Around 1400 AD two popes fought each other for divine supremacy of the Holy Church. One was based in Rome and the other in Avignon. The popes of Avignon really liked a good swig of wine and that caused the emergence of vineyards close to Orange where focus on quality was more important than elsewhere. This was the cradle of the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. There is also a geological reason for the good quality of these wines: the big pebbles that cover the earth between the vines. They suck in the heat of the sun during the day and radiate warmth during the night. The pebbles are a gift of the Rhône, which deposited them during its more turbulent behaviour in the Ice Age. Gilles Sylvain, chef de culture of the renowned wine-grower Brotte, can tell you all about it. Photo Paul Smit.