The vineyards were always important but they only gained true rise in status once the Pope left (at the behest of Santa Catarina) who travelled all the way from Italy (Tuscany it was, if Im not mistaken) to request the Pope to move the seat of the Catholic church back to the Vatican. The Pope acquiesced, but even after he left, his legacy lived on in his adopted abode.
Today, the region of Chteauneuf-du-Pape (roughly translated to mean the Popes new castle) is among the most popular wine-producing regions from the reaches of the Southern Rhone valley.
It is quite a peculiar region, allowing almost 13 different varieties to be used to make the final red blend, and many of these grapes are actually white! For this reason, Chteauneuf also has a tiny production of white wines. Ross are not permitted and that is perhaps the outcome of some pact that they probably signed with the neighbouring region of Tavel, which then went on to be counted among the most popular ros wine regions of the world.
The 13 grapes may be grown in a field side by side, in mixed fashion, or, as is becoming the norm nowadays, in separate parcels. The local soil is marked by these white pebbles aka Galet Roul and these contribute significantly to the elegance that these wines come to possess in spite of their high alcohol.
Not all producers of the region make exceptional winesthere are always those who exploit the name for all the wrong reasons but the local syndicate ensures that standards are upheld and maintained. These wines have an ageing potential to match any other region, but they are also becoming expensive. That elusive net of reverence is scarcely a good place to be in for too long else it risks becoming a museum piece, that is, stuff that is spoken about but rarely used or consumed. We all talk about Barolo and Bordeaux but how many of us can really afford the good ones regularly Chteauneuf, I hope, manages to remain accessible and yet not lose out on its aspirational value. Meanwhile, my train is pulling into Bordeaux and therell be more to report from here. Till next time...
The writer is a sommelier