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Châteauneuf-du-Pape Finds Its Balance: Two Domaines Show The Craveable Attraction of The Wine’s Combined Intellectual and Hedonistic Elements

Gifts Fit For A Great Father’s Day

Fathers come in all stripes and strengths, of course, and so no wine can serve as a ‘one-size-fits-all.’  But if ever a wine comes close, it’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Or, for our purposes, Châteauneuf-du-Papa.

Like any patriarch worth his salt, Châteauneuf matures with grace but is approachable at any age. Like any good mentor, Châteauneuf is a wealth of insight into a number of subjects—in this case, the cornucopia of grapes that make up its essence. Châteauneuf is a bit rustic and at times, may be rough around the edges, but in general, overdelivers on a promise of exuberance while retaining a brooding core—qualities that intermingle as the years go by. Like the role that a father may play in our lives and imaginations, Châteauneuf-du-Pape remains a timeless example of muscle and guidance from which there is always something new to learn.

‘Age before beauty’ is an expression that champions wisdom over looks, and it’s a concept with a lot of meaning in a discussion about terroir. The primacy of place—the philosophy under which a wine should reflect its specific acre of origin—is one of the fundamental Grails of winemaking, especially in France. And this is a quality which a given wine may not express in the bloom of youth, when fruit and façade remain in the forefront. It takes years in the bottle before a wine’s primary flavors have settled; only then do the earthy underpinnings emerge.

If recognizing terroir is your intent, then age before beauty is your shibboleth.

But this is less important if the celebration you’re after is wine’s hedonistic side, and this is why youthful wines are so primally enjoyable.

Not many appellations produce wines that excel in equal measure regardless of age, albeit for different reasons. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of them, and this week, we’ll take a look at the product of two outstanding CdP estates, Chapelle St. Théodoric and Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils. Both domains produce wines that are sensuous gems in their youth and powerhouses of sophistication in their mature years. And as vital to an understanding this mystical metamorphosis, we’ll look at some details of the vintages that produced them.

Peak Expression Of The Wines Of Southern Rhône

Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France’s Rhône valley has traditionally been viewed as a rustic cousin to the elegant and long-lived persistence of great wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Châteauneuf is age-worthy, certainly, but there is exuberance in the fresh fruit flavors that dominate the style that makes it decadently drinkable virtually from the day it is released. It was said to make up for in pleasure what it lacked in sophistication.

With more than 8,000 acres under vine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest appellation in the Rhône, producing only two wines, red Châteauneuf-du-Pape, representing 94% of the appellation’s output, and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Of the eight red varietals planted, Grenache is the most dominant variety by far, taking up 80% of vineyard space, followed by Syrah, Mourvèdre and tiny quantities of Cinsault, Muscardin, Counoise, Vaccarèse and Terret Noir.

Untrained Old Vines Grenache Bush in Galets Roulés

Grès Rouge, Sand and Safre

Terroir varies and can only be viewed as a generalization; limestone soil predominates in the western part of Châteauneuf-du-Pape; sand and clay soil covered with large stones on the plateaus. Mixed sand, red and grey clay, and limestone can be found in the northern part of the appellation, less stony soil alternating with marl in the east and shallow sand and clay soil on a well-drained layer of gravel in the south. The large pebbles contribute to the quality of the vines and grapes by storing heat during the day and holding water.

Like the soils, there is an enormous diversity of winemaking styles among CdP producers, creating both appealing, easy-to-understand fruit-filled wines as well as wines of greater intensity and sophistication.

Chapelle St. Théodoric

Chapelle St. Theodoric is the domain that isn’t a domain, at least not in the usual sense of the word. Since 2009, grapes come from two lieux-dits in the CdP have been vinified under the direction of American wine importer Peter Weygandt while the vines are cultivated by the team from nearby Domaine de Cristia.

Baptiste Grangeon (right) Domaine de Cristia

The lieux-dits Guigasse and Pignan were chosen for their sandy soil and nearly stone-free surfaces. Both parcels contain only Grenache vines at an average age of 50 years with some over one hundred. The vineyards are biodynamic and the yields are low—around 14 hectoliter/hactare. Compare this to the legally permitted 35 hl/ha and the average for the appellation at 32 hl/ha.

The genuine ‘Chapelle Saint-Theodoric’ is an old chapel situated by the parking place in the center of Chateauneuf-du-Pape at Avenue Baron le Roy. The chapel is one of the oldest historical buildings in town. It’s used for expositions and has no relation to the vineyard.

