Châteauneuf-du-Pape (shah-toe-nuff doo pahp) is the southernmost major appellation of the Southern Rhône wine region in France. Producing high-quality, mostly rich, full-bodied red wines with common characteristics of fresh cherries, strawberries, raspberries, pepper, and spice, it instantly became one of my favorites after my first time having had one. They can be juicy, robust, and succulent when young, and take on a more silky texture when aged. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is “the most important, and variable, appellation in the Southern Rhône in terms of quality.”

History

The term Châteauneuf-du-Pape is French and translates to the “Pope’s new castle.” It refers to the 14th century relocation of the papal court in which the pope resided in the city of Avignon. The move was initiated by Pope Clement V, who is said to have ordered the planting of vines after his arrival. At the time, the area was known as Châteauneuf-Calcernier. However, it took on the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape during the 20th century after Pope John XXII built a new papal summer home among the vineyards. Today most bottles of estate-grown Châteauneuf-du-Pape are embossed with the papal crown and St. Peter’s keys (as seen in the picture below) in recognition of this history.

Chateauneuf du Pape

Character

Most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are red blends in which up to fourteen grape varieties are permitted to be used. The most prominent grape used is Grenache, followed by Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. Other grape varieties used include Muscardin, Counoise, Vaccarèse, Terret Noir, and the lighter-skinned grapes, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Picpoul, and Picardan. Châteauneuf-du-Pape also is known for having the highest minimum strength of any other French wine: 12.5% alcohol. Though, its wines rarely are less than 14.5%, and sometimes reach up to as much as 16%.

Another element that makes this region unique is its terroir. The soil is comprised mostly of smooth, round, heat-absorbing stones or pebbles, known as galets. The galets reflect sunlight to the leaves and grapes. They also absorb heat during the day and radiate the heat in the evening. This helps with the growth and ripening of the grapes, resulting in concentrated, full-bodied, potent wines.

Wine and Food Pairing

In wine and food pairing, this is one of the most versatile wine regions. The generous number of grape varieties permitted to be used in the wine allows for a wide array of styles. From bold, rich and robust to soft, silky, and refined. Châteauneuf-du-Pape can pair well with just about everything from grilled steak, lamb, duck, stews, braised dishes, and rich seafood dishes. White Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine pairs well with fish, shell fish, lobster, crab, sushi and chicken.

Producers

Some of the best producers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape include the following:

  • Château de Beaucastel
  • Château de la Gardine
  • Château La Nerthe
  • Château Rayas
  • Clos des Papes
  • Clos du Mont Olivet
  • Domaine de Beaurenard
  • Domaine de Chante-Perdix
  • Domaine de la Charbonniere
  • Domaine de la Janesse
  • Domaine du Pegau
  • Font de Michelle
  • Le Bosquet des Papes
  • Le Vieux Donjon
  • Les Cailloux
  • M. Chapoutier
  • Vieux Telegraphe

Recommended reading

All About Chateauneuf du Pape Guide Best Wine Character Style History.” The Wine Cellar Insider. Web. Accessed: 23 April, 2016.

Johnson, Hugh and Jancis Robinson. The World Atlas of Wine. Octopus Publishing Group, 2013. Print.

MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Pubishing, 2015. Print.