© by Sheral Schowe
The Rhone River marks the eastern border of the most important appellation in the Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The name, which dates back to the 14th century, means the New Castle of the Pope. Its history dates back to 1309 when the Gascon Pope Clement V arrived at Avignon and ordered the planting of the vines. His successor, John XXII planted and developed the first vineyards in Chateauneuf-du Pape. After a tumultuous period of devastation and replanting in the late 1800's and early 1900's due to the Phylloxera root louse, new standards were created for grape growing and wine production in this area.
In fact, the rules drawn up by Baron Le Roy for Chateauneuf-du-Pape in 1923 became the prototype for the entire French Appellation Controllee system. The grapes used for red Chateauneuf-du-Pape have traditionally been Grenache, and more recently, with the addition of Syrah and Mourvedre. There are thirteen varietals allowed for the blending of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Chateau Beaucastel, one of the most highly regarded producers, uses all thirteen varietals in their blend.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape can come in two different styles, either a traditional, spicy, dark, long-lived wine, or, a modern style, which is juicy, jammy, and easy drinking. The two styles are a reflection of both the climate and soil differentiation where the grapes are grown, and the types of grapes used in the blend.
White Chateauneuf-du-Pape is relatively rare, particularly in the United States. The best, if you can find it, is Chateau du Beaucastel Vielles Vignes. The barrel fermentation creates a full-bodied wine, blended from Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and several other varietals. The World of Wines class evaluated the one and only white Chateauneauf-du-Pape available in Utah, the Mont Redon 1997, which is a blend of Grenache Blanc and Cinsault. It had very faint aromas of peach and a little anis, but nothing truly memorable. The noticeable lack of bouquet is typical of most of what the majority of white Chateauneauf-du-Pape has to offer. The flavors were light and delicate with honeysuckle and a little citrus. The finish was uneventful. Though this was a nice, reasonably enjoyable wine, it certainly did not equate in quality to the exorbitant price of $30.65. The majority of these white wines should be enjoyed young, with the exception of the 100% Roussanne Veilles Vignes (old vines) from Chateau de Beaucastel.
For further information on the Chateauneuf Appellation, I recommend Robert Parker's book, "The Wines of the Rhone Valley and Provence, New York, 1997.
April 18, 2000