Châteauneuf du Pape – Southern France’s Little Gem for Big Wines
Do you know about Châteauneuf du Pape yet?
France is filled with unique and exciting wine regions. The area we will be exploring today is a small area that packs a big punch – Châteauneuf du Pape. “The Pope’s New Castle”, as it literally translates to, is one of the most prestigious regions in southern France. Let’s learn more about what makes this region so special:
About the Region
Located in the southeast of France in the Côte d’Azur provence. Châteauneuf du Pape is part of the Rhône Valley region, located to the east of the Rhône river. Sub-regions include:
- Châteauneuf du Pape
Number of Vineyards & Wineries
180 wineries are in possession of 320 vineyards stretched out over about 8,000 acres of land. More wine is produced here than the entire northern Rhône, at about 110,000 hectoliters every year.
- Red Wines (9 allowed)
- Grenache Noir
- Piquepoul Noir
- Terret Noir
- White Wines (9 allowed)
- Clairette Blanche
- Clairette Rose
- Grenache Blanc
- Grenache Gris
- Piquepoul Blanc
- Piquepoul Gris
The climate is typically dry and hot. Strong yet cold mistral winds carry away moisture and cool the earth. This wind produces clear weather, allowing significant sunshine to reach the ground. The constant sunshine and heat retained by the soil help to ripen grapes quickly.
There are three distinct soil types that contribute to the terroir:
- Stony galets, made up of quartz sandstone and Alpine glacial remnants, covering a clay base. Found mostly in the north.
- Sandy soil dominates in the eastern part of the region.
- The south is primarily gritty, arid earth.
- In 1308, the Roman Catholic church moved it’s papal seat to Avignon, France under Pope Clement V. This “Avignon Papacy” lasted for 70 years, and during this time the wines of the region were celebrated immensely. Grape growing was expanded throughout the Rhone valley, and viticultural practices improved.
- The first Appellation Contrôlée rules were set in France in the early 1920s, due to prominent wine fraud of Châteauneuf du Pape at the time.
- Producers are so protective of their vineyards, that the commune successfully banned overhead flying in the 1950s.
- Rosé wines are not allowed to be produced in this region. Reds are mostly produced, but there are also white Châteauneuf du Pape varieties.
- Châteauneuf du Pape bottles are thick and heavy, and are embossed with a papal seal in honor of the wine’s religious history.
- The most common blends contain Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre – also known as GSM.
- Flavors are diverse and range from fruity, earthy, savory, herbal, floral. An excellent Châteauneuf du Pape will contain all of these flavor profiles.
- Châteauneuf du Pape cannot contain less than 12.5% alcohol – therefore, it is considered a high alcohol wine. Sugar content and tannins are often high as well to keep the wine balanced.
Domaine Du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pape La Crau, $79.99
E. Guigal Châteauneuf du Pape, $49.99
Clos Saint Michele Châteauneuf du Pape, $29.99
Have you tried Châteauneuf du Pape yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!