bishop of Avignon, set up his own personal estate in Châteauneuf, then known as Calcenier.
By the 13th century the village, with its 1000 inhabitants, had grown rich and developed a flourishing vineyard of approximately 300 hectares / 740 acres.
Clement V was formerly Archbishop of Bordeaux before becoming Pope and relocating the papacy to Avignon. As plain Bertrand de Goth, he already owned a plot of land in Pessac, near Bordeaux which he had planted with vines in 1300.
The oldest vineyard in Bordeaux, it’s today called Château Pape Clément in his honour, producing a prized grand cru classé wine.
After becoming Pope, Clement V initially continued to prefer claret but, on arriving in Avignon, planted a vineyard there near Châteauneuf.
Clement V’s successor, John XXII, was more partial to a drop of Burgundy, but also encouraged local wine production. It was he who built the castle at Châteauneuf du Pape (the name means, literally, “the Pope’s new castle”) to escape the oppressive summer heat in Avignon.
A vineyard was planted there in 1317 and under his papacy the term Vin du Pape was coined. The Château itself (pictured above) was destroyed during the Second World War, but the ruins still dominate the surrounding countryside.
And there’s more: the story goes that, while visiting the small town of Valréas in what’s now Northern Provence, Pope John fell ill and was given some local Côtes du Rhône wine to perk him up.
It worked. So much so that the Pope bought Valréas to ensure a regular supply.
His successors added more territory including nearby villages such as Richerenches and Visan. To this day the area is known as the Enclave des Papes.
The severe Pope Benedict XII served only local wines from the right bank of the Rhône at his table. Nonetheless the poet Francesco Petrarch rudely described him as an “inveterate drunkard”.
His successor, Clement VI, intended to pull out the stops during his papacy. For his coronation, he ordered 15 barrels of muscat wine from the Languedoc and Toulon and another 24 barrels from Burgundy.
He was happy to drink provençal wine, wine from Poitou, Rhone wine and Ligurian wine, not forgetting all the other wines his predecessors had enjoyed. Just about anything really, it seems. He died in 1352 of renal failure.
One of the first thing Innocent VI did, upon becoming Pope, was to change the date of a religious procession so as not to disturb the grape harvest. A relatively abstemious man, he preferred local wines, especially red and Châteauneuf du Pape.
Urban V hoped to bring the papacy back to Rome, but ran up against one serious obstacle. According to Petrarch, his cardinals refused to accompany him because they had become too fond of the Beaune wines they’d been drinking in France.
“They did not believe they could lead a happy life without this liquor,” Petrarch wrote. “They regarded this wine as a nectar of the gods.”
When Urban V did return to Italy for two years, he made sure to strike a deal first with the Doge of Venice, so that he could import French wines via the Venetian port to keep his team contented. He also planted vineyards around Rome to ensure a supply of quality wines.
Back in Avignon, Urban V discovered a taste for the wines and preserved fruits of Apt, and also developed the Châteauneuf vineyard by ordering it to be planted with muscat grapes.
The last of the official Avignon Popes, Gregory XI remained loyal to the muscat grape and the wines of Apt.
Ecclesiastical records suggest that a promotion to cardinal or a stay of an excommunication could be secured by offering the Pope a particularly fine vintage. He too died of renal failure.
After the return of the papacy to Rome, the pontiffs there managed to import wine from Provence. Meanwhile back in Avignon, the anti-popes were continuing to enjoy the local wines and the first of these, Clement VII, broadened his repertoire, ordering 95 barrels of sweet Greek wine from Rhodes.
Benedict XIII, the second and last of the Avignon anti-popes, came from Spanish Catalonia and favoured wines from French Catalonia.
In 1395 talks were held to heal the papal schism and barrels of fine Beaune wine were brought in to lubricate the discussion.
Alas the wine was corked, the talks broke down and Benedict eventually slunk back to Spain, the schism unmended.
11/19（日）原宿 南仏料理店「KEISUKE MATSUSHIMA TOKYO」
12/10（日）目黒本町 studio itto 1F（スタジオイット1F）
2017 harvest in North Rhône: a great vintage announced with beautiful volumes.2017/10/20
Lot of enthusiasm for the 2017 vintage between Vienne and Valence, with only a small loss of volumes. In the North of the Rhone Valley everyone is pleased with 2017 vintage. Though it can be said too loud, considering the situation faced by the Southern part of the Valley.
Philippe Guigal: “In Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu there is almost no loss, contrarily to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, probably facing 40-45% less volume this year.”
Same observation for Pierre Gaillard, very pleased with “the quality level and the absence of rot, despite a pretty low volume of Viognier and more Marsannes and Roussannes.”
Only few isolated plots suffered from frost but it’s still marginal.
