The large village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, between Avignon and Orange, takes its name from the summer palace of the Avignon popes. Its rich ruby-red wine ranks among the most renowned in France. Commercial activity centres on the main road that loops around Châteauneuf’s small central hill. Walk up from the busy little place du Portail, and you’re swiftly in a tangle of sleepy, verdant alleyways. A couple of intact castle walls still crown the top of the hill, but they simply define a hollow shell, freely accessible at all times.
During the first weekend of August, the Fête de la Véraison celebrates the ripening of the grapes, with free tasting stalls throughout the village, as well as parades, dances, and equestrian contests. At other times, free tastings are available all around the village. The best selection of wines is at La Maison des Vins, 8 rue du Maréchal Foch (vinadea.com).