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All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
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Apr 14, 2018

We begin a new series on the great wines of the world. Every so often we will profile one of the greatest wines on earth, talking about the history, the terroir, and why these wines are so special. We begin with the Southern Rhône gem: Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Here are some of the notes from the show:

The Greats: Chateauneuf du Pape

  • Variable Appellation in southern Rhone that makes about 1 MM cases per year
  • Expensive and great because: tastes great, limited supply, and expensive winemaking techniques 
  • Profile: Rich spicy, full-bodied reds – product of Warm-climate viticulture. Can be tannic or jammy, White and (rare) rose are made too
  • The new generation in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is ambitious, quality minded and eager to show that their wines are worth the money. They keep some traditional ways of making the wine but are not afraid to use modern techniques as well.
  • The wine is consumed relatively young -5-6 years after bottling 


Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Location

  • In southeastern France/Southern Rhône about 2 miles/3 km east of Rhône river and 12 km/7.5 miles north of Avignon
  • Communes: Bedarrides, Courthezon, Orange, Sorgues

History: “Pope’s new castle” is translation

  • Pope Clement V Bertrand de Got, was elected pope in 1305. He transferred the papacy to Avignon in 1309.
  • Successor John XXII credited with developing papal vineyard in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, also developed Papal palace in Avignon
  • Following schism -- CndP and Avignon went back to countryside, wine was not important here until the 18th c (1700s)
  • Popes left, castle passed to the archbishop of Avignon, but it was too large and too expensive to maintain
  • La Nerthe or La Neste first in 1785 had an estate bottling
  • 1787 Thomas Jefferson was in the region and didn’t taste the wines – not relevant at that point
  • Phylloxera hit CndP right after it hit Gard in the Languedoc – devastating. Production not up to pre-phylloxera levels until the 1950s


  • 90% is red wine, used to add white to add freshness to red
  • Today typical blend:
    • 50-70% Grenache
    • 10-30% Mourvedre
    • Up to 20% Syrah Cinsault Counoise and Vaccarese
    • Up to 10% Clairette, Picpoul, and Bourboulenc (whites)
  • Reds: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picpoul noir, Terret noir
  • Whites: Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picardin
  • Others: Clairette Rosé, white and pink Picpoul and Grenache)


The Land: Variation – soils, mix of grapes, mesoclimates, differences in vinification 

  • Soils: Some large pebbles – galets –in many vineyards. Retain heat, good for low, bush-trained vineyards (gobelet). Mainly varied soils –some calcareous, some rocky
    • Most own parcels in varied areas – blending
  • Climate: Hotter sites – tough when young, concentrated. South facing slopes can be too hot, especially with heat retaining pebbles. Blends from different subzones – work best, some single vineyards (can be too big)



Top producers:

  • Chateau Rayas
  • Chateau de Beaucastel (Hommage à Jacques Perrin, Roussanne Vieilles Vignes
  • Domaine Henri Bonneau (Réserve des Célestins and Cuvee Marie Beurrier)
  • Domaine de Marcoux – 2 sisters run it (Cuvée Vieilles Vignes), biodynamic
  • Clos de Papes
  • Domaine de Pegaü – classically styled wines (Cuvee Laurence)
  • Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe
  • Les Cailloux (Cuvee Centenaire)


Recent great vintages: 2005, 2007, 2010, 2015, 2016


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