Peter Weygandt has been an importer of French wines since 1987 and has gained an international reputation for the quality of his selections and his portfolio of top boutique French, Italian, German, Austrian, Georgian, Spanish and Portuguese wines.

A Clear Sense Of Place

From its inception in 2009, the mission of Chapelle St. Théodoric has been to display the pure and expressive complexities of Grenache as interpreted by winemaker Baptiste Grangeon. The experiment is to see how, with identical treatment of the fruit, the subtleties of two proximate terroirs can be identified. La Guigasse is planted on sandy soil and the Le Grand Pin parcel on higher soil at the top of Pignan, literally adjoining the vines of Château Rayas.

Chapelle St. Théodoric

The vinification is traditional whole-cluster such as that employed by Jacques Reynaud at Château Rayas, Laurent Charvin, Henri Bonneau. The two parcels are vinified, aged and bottled separately, but with the exact same treatment, and the challenge is to find what terroir differences one might find in pure sand, between vines less than 200 meters apart.

The difference between the wines from these two parcels is clear and distinct: La Guigasse is the slightly richer of the two while Le Grand Pin, perhaps because the sand is nearly pure white, perhaps the higher elevation or due to some other factor yet to be determined, makes a wine that is lower in alcohol, more perfumed and finer.

The 2021 Vintage: Year Of The Vigneron

Precocious is a dangerously loaded word, whether it is used to describe a child or a vintage. It generally means that things are happening out of sequence, earlier than is usual. 2021 was such a season in Southern Rhône, and the rumbles of discontent began the year before. Autumn, 2020, was mild and damp and the season remained so until a short cold spell happened in January ʼ21. In February, Saharan winds brought unseasonable highs that reached into the mid-60s°F, advancing the vegetative cycle throughout the vineyards. Vines, if not growers, love these unseasonable warm spells, leaving them easy targets for one of a vigneron’s worst nightmares— spring frost. Sure enough, during the first week of April, a catastrophic frost lambasted the vineyards and across Châteauneuf-du-Pape, reports indicated potential losses of up to 80%. The double-whammy of frost is not only seen in the damage it inflicts at the time, but that it leaves grapes weaker and more susceptible to fungal disease in the weeks to come. To aggravate this latter risk, the rest of the spring was humid, with heavy rains accompanied by cooler temperatures and less than average sunshine, raising fears of coulure (uneven ripening).

In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the catastrophe saw a 70% reduction in yield in a few spots, but overall, the impact was ameliorated by the proximity of the Rhône River. Even so, in 2021, the skill of the winemaker came to the forefront. Every vigneron in the appellation had issues to deal with and questions to consider, including the use of whole bunch (weighing its aromatic benefits against the risk of underripe stalks), the amount of oak to use, how strictly to sort grapes, and in particular, how much to alter their blend in the varieties or vineyard plots they could draw from.

It is fair to say that the best domains did splendidly, creating wines in classical CdP style, meaning, possessed of exceptional elegance and incipient freshness, fruit not bogged down by alcohol. Managed well, cooler temperatures permit a long, slow ripening period and produce grapes with full phenolic ripeness but lower sugars. This leaves alcohol levels blissfully low compared to recent averages, and a welcome change to some of the headier wines of some vintages.

Chapelle St. Théodoric ‘La Guigasse’, 2021 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($99)
Possibly the wine of the vintage; on the nose, intriguing spices waft over herbal and savory notes to provide a compelling counterpoint to cherry and raspberry perfume, while the full-bodied palate is concentrated and sappy, finishing bright, fresh and long.








Chapelle St. Théodoric ‘Le Grand Pin’, 2021 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($108)
From 35-year-old Grenache vines in Pignan, this is a floral, ethereal expression of Chateauneuf-du-Pape marked by scents of roses, lavender, strawberry compote and hints of pine resin. The 2021 Châteauneuf Du Pape Le Grand Pin offers a slightly fresher style compared to the La Guigasse, which always tends to be a slightly more powerful wine.





The 2016 Vintage: Benchmark Vintage, Truly Rare

The 2016 vintage in Rhône was dominated by warm days and cool nights; ideal conditions for growing top-shelf Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah. Preceded by a relatively mild winter, the spring was dry and cool and summer exploded with plenty of sunshine and heat. September rains replenished the reservoirs enough to allow each variety to reach full phenolic ripeness. Harvest began in mid-September and, depending on vine age and terroir, some growers continued grape picking until early October. Châteauneuf red wines from this vintage are creamy and concentrated with silken texture and brilliant fruity richness, while the whites, full-bodied richness, remarkable complexity and sensational freshness.

