Chateauneuf-du-Pape: New Hopes, New Castles of Popes
By Kay Pfaltz
January’s here. Resolutions made, new hopes stirred. The earth continued its eternal, axial spin post Solstice, and while spring will be nudging in a few short months, these shortened, winter days are a beautiful excuse to turn inward, reflect and…drink Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape owes not only its name, which means ‘New Castle of the Pope’, but also its existence to the Popes of Rome. The destiny of this area was much altered when a 72-year-old man decided to movie in. The old man was thin and pale, and looked as though he should check into the nearest hospital, not go on to build a chateau more like a fortress than a palace. All of this would be unimportant if the man had not been John XXII, the second of the Avignon Popes, reigning from 1316 to 1334. The presence of the papal court in Chateauneuf encouraged wine growing. John XXII planted a small vineyard with high quality wine and the wine from the area became the fashion of the times.
About the same time, Petrarch wrote that to be able to say how much you love is to love but little. I extend this to certain favorite wines, Chateauneuf-du-Pape among them. If Bordeaux is cerebral, and Burgundy sensuously elegant, then Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the quintessential wine of pleasure. If you think about all the wines in the world, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the purest, most un-manipulated and truest translations of a vineyard. Most of the great Bordeaux, Burdgundy and California Cabernets rely heavily on new oak, whereas in CDP only a small percentage of new oak is used. In addition, Chateauneufs can be drunk young yet have tremendous aging potential. In youth you’ll taste exuberance and the sexy flamboyance of fruity Grenache. With age you’ll notice more secondary nuances of spice, earth and leather. And where else in the world can you find vines as old?
So build a fire, light some candles, gather friends or, in their absence, reach for a great book…then pour the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
La Bastide St. Dominique, Secrets de Pignan, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2010 – Eric Bonnet is the talent behind La Bastide St. Dominique. A few months ago, a group of wine tasters and I enjoyed an excellent tasting at the estate. Eric’s wife Julia poured the Secrets de Pignan last. Made from sixty plus year-old vines, it was the unanimous favorite. Black fruit aromas layered among spicy notes, licorice, tobacco, black tea and bittersweet ganache. Rich and incredibly smooth. A special wine for a special occasion. Pairs best with strong cheeses, stews or game. $54
Domaine Grand Veneur, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Les Origines, 2010 – I like Alaine Jaume of Domaine Grand Veneur not only because his wines are excellent but also because he practices sustainable viticulture. Of the Les Origines Robert Parker writes: “The 2010 is nearly off the charts in terms of concentration. […] it is noble, reserved and pure with plenty of black and blue fruit notes intermixed with subtle garrigue, graphite and spice box. 94-96 pts.” $62
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Feature Image: The Wine Cellar Insider