Located in the southern Rhone valley, the town (translating roughly as 'The Pope's new castle') was chosen as the summer residence for the Pope's court during the early 14th century. The AOC itself is one of the earliest official wine appellations, established in 1929, and produces both red and white wines. However their reds are the majority produced.
Châteauneuf du Pape differs from other Rhone appellations in that 13 types of grape are permitted for use which can create impressive combinations, with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, predominately used for reds, and Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne and Bourboulenc for the whites. The Mediterranean climate is the driest of the Rhone appellations, with approximately 2,800 hours of sunshine per year, similar to Gigondas.
History of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known to have a particularly rich wine making heritage of all the appellations in the Rhône Valley. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an official Cru of the Rhône region, which is home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world with evidence of wine production dating back to the 4th Century BC Greek occupation. The vineyards later thrived under Roman Rule until the collapse of the Roman Empire resulting in dwindling interest in the region’s wines. The region flourished again in the fourteenth century, after the papacy moved its seat from Rome to Avignon. The successive Popes became the largest outlet for Rhône wines, adding to the local viticulture. Indeed, Châteauneuf du Pape roughly translates to ‘The Pope's new castle’ with the Avignon Popes being great lovers of the region's wines. Over time, more than one Avignon Pope has had a residence in the region and their respective influence over Châteauneuf du Pape wines were so intertwined, the wines were originally named ‘Vin du Pape’.
By the nineteenth century, the popularity of Châteauneuf du Pape wines had spread far and wide across Europe with the wines being drunk by Royalty, Noble folk and famous poets such as Frédéric Mistral. With fame came corruption, leading to fraudulent wines being made and produced from grapes outside the region claiming to be wines of Châteauneuf du Pape. This became a significant problem by the twentieth century. In a bid to protect the region’s reputation, wine makers of Châteauneuf du Pape banded together under the direction and force of the respected lawyer and Châteauneuf du Pape winemaker Baron Le Roy Boiseaumarié of Chateau Fortia. Taking their case to the Courts, stricter rules were implemented and the blueprint for our current appellation system was born. By 1929, Châteauneuf du Pape became the first AOC of France, the rules of which remain in force and have been built upon to this day.
Southern Rhône is warmer than its Northern counterpart, with sunshine filled days akin to the Mediterranean, and vineyards planted on much flatter, stony terroir. At first glance, the terroir of Châteauneuf du Pape appears as any other in Southern France, however the soils are made up of three composites, enabling diversity and microclimates to thrive, impacting the wines produced. Sixty million years ago a shallow primeval sea flooded the Rhône region. After it receded, the region lived through multiple ice ages, the creation of the Alps, glaciers and the Rhône Valley, along with interchangeable warmer periods that punctuated the Châteauneuf du Pape area resulting in a terroir made up of a sandstone and clay mix (Eclats Calcaires), sands (Safres) and limestone, large pebbles (famously known as ‘Galets Roulés’ sat on red clay). The stones hold onto the warmth of sunshine filled days adding heat to the cooler nights in the vineyards and allowing for grapes to reach a deep ripeness. La Crau Plateau is most famous for this style of terroir with some of the region’s most famous Châteaux having a home here. Whilst drought can be an issue for this region, the most damage can be from the Mistral winds which carry a strength unseen in the north of the region, thereby viticulture adaption is a must, from planting low to the ground to makeshift wind breakers.
Grape Varieties and Blends
Traditionally there were thirteen grape varieties permitted to be used in the production of red and white wines however to date this has unofficially been extended to twenty grape varieties due to the recent explicit mention of the grapes rosé and blanc varietals. These newly named rosé grape varietals can be used in both red and white wine production, for example Clairette Rose which is the pink mutation of Clairette Blanc.
In practice, the red wines produced in the appellation are by signature, heavy in Grenache Noir, with Mourvèdre and Syrah used as key components to varying degrees depending on the winemaker. These key varieties are supported by the permitted use of Cinsault, Piquepoul Noir, Counoise, Vaccarèse, Muscardin and Terret Noir all unofficially known as accessory varieties.
A very small production of white wines are produced within the appellation utilising prominently Roussanne, Clairette blanche, Bourboulenc, Grenache blanc, Clairette rose, Grenache Gris, Picardan, Piquepoul blanc and Piquepoul Gris. These grapes are not exclusively used for white wine production, as white and pink grapes are also commonly blended with red grape varieties within the production of red wines to add an aromatic depth entirely unique to the Rhône Valley.
