Armelle Barbanson realized her dream when she landed her first job in the Rhone Valley as an assistant winemaker. It didn't take long for her to move up to winemaker and craft incredible wines like our selected Les Collines at the powerhouse producer, Caves des Papes.
Caves des Papes refers to the place of the Pope and the most revered wine in Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. In the early 14th Century, France was feuding with the Vatican about how much influence it had over the country. So, the then king of France, Phillip IV, decided to name his own pope and transfer the papal court to a reconstructed castle in Avignon. Chateauneuf-du-Pape means "the new home of the pope."
A problem developed in that the priests began feeling the effects of the wine consumed at mass because it was higher in alcohol than what they were used to. So, they asked the king to plant white grapes, which are lower in alcohol, so they wouldn't be as affected. That is how white wines came to be made in the Rhone, now accounting for about 5% of the Rhone's production.
Even though they are rare, these whites are nothing short of delicious. The lively mix of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier present an enticing array of flavors from acacia and white peach to honeysuckle, pear, and spice. This exciting amalgam is just what the chef ordered with a cream of mushroom soup or salmon tartar with soy, wasabi and sesame seeds.