Chapelle St. Théodoric ‘La Guigasse’, 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($99)
Dark-berry brawniness overlies the raspberry compote, with earth and minerals on the nose and fleshing out in the mouth.









The 2015 Vintage: Rich, Ripe And Full Of Powerful Fruit

Although the Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s 2015 vintage was slightly challenging for the slow-ripening Grenache, talented winemakers rose to the occasion by producing wines with superior tannins and ripe fruit if slightly higher levels of alcohol.

In early September, the entire Rhône Valley saw heavy rain, which favored the vines planted on free-draining sand and resulted in fresh fruit-forward flavors and expressive minerality. The best domains produced age-worthy wines with complex flavors and sumptuous textures.

Chapelle St. Théodoric ‘La Guigasse’, 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($83)
Highly expressive, mineral-accented aromas of baked cherry and incense that pick up toasted earth element over a cherry core. Precise in the mouth with intense red fruit liqueur, a touch of acidity and a generally autumnal nature.




The 2010 Vintage: Terroir-Driven, For Aging

The summation of 2010 vintage in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is ‘low volumes but very high quality.’ Although climate specialists described the climate of this vintage as cooler and wetter than usual, there was shatter (floral abortion) on the Grenache during springtime and hydric deficiency in July and August, explaining the low yield.

2010 was a season of extremes; CdP experienced 55 days during which temperatures were higher than 86°F along with 46 days of frost (compared to a more standard 30). From October 2009 to September 2010, rainfall was 23% higher than average, but lower than average in July and August. During the agricultural year, total rainfall was close to 31 inches (average is 25 inches) making this period one of the wettest in terms of rainfall over the past 139 years.

As in 2009, this vintage’s quality and characteristics are due to the climatic conditions: a rainy springtime and a dry summer enabled the grapes to be healthy and build an interesting tannic structure. During harvesting, sorting was minimal and everything proceeded smoothly, apart from a storm at the beginning of September, leading to superb results across the board.

Chapelle St. Théodoric ‘La Guigasse’, 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($169)
100% Grenache, not destemmed, and aged and fermented in older demi-muids. It shows the typical Guigasse herbal streak, especially menthol and pine needles, and the richness of Guigasse fruit that one can expect. Full-bodied blackberry, violets and chocolate all emerge with air contact, so let it breathe; it is nicely balanced with a great mid-palate and a long, silky finish.





Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils

The quintessence of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the conviction that the sum of parts is greater than the whole. As such, Domaine Pierre Usseglio maintains 60 acres of vines spread out across the entire region, maintaining property in 17 individual lieux-dits with one plot set aside for the production of white wine. The red-wine holdings are planted to 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault; vine age ranges from 30 to 75 years of age. A sizeable portion of the CdP vineyard sits within famous La Crau, ancient confluence of the Durance and Rhône rivers; the rest climbs the hill across the road from the actual ruins of the castle from which Châteauneuf-du-Pape gets its name.

Grégory Usseglio

The estate also owns 15 acres of Côtes-du-Rhône, another 15 in Lirac and another five acres that it bottles as ‘Vin de France.’

Says Jean-Pierre: “We work our vineyard manually, and with respect throughout the seasons. We let nature express itself freely. It is thanks to this difference in terroir that we can offer complex, silky and balanced wines; our vines are spread across multiple sites where the soils range from limestone and rolled pebbles, to sand and sandstone flecked with clay. These are the voices of the earth and we are committed to listening.”

Fierce But Lovable, The ‘Proverbial’ Brooding Wine

Spencer Tracy, James Dean, Ron Perlman to name but a few: Brooding, fierce actors who are also lovable.

In the world of wine, no example is more striking than that of Usseglio’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape; the proverbial brooder that also offers a candy store’s worth of fruity delights—cherry to blueberry to deep rich raspberry. The earthiness, quite literally, grounds these flavors, but it is an easy wine to cozy up to, especially when young. The evolution that slowly supplants the chewy fruit with Provençal herbs and leathery forest tones offers a neophyte drinker some time to develop a passion for such tertiary flavors. That gives CdP a great profile, depending on how long it has been allowed to brood, as if Ron Perman played both the Beauty and the Beast.

