by Fred McMillin
for September 2, 1997

Hot Rocks

Prologue: The Romans called it Avenio, "the city of strong winds." (Today we call the Rhone city Avignon.) However, those strong winds didn't keep Pope Clement V cool enough in the summer, so he had a new, cooler chateau built north of town, "the new chateau of the pope."

The Rest of the Story: The Chateau Neuf was completed in 1333. Thirty million years earlier the finishing touches had been put on the "soil" where the papal vines were planted. Erosion of the newly-formed Alps deposited baseball-like round rocks which today form the most startling vineyard "soil" I've ever seen.

The elegant Chateau La Nerthe has its share of that stony soil. The rocks are heated by the sun during the day and hence keep the vines warmer during the night. That helps produce the big, complex red that caused a lot of excitement in Boston when the USA's first La Nerthe arrived there 200 years ago. The 1994 has now reached our shores, and my tasters loved it.

1994 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Red Wine
Chateau La Nerthe
Southern Rhone Valley, France
USA Contact—Suzanne da Silva, NYC, (212)888-7575
Food Affinities—Smoked turkey, ham, lamb.


  1. French wine laws permit the inclusion of 13 different varietals in red Pape wine. La Nerthe grows all 13. This has a little something to do with that intriguing complexity, which we'll take up next time.

  2. For more about this topic, see eGG's April 4, 1997 Wine of the Week on How the Pope Coped.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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