Ah Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the famous southern Rhône town and appellation that lies to the north of beautiful Avignon. For those not aware, the town gets it’s name from the fact that the Papacy once ruled from Avignon. Of course any good Pope needs a new castle, so one was built, and voila you get “new Castle of the Pope” aka: Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Creative? Well not really. The vines and winemakers long outlived the Avignon Papacy (which did not last even a mere hundred years) and by the end of 1300s Burgundy wine was well known and having had Popes enjoying it added much to the reputation of the surrounding wines. The wine that was once consider “for the popes” soon came to be known by the town to the north’s name. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) under which thirteen different grapes can be used to make wine, for reds the three primary grapes used are Syrah, Mourvèdre and mostly Grenache Noir. The Domaine des Chanssaud is a family run house that can date it’s ownership back to 1826. Currently it is run by Patrick Jaume and was an original AOC member house in 1935. The house actually produces two reds under the Châteauneuf-du-Pape label a special Cuvée and the one we are drinking today.
This red falls under the usual heavy Grenache usage of most from the AOC, with both Syrah and Mourvèdre in single digit percentages as well. Also making appearance, though very limited, is the Cinsault variety of grape. The 2003 vintage came from a hot summer which led to the region producing some irregular wines in terms of quality. For that reason some gems can be found, but you also risk a poor wine on occasion. Enough about the nitty or the gritty, on to the tasting!
Decanting this led to a plum coloured wine that was ripe with black cherry on the nose. The first few sniffs led to more cherry but with a hint of vanilla. On the first sips this younger wine was not as harsh on the tannins as expected, both cherry and raspberry were present. With a few more sips the body of the wine came to light, while not a full blown heavy wine it straddles the middle between medium and heavy. With a few years that should soften slightly. I started to get a little bit of earthy and molasses out towards the end of the first glass, but what was most noticeable was the peppery tastes that was starting to dominate. Overall quite a few interesting flavours and quite a nice finish. The second glass had soften quite a bit from aeration. This wine will benefit from a few more years in the cellar but you will not be disappointed in cracking it right away. It is a serious wine from a serious region. I think I will need to try and find the special Cuvée the next time I am in France to bring back and enjoy. For those not familiar with Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s this wine will go tremendously well with a rack of lamb, duck breast or a strong cheese of three. Those looking for a nice bottle to bring to friends, while very worthwhile just make sure that lemon chicken is not the main dish, otherwise the meal will be dominated by wine instead of complimented.
This is a solid red from an excellent appellation, this is getting an 88.
Mrs.CWG is in transit and should be home for the next review to impose her strong thoughts and impressions upon me!
For Ontario residents: Vintages #959833 @ a price of $33.95