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Châteauneuf-du-Pape is firmly entwined with papal history. In 1308, Pope Clement V, former Archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the papacy to the city of Avignon from Rome under pressure from the French King. Clement V and subsequent "Avignon Popes" were said to be great lovers of wine and did much to promote it during the seventy-year duration of the Avignon Papacy. Clement V was succeeded by John XXII,(Another Frenchman) who regularly drank the wines from the vineyards to the north, as well as Burgundy wine, and did much to improve viticultural practices there. Under John XXII, the wines of this area came to be known as Vin du Pape; this term later became Châteauneuf-du-Pape. John XXII is also responsible for erecting the famous castle that stands as a symbol for the appellation, and the name means "the Pope's new castle". The Papal Keys embossed on the bottles remind us of this distinction.
As an aside, when the Papal seat moved to Avignon, thousands (and I mean thousands) of educated men, humanists, writers, poets, artists moved to France as well, among them Petrarch and Boccaccio, both assisted the Pope’s administration in Avignon.
It is a misconception, however, that the famous dessert wine, Muscat du Beaume de Venise was brought by Italians from Venice . The grape and the wine was admired by Pliny fifteen hundred years earlier as an indigenous wine of the region. But I digress.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, from France's Rhône valley, does not possess perhaps the elegance and longevity of a great Bordeaux, the mystique and prestige of a wine from the famous vineyards of Burgundy or the perfume or rarity of a top-notch Barolo or Amarone, what it does offer is immediate gratification both intellectual and hedonistic in nature. Its wide array of aromas and flavors are reminiscent of a Provençal marketplace while its texture—rich and round, sumptuous and opulent—is virtually unmatched by most of the wines of the world.
The best Châteauneuf-du-Papes are among the most natural expressions of grapes, place and vintage. Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are farmed organically or biodynamically, and the region's abundant sunshine and frequent wind (called le mistral) practically preclude the need for treating the fields with herbicides or pesticides. The wines themselves are equally pure, their flavors rarely masked by aging in new oak. The next time you visit the vineyards you will be amazed that the grape vines are so low to the ground….a Roman technique which keeps them from blowing away during the MISTRAL. It apparently works.
Of course, not all Châteauneuf-du-Pape is created equal. Therefore, I've put together a little history and geography lesson and a few relevant facts to help wine lovers better understand the region that famed Rhône vigneron Marcel Guigal once called one of the three greatest appellations (along with Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage, of the Northern Rhône) in southern France.
With more than 8,000 acres under vine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest appellation in the Rhône, producing only two wines, a red Châteauneuf-du-Pape (which represents 94 percent of the appellation's production) and a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Of the eight red varietals planted, Grenache is the dominant variety (nearly 80 percent), followed by Syrah, Mourvèdre and tiny quantities of Cinsault, Muscardin, Counoise, Vaccarèse and Terret Noir, while the most important white varietals include Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne (Picpoul and Picardin are also permitted).
Although the French appellation system has its roots in the 1923 system created in Châteauneuf-du-Pape by Baron Le Roy, proprietor of the renowned Château Fortia, Châteauneuf-du-Pape never developed a reputation for quality or achieved the prestige enjoyed by such regions as Burgundy and Bordeaux. Much of the problem was that the bulk of the production was shipped off to cooperatives to be co-mingled in indifferent blends that were either sold in bulk or bottled under various labels.
Even when I visited Châteauneuf-du-Pape for the first time in the early '70s, there were only half a dozen estates making top-quality wines. These included Château de Beaucastel, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Rayas, Mont-Redon, Clos du Mont-Olivet and Clos des Papes. Today, there are 60 to 70 estates producing wines that are as good as, if not better than, the wines made by the aforementioned six properties some 30 years ago. This is thanks not only to improved winemaking techniques but most importantly to increased numbers of young men and women taking over uninspired, moribund estates and exploiting their terroirs to their fullest potential
This month was a once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain and offer FOUR different vintages of the highly acclaimed Vieux Telegraph red chateau neuf du pape.
At the GOLD LEVEL we will be sending out one bottle of either a 2008, 2009, 2010, or 2011.
These are all rated in the 90's by the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker's Wine Advocate,
Along with the Vieux Telegraph, the Gold Members will receive a bottle of the younger vine Vieux Telegram, also highly acclaimed.
At the SILVER LEVEL you will receive one bottle of the Vieux Telegraph and at the BRONZE LEVEL
you will received the Vieux Telegram, a young Chateau Neuf du Pape which is drinking well now.
I expect to be doing a in store tasting of these wines in the next two months, so stay tuned.
DON'T drink your selection until you come to the tasting and enjoy the wines.
SO this must be spring. Snow not remaining on the ground very long....some birds trying to irritate us at 7 am so it must be spring.
This month A number of our customers are going to Paris for conferences, vacations, passing through visit the kids in Italy or Germany. So how appropriate to spoil you with the best of the best of Burgundian reds and whites.
At the Gold Level you will be receiving a bottle of the Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe Corton "Les Vercots" OR Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe Corton "Clos du Chaptire". Both are produced on the small estate of Christine and Franck Follin-Arbelet, organically sustained vineyards, less than 3 acres, less than 1000 bottles.
Also each Gold Level will also receive a bottle Domaine Marc Morey Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru . This white Burgundy is to be savored with a special dish of white food, chicken, specialty fish, nothing overly complicated to confuse the palate, This wine needs to be the star of the meal, so nothing too too spicy.
At the Bronze Level we are offering from the Maison Roche de Bellene a Bourgogne old vines white and red, chardonnay and pinot noir. They do not have the finesse of the estate bottled wines but are grea examples of the intensity of 65 year old vines.
As you wipe the snow from your windows to see blue skies and listen to the birds, relax with a glass of something special. Any of our offerings this month will do the trick.