Buy Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC Wine from Hourlier Wines
The best quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC wines can carry phenomenally high price tags due to reputation, small production and viticulture techniques. Whilst lower priced Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be found in some supermarket chains, the quality is often lacking. Finding the balance between cost effectiveness and quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be a difficult task, which is why utilising a specialist French wine merchant such as ourselves is a must if you are looking for superb quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape without the triple figure price tags.
At Pierre Hourlier Wines, we have carefully sourced superb quality, delectable and cost effective wines directly from the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC. All of our wines are produced by passionate, artisan, wine makers and we are proud to be able to showcase the best of their range to our buyers.
Domaine Pontifical is located in the heart of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and has been family owned since the 1920s. This 15-hectare vineyard is now run by Francois Laget- Royer with his wife and daughter. Grenache is the dominant grape of their succulent red wines, complemented by Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. The Domaine also produces some particularly delicious white Châteauneuf du Pape in very small quantities.
If you are looking for a bold, Southern Rhône classic from the illustrious Châteauneuf du Pape, then look no further. Our Châteauneuf Du Pape: Domaine Pontifical's is a blend of 75% Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise and Cinsaut. It offers a palate of black fruit and raisin that is extremely velvety, smooth and round with a long finish. The flavours are wonderfully integrated with the dominance of Grenache bringing a sense of fullness and richness. Whilst Châteauneuf du Pape can carry exceptionally high prices, this wine not only retains its strength in quality, it also offers exceptional value.
As for a rare Châteauneuf Du Pape white wine offering, the Domaine Pontifical White is the ultimate blend of 17% Grenache Blanc, 35% Roussanne, 18% Clairette, 30% Bourboulenc providing for an incredible, unique white wine that must be experienced. Heralded by a golden colour, it has an intense nose that announces white fruit flavours of peach and apricot. The palate is warm with hints of white flowers, almonds and ending in a long, well balanced in acidity, finish.
What makes Châteauneuf du Pape wine unique?
The appellation of Châteauneuf du Pape is known for its big, bold, full bodied red wines and its rare, lesser produced aromatic white wines. Unlike other appellations of France, wine production can include a staggering number of grape varieties and whilst Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre often form the backbone of red wine production, some producers insist on including all of the traditional thirteen varieties in their wines (including some white grapes) for added complexity and depth of flavours.
The wines produced can range in style from deeply aromatic to dark, bold wines, due to the very individual and diverse terroir of the vineyards which can very across the appellation from large pebbled limestone ‘Galets’, to more sandy, clay based soils. The wines are often marked with a slightly herbaceous flavour known as ‘Garrigue’, which are resinous shrub herbs grown across the region such as lavender, rosemary and sage.
Which food groups pair well with Châteauneuf du Pape AOC?
The red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape are often bold and complex wines carrying notes of ripe dark fruits and savoury notes with high alcohol warmth at the back of the throat. The wines are often marked with a slightly herbaceous flavour known as ‘Garrigue’, which are resinous shrub herbs grown across the region such as lavender, rosemary and sage. They are therefore a fantastic pairing to lamb, Asian style grilled meats, BBQs or more heavily vegetable forward dishes and vegetable laden Pizza, particularly with black olives, which amplifies the garrigue flavours of the wine.
The best white wines tend to be oily full bodied, aromatic wines with notes of white fruits (peach and apricot), hints of tropical fruits and a floral nose. Prawn linguine dishes, Scallops in a sage butter, or an Asian style mango and quinoa salad would be mouth-watering pairings for a Châteauneuf du Pape full bodied white wine.
What does Châteauneuf du Pape taste like?
The best of Châteauneuf du Pape red wines are often Grenache heavy, with added Syrah and Mourvèdre composites. This trio lends the wines notes of raspberry, blueberry and blackberry fruits, with savoury, earthy and oaky notes such as leather, garrigue, thyme and cedar. Châteauneuf du Pape tends to be high alcohol and full bodied with relatively high acidity. The wines are excellent to enjoy young however they also age very well, over a decade.
The white wines of Châteauneuf du Pape are produced in very small quantities. The wines can vary from being quite delicate in style to decidedly oily and full bodied. The best white wines are known to be full bodied, almost oily in body, with bold flavours due to the variety of grapes used. Whilst Grenache Blanc affords the wine its high alcohol style, the array of grapes used from Roussanne to Bourboulenc, Clairette and Piquepoul offers the wines a cornucopia of white fruits (apricot, peaches), tropical fruit notes and quince flavours that can age very well resulting in more honeyed notes.