Chateauneuf du Pape: The Appellation and Style
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Thanks in part to the special attention of Robert Parker, the Southern Rhone appellation Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP) celebrates a meaty International reputation. Incredibly, this one appellation of Southern Rhone produces more wine than all of Northern Rhone. However, it also hosts a wider selection of grape varieties than its sister appellations in the North.
CDP is firmly intertwined with Papal history, having been established as “The Pope’s New Castle” after the pope moved from Rome to Avignon in 1308. With its famous residents, the area’s wines developed a prestigious and popular reputation surpassing the attention of other wine regions of France. Unfortunately, phylloxera also hit CDP in 1870, earlier than other regions of France and so deeply impacted wine production of the region, though it has now long since recovered.
Records indicate that wines from the region pre-phylloxera were much lighter in style than how they are understood today.
Today, the appellation allows both red and white blends to be produced, though not rose’s. Eighteen grape varieties are allowed in a CDP blend, though thirteen of those are seen as most traditional to the style. The appellation predominately makes red wines, with only 1 in 16 bottles being a white CDP blend.
The style tends to be understood as earthy, rich bodied, with a range of berry flavors, alongside darker characteristics such as tar, leather, tobacco, truffle, herbs, and even garlic. With its darker and fuller style it is rarely described as approachable, and can often present as angular or even coarse in its younger years. Some even describe the classic CDP as heavy and brooding. Compared to other wine regions of France, this is not a wine known for aging into elegance or grace. However, for many this chewable, dark quality is exactly what makes the wine so alluring.
Well known wine critic, Robert Parker, one of the region’s great champions, who helped increase its popularity in the States and raise its selling price too, outlines the benefits of CDP wine as both intellectual and hedonistic–there are impressive layers of flavor here, alongside a structure and presentation to reflect upon.
The Wine Loft, Flagstaff, AZ: A CDP Tasting
the Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape Wine Loft Wine Tasting Line-up
As a special treat, The Wine Loft, Flagstaff, AZ hosted a Chateauneuf du Pape tasting, offering with it both an educational and hedonistic attention–a balance capturing Parker’s own account of these wines at their best. Unsurprisingly, the tasting was popular here in town showing a significant turn out–the CDP, after all, carries a name recognizable by wine lovers.
* Domaine Pierre Henri Morel 2010 Cotes du Rhone Villages, Laudun Blanc
70% Grenache Blanc, 30% Bourbelanc
The tasting opened with a Rhone white not local to the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation specifically, but from Southern Rhone more generally. The Laudun Blanc from Domaine Pierre Henri Morel showed as an easy, fresh, smooth textured white with just a touch of heat in the mouth.
The wine presents on the nose with citrus zest of lemon and lime, with light accents of lime juice, as well as subtle hints of fresh herbs. The mouth follows with the citrus shifting more towards grapefruit and a fresh candied element. There is nice jaw biting acidity here, 14% alcohol and a medium-plus finish.
* Domaine Pierre Henri Morel 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape
85% Grenache, 5% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre
The CDP portion of the tasting began with the Laudun Blanc’s sister red, the 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine opens with red fruit of cherry and berry, blended smoothly with vanilla, lavendar, and light white pepper. It warms into dried fruit and spice offering a ripe but not jammy presentation. This red is both approachable and bright, without being too much fruit reduction. Instead, it is an easy, food wine. There is medium-plus acidity, medium tannin, and medium-long finish with 14.5% alcohol.
* Telegramme 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape
90% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre
The second label CDP for Telegraphe, the Telegramme, is a less expensive, lighter bodied style to its more buxom older sister. It offers red fruit of cherry, raspberry, and light strawberry, with spice, light lavender, and faint mushroom accents. The Telegramme is not flabby, but instead pleasantly plump. This wine offers medium acidity, medium tannin, and a medium finish with 14.5% alcohol.
The Telegramme is a popular red for its younger, more approachable rendition of the well-known CDP style. That said, I’ll admit this is not my go to wine. I appreciate the Telegraphe, and would readily buy it when I’m looking for a wine of its type and price range. But I generally want more structure and complexity than the 2009 Telegramme shows.
What the Telegramme has to offer is vivid fruit, on a generally clean presentation. I’m reluctant to recommend it, however, in that you still pay higher prices as demanded by the appellation, even if not as high as the Telegraphe, without getting the rich complexity expected from the style. For that reason, if you’re looking for a red fruit driven wine, I’d recommend spending less on a non-CDP red before grabbing the Telegramme.
* Domaine du Galet des Papes 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape
80% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, 5% Vaccarese, 5% Cinsault
The Domaine du Galet des Papes is a cohesive, slightly strange CDP only in the sense that it wants more age or more air. It clearly carries those angular, less polished elements the appellation is known for. Currently it drinks funky, dirty earth elements, hints of petrol, and with heat in the mouth in front of distinct red fruit.. That said, there is good structure here that will support the overall flavors deepening into a nicely balanced wine. I want to taste this again in several years. The wine offers medium acidity, medium tannin, and a medium finish, with 14.5% alcohol.
* Chapoutier 2005 La Bernardine Chateauneuf du Pape
Mostly Grenache, Some Syrah
The 2005 “La Bernardine” CDP by Chapoutier had the advantage in this tasting of bringing the most age with it on a style of wine that, generally speaking, wants age. I’ve also reviewed “La Bernardine” before but will post notes for it here as it was the culmination of The Wine Loft tasting.
The Chapoutier CDP is the most earthy and grounded of the selection, showing concentrated fruit of red cherry, date, and dried plum alongside licorice, lightly meaty and spiced elements. The acidity here stays up at medium-plus, with medium tannin, medium-plus finish, and 14% alcohol. There is a lot more age in this bottle, and it is drinking nicely now. This is a tasty, rich, well-balanced wine.
Thank you to Fred Wojtkielewicz, and The Wine Loft for hosting this treat of a tasting.
The Wine Loft, Flagstaff, AZ is located at 17 N. San Francisco St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001 USA, UPSTAIRS (it’s a loft). 928-773-9463. https://www.facebook.com/thewineloftflagstaff
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