The 2020 Vintage: Supple Fruit, Accessible Tannins, Stands Out For Immediate Drinkability

Following the extreme heat of 2019, growers were hoping for plenty of rainfall over the winter to replenish aquafers, and they got it. An astonishing 15-20 inches of rain fell between October and December, and a mild early spring saw vine buds break nearly two weeks earlier than in 2019. The summer was hot, but not unreasonably so; rains were moderate and frequent enough to prevent heat stress. Harvest for white grapes began in the third week of August, and the 2020 vintage is extremely strong in this category, however small (only 5% of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s total). It is characterized by elegance and beauty, with a nose marked by citrus and stone fruit and a palate that combines balanced acidity with a prolonged finish.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘Tradition’, 2020 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($45)
Tradition 2020 is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 5% each Mourvèdre and Cinsaut; it shows an aromatic bouquet of red berries, plum with subtle of dried herbs. The palate echoes the nose, with an enduring and balanced finish suggesting impression of structure and finesse.






Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘Tradition’, 2020 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($128) 1.5 Liter
Same wine as above in magnum.










Domaine Pierre Usseglio, 2020 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc ($67)
2.5 acres is used in the production of this blend of 70% Clairette, 25% Grenache Blanc and 5% Bourboulenc, fermented and matured in a mix of vessels including stainless steel, barrels and amphorae. Fragrant and youthful with a wonderful salinity below flavors of white peach, pears and apples with some pronounced flintiness; the wine has excellent grip and bold extract with multiple layers that continue through a long finish.




Réserve des 2 Frères

Domaine Pierre Usseglio Réserve des Deux Frères made its debut with the 2000 vintage. The name was changed to ‘Réserve des 2 Frères’ in 2007 along with a label redesign.

The wine is made from the estate’s oldest Grenache vines. Previously made with 10% Syrah, this only rarely the case today, although a small percent of Syrah went into vintage 2020. Grapes are usually completely destemmed; the level of stem retention depends on the vintage.

Slightly more modern in style than the tradition-heavy ‘grandfather’ wine ‘Mon Aïeul,’ ‘Two Brothers’ is aged in a combination of 10% new demi-muids and 10% new oak barrels along with a combination of one- or two-year-old French oak barrels, where it ages for 12-20 months. Domaine Pierre Usseglio Reserve des 2 Frères is not made every year, and when it is, only 500 cases are produced.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘Réserve des 2 Frères’, 2020 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($179)
A splash of Syrah in the 2020 bottling leads to a fresh and focused wine, balanced, toasty and loaded with raspberry liqueur, crème de cassis, graphite, smoke meats, licorice that combines power and elegance.




Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘Réserve des Deux Frères’, 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($207)
Grenache (per se) is not always the best candidate for aging; it possesses a naturally low concentration of phenolics, which contribute to its pale color and lack of extract. With a propensity for oxidation, Grenache-based wines tend to be made for early consumption.

But in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, under the hands of skillful viticulture and planted in marginal soil with restricted yields, all that changes. The vibrant fruit of young Grenache mellows and spice box tones come out with leather, and in this wine, tar, black olives and tobacco.



The 2019 Vintage: Grenache Excels As Harvest Lingered Into Early October, An Elite Vintage

As a variety, Grenache enjoyed a marvelous renaissance in 2019, and for this sun, heat and wind-loving variety, 2019 provided ideal conditions throughout Southern Rhône. An abundant fruit set was followed by three heat waves interspersed with rain and more moderate temperatures, and as a result, there was no stress for the vines and ripening never shut down. Growers were able to pick at optimum ripeness and nothing much had to be done in the vineyard. The fruit’s health carried through to the cellar, with many growers reporting that their vinification were fast and efficient.

Cuvée de Mon Aïeul

Usseglio’s flagship wine produced from highly selective plots that narrow lieux-dits down still further. Only Grenache vines between 75 and 90 years old are used, originating from La Crau, Bédines and Serres. No destemming is done and fermentation lasts for 30-40 days.

Having made its debut in 1998, and translating to ‘My Grandfather’, Mon Aïeul has been made from 100% Grenache since 2020; previously, 5% Syrah was used in the blend. Half of each year’s blend wine is aged for 12 months in used demi-muids while the remained is aged in concrete tanks. Production averages 650 cases per year.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘Cuvée de Mon Aïeul’, 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($124)
Full-bodied, lusciously textured and round, showing upfront notes of Asian spice, cocoa, and mint with a palate loaded with blackberry, kirsch and raspberry behind a granite-shale minerality.







Not For You!

