Thursday, March 22, 2018

Big Châteauneuf Wine Fest April 7 & 8

The weekend wine festival called Printemps de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, now in its ninth year, is a festive rite of spring here in the South of France. This year (April 7 and 8), more than 85 domaines and châteaux will be represented...a great opportunity to meet local producers while tasting their latest releases and a few smashing older vintages. It’s also an easy way to buy the wines you love, some of them normally quite difficult to get. I'm told roughly 300 wines will be featured.

Each year the Printemps festival invites special guests from other regions and this time it's a group of winemakers from 

As in years past, there will also be special tasting workshops (called Master Classes or Les Ateliers Dé
gustation). These require an additional fee and need to be booked in advance. You can see this year's offerings to the right on the website here but sign up early as they always sell out quickly. Note some are in different locations that the festival itself. 

Eighty-two years ago, Châteauneuf was designated as one of the very first AOCs (Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée) in France.  The AOC decree was first created by Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (aka baron Le Roy), a winemaker at Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Château Fortia). The first year, there were five villages named: Châteauneuf, Monbazillac, Arbois, Cassis and Tavel. And as the European designation AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) is slowly replacing the French AOC for agricultural products, you can expect to see more AOP on wine labels in the months to come.

Les Printemps is organized by by The Young Winemakers Association of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and takes place at the Salle Dufays on the Place de la Renaissance in Châteauneuf. Hours are 10 am to 7 pm (Saturday) and 10 am to 6 pm (Sunday). Entry is 10€ per person per day; you can pay at the door. There will be free parking...indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids...and food available on site.

A list of all participating domaines is here.

For all the details click here and follow the festival on Facebook  and Twitter. If you have questions, you can email:

For nearby hotels and other lodging options, click here

For general info about the wines of Châteauneuf, the village and the region, click here. Or, reach out to the lovely folks at the Châteauneuf Tourist Office: +33 (0)4 90 83 71 08.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Fundraiser for Camargue Cowboys March 18

Let's give it up for the Gardians! On Sunday March 18, 2018 at Domaine Paul Ricard de Méjanes in the Camargue, the Rotary Club des Baux de Provence is hosting a full-day event to raise funds for the Mutuelle des Gardians, which supports the men and women who work the manades (ranches) of this legendary "Wild West" region of Provence. The mutuelle is a supplement,  not unlike the one used for mountain guides, which helps families with expenses following a serious work accident or a death.

"This 'day in the country' will help all of us to better appreciate these amazingly passionate and devoted people," says Larry Ware, vice president of the Rotary.  "It will also help visitors discover the Camargue 'profonde' and hopefully create a closer bond with this remarkable and authentic region and its people.

"We're hoping it finds a place on the Camargue calendar every year," Larry continues. "Two years ago, on a rainy day, we were still able to raise 3000€. This year the weather promises to be wonderful and we hope to do even better."

Larry advises turning up at Méjanes before 10 am. The program begins in the Arena (plaza) at 10:30 with a demo of the "Course Camarguaise," the traditional bull games. This will be followed by a demo by a traditional Camargue bullfighter; neither bulls nor men will be hurt! Then there will be a display on horseback of how the Gardians work with cattle...cows not bulls this time. 

An apéritif and lunch will be served in the restaurant at 12:45. 

After lunch, everyone is welcome to join a roundtable discussion with Camargue residents, dignitaries, ranch owners and Gardians. "This is an important opportunity for the Camarguais to voice their concerns and for participants to ask questions," Larry says. "The roundtable will be in French but I'll be on hand to translate if needed." There will also be activities for kids such as rides on the train to see bulls, horses and birds and a tombola (raffle) for the adults. And all this will be set to the wonderful music of gypsy musicians...signature sound of the Camargue.

"The Gardians are very hardworking, passionate about where they live and work and uniquely authentic." Larry says, "They're truly the soul of the region. This  is such a worthy cause and a gesture of recognition. My club, the Gardians and I  really hope we'll have the pleasure of seeing a number of your readers on March 18th!"

Tickets are 30
€ adults and 15€ kids, which includes all events plus lunch with wine and coffee. All entrance fees and raffle earnings go directly to the Mutuelle.

For questions and reservations:, +33 (0)6 19 05 31 90. Or, send a check directly to Etienne Pirot, 89, Chemin des Oliviers, 13750, Plan D’Orgon, France.

Larry asked me to mention that the Rotary Club Des Baux de Provence is always looking for new international members, both expats and part-timers, both men and women.  "We have a number of English speaking French, German and Belgian members, so language won't be too much of a problem."

Photos: A few of my favorite Gardian shots (courtesy of the Manades Jacques Bon and Hotel Mas de Peint).  The map shows where in the Camargue the March 18 fundraiser will be held. The poster is easier to read if you click on it.