Vidal Fleury, Guy Sarton du Jouchay consider “2017 unusual, similar to 2015 with less structure, but the wines promise to be more interesting in term of maturing capacity. Less tanins than 2015 and more acidity. And as we prefer long maturing we are quite optimistic.” He estimates a loss of 5% of volumes, around 15-20% for Crozes Hermitage with some area being more irregulars.
Overall harvests were quite concentrated with good sanitary condition and favorable weather forecast.
Nicolas Perrin welcomes a “wonderful month of September allowing a slow pace harvest, and the possibility to wait for the perfect maturity. Whites arrived at maturity quickly and whites Crozes Hermitage were picked from September 1st and 2nd. It was necessary to wait longer for Hermitage and Condrieu (between September 5th to 13th) to reach the desired ripeness stage.
For red grapes (announced early), harvest in Crozes lowland finally started only September 18th. Crozes Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Cornas happened at the same time (between 18th and 22nd). It required to be reactive and organised in order to have teams on different plots.
Nicolas Perrin announced already an exceptionnal vintage for Hermitage, a rare complexity for Cornas wines, with the depth of 2015 as well as solar character and balance of the 2016 vintage, characterized by elegance and smoothness for Crozes and Saint-Joseph.
Viognier doesn’t like hydric stress and will be more delicate to balance, probably with longer vinification.
At Tain cellar Xavier Gomard is very enthusiastic about the beautiful maturity and incredible sanitary state for Crozes Hermitage vineyard: “We could therefore take all our time to harvest and we started August 30th for the basic wines of Saint-Peray. We finished end of September.”
Finally the drought didn’t affect so much the vineyard, regular work on the soil helped to resist better. And we didn’t encounter any blockage of ripening, but sometimes grapes are a bit candied.”
Only a very localized area was hit by hail end of July in Saint Joseph, North of Tournon.
This good sanitary condition helped to launch a 0% sulfites vintage after a 2 years trial.
“Whites are surprising and very aromatic despite of the hot year. It’s a beautiful surprise, analysed Daniel Brissot, in charge of Tain Cellar vineyard. Reds, even if we record 20% less of volumes compared with 2016, will benefit of excellent maturity. But unlike 2009 and 2015 they will not show too aggressive tannins.
It will be a really great vintage!”
Getting around Saint-Victor Abbey in Marseille-2017/10/19
Getting around Saint-Victor Abbey in Marseille-
Proculus, the Bishop of Marseille (380-430), welcomed Jean Cassien with open arms. Cassien was a hermit who introduced monastic life to Marseille. A cult was founded where the abbey now stands around a tomb which was worshipped and, legend has it, contained the relics of the 14th century Marseille martyr, Saint Victor.
In reality, the crypts contain extremely valuable archaeological artefacts which point to the existence of a working quarry in the Greek period then a Hellenistic necropolis (2BC) which was used up until Christian times. There’s no mention of it between the 7th and 10th centuries. Like all Western Europe in the Dark Ages, Saint-Victor was subject to Viking and Saracen invasions.
Monastic life returned in 977 subject to the Rule of Saint Benoît.
Isarn, a Catalan monk, began major building work in 1020 (construction of the first church with the current tower and main altar). From the end of the 12th to the 13th century, the abbey was entirely rebuilt in accordance with Roman construction. The monastery was then fortified and the whole became part of the port defence system.
From the 11th to 18th century, Saint-Victor had complete supremacy over all Christianity in the Mediterranean area. Monastic fervour died down and after the Revolution the church was used as a hay warehouse, prison and barracks which helped it avoid demolition; it was returned to the cult and restored in the 19th century. Pope Pius XI made the church a minor basilica in 1934.
A major pilgrimage takes place every year at Candlemas. In the morning on February 2nd a procession sets off from the Old Port to Abbaye Saint-Victor along Rue Sainte. The black Virgin stored in the crypts is dressed in a green cloak and presented to the crowd; the archbishop blesses her, takes mass and then goes to the Four des Navettes where he blesses Marseille’s famous boat-shaped biscuits.
What’s a “navette”?
It’s a cookie delicately shaped like a boat, calling you aboard for a delicious journey. It’s as golden as an ear of corn in the sun, slightly sweet and faintly scented with orange blossom and its texture holds a few surprises of its own. Words just can’t replace the sensations which explode in your mouth. Initially it’s crunchy but then it softens, offering a unique bouquet of flavours.
For a quick snacking visit the Cellar and Bistrot “Victor-Cave & Bistrot Bières”, with around 400 references of craft beers from all over the world. Or cross the street and you will find the newly opened Marché saint Victor.
20 rue d’Endoume 13007 Marseille
Near by stop over the gallery Béa-ba with excellent contemporary art exhibitions.
From June 15th until July 21st Marie Ducaté and Dominique Angel
Saint Victor Abbey- Open everyday from 9am to 7pm.