An Introduction to Chateauneuf-du-Pape
This is without doubt, the most famous wine producing area and best known name in the Rhone. Located just north of Avignon, the village gets its name from the fact that it became the ‘new’ home of Pope Clement in the 14th century, and the village is full of heritage, history and remains of medieval buildings.
It is the driest of all the Rhone appellations, and the vines have to work very hard to get the nutrition they need. It is a large area, with a surface over 25 times that of Hermitage in the north.
White Chateauneuf Du Pape
Chateauneuf wines are predominantly red, although there is an increasing production of white wine made from Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne and Bourboulenc. These wines are well worth looking out for, and are in very small quantities.
Style: Full, dry, with ripe peach and floral aromas and flavours; the wines are fresh, but slightly honeyed, with a ripe, creamy elegance.
Grapes: Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc
Good with: fish and white meat with rich, creamy sauces; buttery roast chicken, and also roast pork with a fruity stuffing. Delicious with oily fish and also great with soft, washed rind cheeses.
Red Chateauneuf Du Pape
The famous red Chateauneuf, in its heavyweight bottle, with the embossed papal cross keys sign, can be produced from up to 13 different grape varieties, although Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre dominate. The rich, juicy berry fruit flavours of Grenache blend particularly well with the spicy structure of Syrah, and added weight and intensity is provided by the hearty, intense Mourvedre, with its full tannins, supplemented by fruity, juicy Cinsault.
Given the wide variety of grapes used, it’s difficult to generalise about the style, with the Grenache-dominant blends, being more overtly fruity, and earlier to drink. If the Syrah and Mourvedre proportions are increased, the wines are bigger, fuller and need a little more time, although they will still be earlier drinking than their northern counterparts. In general Chateauneuf wines are big, succulent, seductive wines, oozing richness and intense sweet spice character.
Style: Rich, intense, full flavoured yet textured and perfumed wines, full of very ripe black fruit flavours, integrated oak and velvety sweet spice edges.
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and small quantities of up to 9 others, including Counoise, Terret noir and Picpoul noir.
Good with: these full on, spicily rich wines cope brilliantly with rich, red meat dishes, such as lamb shanks, venison, oxtail, and braised beef. They also cope well with anything with olives and gentle spices. Also perfect with strong, mature cheeses.
Top estates: Domaine de Beaucastel, Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateau Mont Redon, Clos des Papes, Chateau Rayas.