Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Seductive Reds of Chateauneuf-du-Pape

            Rocks from the nearby Rhone River help warm the vines in winter & cool them in summer 

This is the second article in November's trio on the wines of the Southern Rhone.

The first blog of this series discussed the genesis of the name Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CdP), the "new chateau of the Pope," which came about when the papacy was moved from Rome to the southern Rhone Valley.  Today, we'll learn about the highly coveted reds of CdP.  It is important to note that these red wines are blended wines...from both red and white grapes.  This blog will address the main red grapes used in these red wines. 

                          CdP is located <10 miles north of the Papal Palace in Avignon

With more than 8,000 acres of vines planted, CdP is the largest appellation in the Rhone.  Red wine is King in this area and represents 94% of the district's production.  Of the eight red varietals planted, Grenache leads the pack accounting for approximately 3/4 of the vines.  Grenache offers medium tannins and acids so it is often much more approachable at a younger age than a Cab Sauvignon.  Flavors of Grenache are strawberry, cherry and raspberry laced with nuances of cinnamon and licorice.  As CdP's reds are blended, however, Grenache is never vinified as a varietal in this appellation.

Syrah, the second most popular red grape, is another important part of CdP's blends.   While Syrah grapes are only 12% of the vines, this variety is important to the blend.  Deep colored Syrah is added to darken up Grenache which is far lighter in color.   Syrah also has more tannins and acids than the far more gentle Grenache so it adds structure to the blend.   While Grenache offers red fruit flavors, Syrah's contribution is black fruit, as well as chocolate and pepper notes.

                                Everything in the village of CdP is wine centric

The third grape most used in CdP reds is Mourvedre.  While accounting for <10% of the vines planted, Mourvedre adds an important profile to these blended wines.  Like Syrah, Mourvedre adds structure and dark fruit flavors, however, it also brings the grapes' signature nuances of cedar and herbal aromas...both adding layered complexity to the blend.   As Mourvedre thrives in the heat and is drought tolerant, this grape is now seen as a hedge against global warming.

Wine-Knows will be spending a day in Chateauneuf-du-Pape learning about these gorgeously complex blends.   We have 2-3 spaces available on our September 2024 harvest trip.     Burgundy & Champagne – Wine-Knows Travel (

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