A Crush on Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Although Châteauneuf-du-Pape, from France’s Rhône Valley, may never possess the elegance and longevity of a great Bordeaux. However it`s wide array of aromas and flavours 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.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of 19 official crus or growths of the Côtes du Rhône wine region. These 19 crus represent Côtes du Rhône’s top wine-growing zones.

With more than 8,000 acres under vine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest appellation in the Rhône. It can be either red or white wine, but the large majority of the wines produced are red (which represents 94 percent of the appellation’s production). The appellation rules did not until recently allow production of rosé.

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).

White Châteauneufs were largely bland and uninteresting until about five years ago, when winemakers invested in equipment that would better preserve freshness and aromas; these wines have since soared in quality and complexity.

The wines have traditionally been packaged in distinctive heavy dark wine bottles embossed with papal regalia and insignia. However, in recent times a number of producers have dropped the full papal seal in favour of a more generic icon, while still retaining the same heavy glassware.

Meanwhile, white Châteauneuf-du-Papes generally need to be consumed within four to five years of the vintage, although a handful can age far longer. The finest are filled with plenty of tropical fruit and floral notes and possess crisp underlying acidity (most do not go through malolactic fermentation) yet are cunningly powerful and heady in alcohol, averaging 14% or more.

Red wines typically age 10-20years, depending on producer, vintage and style. Whites age up to about 10 years.

Food Pairing
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a remarkably flexible wine with food, in part because it suits so much of today’s Mediterranean-influenced cooking, while the absence of new oak in many Châteauneufs means they can be enjoyed alongside an even broader range of lighter dishes such as fish, veal, and poultry. Also with roasted and spiced vegetable-driven dishes like Morrocan chicken tagine, Turkish lamb-stuffed peppers, or smoky cauliflower steaks.

Decant wines for about 1hour, and less for older wines. Serve cool, below room temperature to slow evaporating alcohol at around 60–65 ºF / 16–18 ºC.

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