A Trip to the Promised Land of Grenache & Syrah: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

A family trip to the Southern Rhône brought us to Châteauneuf & the famous summer castle of Pope John XXII that now stands as a symbol for the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most famous appellations in France & the most famous one in the Southern Rhône.

While Annelie (my oldest daughter) played out her princess fantasies at the impressive ruins of the castle (remember, if you don’t buy Châteauneuf, you will go to the dungeon), I rather preferred to visit wineries, vineyards & meet winemakers to learn more about the appellation: 

Pope Clement Vhad to go into exile & relocated his papacy to Avignon (north of Châteauneuf). He was succeeded by Pope John XXII who tremendously loved wine (who doesn’t?) & improved the viniculture in the surrounding areas. The wines of this area came to be known as “Vin du Pape” & later Châteauneuf-du-Pape (the new castle of the Pope).

The appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape allows 13 different varietals, but most Châteauneufs are mainly blends of Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre & must have at least 50 % Grenache & been aged for 1 year in oak barrels.

Riding around the vineyards with Frederic Charvin (owner & winemaker of Domaine de Pignan) & meeting Laurent Charvin (from Domaine Charvin) showed me what makes this appellation so special: 1) the “terroir” (big pebbles/stones reflecting the sunlight to the plants, 2) the smell (garrigue, herbs) & 3) without doubt, the passion of the winemakers.

Enough said. Here are some of our favourites:

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 
$67.99 | Mixed Case $54.39
Owned by the Brunier brothers, this is a fantastic house & one of the most famous Chateauneuf producers. A blend of mainly Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre, but also includes some other varietals. Big, full-bodied, powerful, concentrated, with superb aromas & flavors of black raspberries, kirsch, black cherries, red plums, ground black pepper & lots of garrigue. A seriously long finish. A wine for the ages.

Domaine du Banneret 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape
$46.99 | Mixed Case $37.59
A 95% Grenache (110 year old vines) & 5% Mourvedre blend from a very small house. Inviting aromas of sweet, ripe red & dark fruit. Medium- to full-bodied with fantastic acidity & tannic structure. Flavors of ripe, spicy black cherries, raspberries & olive tapenade. Long, rich finish. Just wonderful & tasty.

Domaine de Cristia 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape
$52.99 | Mixed Case $42.39
One of the newer wineries. Decanter quoted them as one of top 5 upcoming domaines in Châteauneuf. A blend of 90% Grenache& 10% Syrah. Wonderful aromas of sweet, ripe blackberries, blueberries & again olive tapanade. Gorgeous texture & mouthfeel. Great concentration & acidity. Flavors of crushed currant, cassis, olives & licorice are framed by smooth tannins. Irresistible!

All in stock & more. Check them out!  They make superb gift wines & we encourage you to splurge & treat yourself as well.

Jens Strecker
Owner, Portalis Wines


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