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Chocolate and a long, silky end: a great chateauneuf-du-pape

Today we are going to discuss the seventh most planted wine grape in the world.

It wedges in there between syrah in sixth and sauvignon blanc in the eighth spot. I am sure that we all remember exactly where we were on International Grenache Day 20 years ago tomorrow, the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Our main concentration of grenache-based wines come from the area that is best known for a new home that was built when the Papacy moved to Avignon in France in 1308. We know it as “new castle of the Pope” and here is what renowned critic Robert Parker has to say about it: “As I’ve grown older, I’ve developed an appreciation for wines that are immediately gratifying but that can also provide great satisfaction over several years … Today, the wine that I find myself turning to most often is châteauneuf-du-pape.”

I can understand you thinking that up to a few years ago the laws of Appellation d’Origine Controlee allowed for up to 13 grape varieties to be used in the making of this wine; in fact you may even suspect that this has now been changed to 18. You would be correct, but for centuries I believe I am correct in saying that only grenache was used, and it dominates the blends today. Incidentally, the very first AOC laws in all of France, were written for this wine in 1923.

Starting at an everyday price of $20.25 you can try our 2018 Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Belleruche that hails from the same general area as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and is made mainly from grenache and syrah. It has a deep red garnet colour and shows intense aromas of blackcurrant and raspberry complemented by notes of white pepper. In the mouth, this wine is juicy, powerful and fruity with red fruits and lovely roasted notes. The mouthfeel is accompanied by silky and delicate tannins. Wine Enthusiast awards it 90/100 and has this to say: “In this wine, hints of toasted caramel and liquorice lend spice to intensely ripe blackberry and cassis. Voluptuous and creamy on the palate, it’s balanced by fresh acidity and a peppery fringe of tannins on the finish. Best now to 2023.” (Stock #9420).

As we progress up the price scale for wines from these vineyards in the Rhone Valley, I would like to suggest 2018 Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Rasteau that is a blend of grenache and syrah with a deep purple red colouring that has a nose of very ripe fruit with notes of raspberry, cassis and gooseberry. $27.15 (Stock #9448).

Gigondas is considered to be the baby brother of chateauneuf-du-pape, and its name is derived from the Latin for great enjoyment. With a Wine Enthusiast rating of 94/100 our 2018 Chapoutier Gigondas is far more than a baby as it gets this review: “Youthful, pristine boysenberry and blackberry are shaded by bramble, smoke and hazelnut in this buoyantly fruity but elegant wine. An unoaked blend of grenache, mourvèdre and syrah, it's luminous yet deeply complex, lingering on notes of crushed granite and earth. Ripe, fine-grained tannins make the wine approachable now, but it should improve through 2030 and hold further.” $39.50 (Stock #9424).

For $35 you can try our 2016 Laurence Feraud Gigondas that scores 93/100 from the same publication. It feels this way about it: “Freshly tilled earth and saddle notes lend complexity to flavours of strawberry, fig and plum in this blend of 80 per cent grenache, 15 per cent mourvèdre and 5 per cent syrah. It's dense with fruit but earthen and mineral too, boasting a long, elegant finish. This voluptuous wine is edged by smooth, feathery tannins.” (Stock #7911).

Now we will step up to the big boys and lead with a 65 per cent grenache, 15 per cent mourvedre, 15 per cent syrah and a bit of other permitted varieties. This classic 2015 Vieux Telegraphe la Crau Chateauneuf du Pape opens with a voluptuous aroma that gives and gives – it is striking because of its charm and floral notes. On this high and rocky hill, in 1792, an optical “semaphore telegraphe” station was established. Messages were passed from tower to tower placed five to twenty miles apart.

Wine Spectator rates it 95/100 and comments: “This has a lovely, perfumy mix of savoury, mint, tobacco, blood orange, cherry and bergamot notes, with finely beaded acidity and silky but ample structure. Long, mineral- and shiso leaf – infused finish. Best from 2020 through 2035.”

Parker’s Wine Advocate remarks that “it features delicate floral scents and ample cherry and liquorice aromas”.

“Somehow it manages to be full-bodied and almost creamy in texture, but without much weight, then ends powerfully with a flourish of rich Mexican chocolate on the long, silky finish.” $88 (Stock #7289).

Our 2016 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservée Chateauneuf-du-Pape earns 96 points from Wine Spectator, 97 from Wine Enthusiast and an almost perfect 98 from Jeb Dunnuck who writes: “Reminding me of a fresher version of the 2003, the 2016 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Reservée is another magical wine from Laurence Feraud that could come from nowhere else. I still remember tasting (and loving) this beauty from barrel. It doesn’t quite have the sheer over-the-top decadence of the 2003, but it does have more elegance while not giving up an inch with regard to texture and opulence. Dark ruby/plum-hued with a monster display of Provençal goodness in its garrigue, lavender, violets, kirsch, plums, and Asian spices, this full-throttle, ripe, sexy châteauneuf-du-pape has silky tannins, flawless balance, and a heavenly texture.” $87.35 (Stock #5926).

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Many consider the vineyards on the La Crau plateau to represent the top wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The rocks reflect the heat to the grapes by day and store the heat at night

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Published September 10, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated September 07, 2021 at 4:14 pm)

Chocolate and a long, silky end: a great chateauneuf-du-pape

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