Part 1 covered some fantastic northern Rhône reds to try this autumn. Now we move onto the most famous appellation of the Rhône – and possibly the whole of France – Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Although aspects of quality are built in to the AOC rules, it doesn’t mean the wines are always great – some negotiants have released wines which aren’t balanced and do the CNDP name little good – they are usually found in discount supermarkets. Thankfully there are quality conscious producers who make outstanding wines that show why Châteauneuf is held in such high regard.
Mas Saint-Louis Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (14.0%, RRP €36.00 at Searsons)
Tasted among its peers this wine stands out for its lightness and elegance rather than its power – in fact its appellation would be a surprise to many as it is perhaps more like a Pommard than a typical blockbuster CNDP. The blend here is 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah and the remaining 15% a mix of Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Picpoul Noir.
Red and black fruits abound, but it is the beguiling manner of their delivery which is so compelling. With a touch of spice and a long finish, this is the Châteauneuf that you will want to keep as a secret!
Domaine Roche-Audran Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (14.0%, RRP €49.00 at 64 Wine)
Domaine Roche-Audran was set up as recently as 1998, but began biodynamic practices soon after in 2006. They have three distinct terroirs, and it’s the third of a hectare in Châteauneuf-du-Pape which concerns us here, described as “molassic sand covered with round pebbles originating from the river Rhône”. Sand loses heat quickly so the vines get something of a rest at night, helping to preserve acidity and delicacy.
Quite unusually for CNDP the Roche-Audran vineyard is 100% Grenache – it’s only due to the sandy soil that it doesn’t become over-ripe and over-alcoholic. The vines are 60 years of age and cropped at 28 hl/ha.
The result is a gentle, enticing, inviting and seductive wine. It slips down the throat and demands another glass be consumed. Although the alcohol is not that high for the area it’s an intoxicating wine.
Domaine André Brunel “Les Cailloux” Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2013 (14.0%, RRP €45.55 at Karwig Wines)
“Cailloux” are river-rounded stones, not quite as big as the famous “galets” pudding stones of the area, but serving a similar function of maintaining easy drainage and thus keeping the vines on their toes.
The Brunel family have been making wine in the area since the 17th century, but things were put on a more serious footing in 1954 when Lucien Brunel set up the Les Cailloux label. His son André took over in 1971 and expanded the family’s holdings into other Rhône areas, but also introducing several innovations – he among was the first in CNDP to do away with chemicals in the vineyard and also created the super-premium “Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire”. André’s son Fabrice joined in 2012 to keep the family tradition going.
Les Cailloux Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre; my tasting notes for this wine are compact and bijou – bloody amazing! It’s smooth and fluid, a real pleasure to drink and it doesn’t bash you over the head!
Domaine de Mourchon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 (15.0%, RRP €39.00)
Situated just outside the beautiful village of Séguret, Domaine de Mourchon has vines around the winery and in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Their flagship wine is 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah – a slight re-ordering of the typical GSM blend. The vines range from 60 to 80 years old and are planted on sandy soils and in “le Crau” lieu-dit. Maturation is for 12 months split between demi-muid 600L barrels (70%) and concrete tanks (30%).
This is an amazingly perfumed wine – one that you hesitate to taste as it would interrupt your appreciation of the aromas – but once you have tasted you delight in its lithe red fruit and exotic spices. The stated alcohol is fairly punchy at 15%, but it never stands out as the wine wears it very well. Such a fine wine!