From the oldest vines of the estate, Usseglio’s quirkily named ‘Not For You!’ originates in the estates oldest Grenache vineyards and is not made every vintage. It was made for the first time in 2007, from the Les Serres lieu-dit when Thierry Usseglio and consulting winemaker Baptiste Olivier ended up with one particular barrique that contained over 17% alcohol after the fermentation finished. According to Usseglio, Josh Raynolds tasted it and then wrote down in his notes that this wine, because of its sheer concentration and intensity, is “Not for You!”. Usseglio loved this statement and spontaneously decided to name this particular cuvée following Josh’s comment. Since, it has been bottled in 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2019.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘Not For You!’, 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($399)
Despite the obvious wood influence, floral elements shine through cedary notes, adding nuance to the flavors of black cherries, plums and milk chocolate. The wine is full-bodied and supple, with crisp acids over notes of bark and earth. There is a ‘long-haul’ expectation here that is poised to deliver great depth and sophistication down the road. Currently, the wine is opulent, but with the stem and bark notes still prominent, with a bitter chocolate-covered cherry notes.




Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘Not For You!’, 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($890) 1.5 Liter
The same wine in magnum, which will take longer to age to perfection, but will deliver more, as the slower maturation process is almost certain to be a plus—it usually is.







No 18

Talk about a cornucopia! The titular ‘18’ is a reference to the number of grape varieties that go into this co-fermented field blend; at around 5% each, this covers the whole of the ‘allowables’—Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Terret, Clairette Blanche, Clairette Rose, Picpoul Noir, Picpoul Blanc, Picpoul Gris, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Picardan.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio ‘No 18’, 2021 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($159)
The grapes are harvested manually, 100% destemmed, and vatting is followed by thermo-regulation that lasts between 20 to 30 days. The wine is then aged in amphorae for a year prior to bottling. It shows young-vine strawberry, cherry and white flowers with pretty, silky tannins to shore it up.









On the western side of the Rhône River, about six miles north of Avignon, Lirac is a typically Mediterranean wine growing cru, with low yearly rainfall and high sunshine levels (especially during summer and into the harvest months). The famous Mistral wind from the north plays a significant cooling role, and blows, on average, 180 days a year.

Lirac terroir is largely built around elevation; vineyards on the upper terraces of the appellation are made up of red clay and the large pebbles known as ‘terrasses villafranchiennes’, with the soil of the lower vineyards gradually showing more loess and/or clay-limestone. All are prone to summer drought and, under certain strictures, irrigation is allowed.

“The terroir of Lirac is often hidden in the shadows of Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” says Laure Poisson of Les Vignerons de Tavel & Lirac. “But in recent years, Lirac has emerged from the shadows to become something different, something unique.”

Blend makeup in Lirac wines is reasonably focused, with regulations favoring the classic Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (and a bit of Cinsault) blend. Grenache must make up a minimum of 40% of the blend while Syrah and Mourvedre must be over or equal to 25%.

Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils, 2020 Lirac ($33)
Usseglio & Fils’ 2020 Lirac is produced with 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah from vines averaging 40 years old. A sweet core of blackberry is enshrouded in notes of black plum, black currant, aniseed and traces of new leather which lend promise to a cellar-worthy gem.






Famille Pierre Usseglio ‘L’Unique’

Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

The purpose of inventing the ‘Vin de France’ appellation was purely commercial; for a country whose wines are so inextricably linked to place of origin, a category that allows grapes from anywhere in the country to be used may seem like an odd innovation. But, faced with competition from elsewhere, it allowed winemakers to create a lower-priced product that could compete with New World wines. And, as is the case in a nation of vignerons, VdF wines are (for the most part) of self-evident quality, with many approachable, easy-to-understand prizewinners.

Famille Pierre Usseglio ‘L’Unique’ , 2020 Vin de France Southern-Rhône ($25)
The spirit of VdF is loud and clear from the playful label on this blend of Grenache (40%), Syrah (20%), Mourvèdre (20%), Marselan (15%) and Merlot (5%) macerated for 25 days followed by six months aging in concrete before release. The wine is ripe and fruit-forward with fresh red berries, spring flowers and light spices. Very much an everyday wine that proves the Usseglio clan’s deft hand with all strata of winemaking, even in the level playing field that VdF encourages.



Notebook …

Traditional and Modern Styles

Throughout much of its history, CdP provided a leathery foil to the potent and somewhat austere elegance of Bordeaux and the heady sensuousness of Burgundy. CdP is ‘southern wine’, filled with rustic complexity—brawny, earthy and beautiful. But as a business, all wine finds itself beholden to trends, since moving product is necessary to remain afloat. During the Dark Ages (roughly1990 through 2010—in part influenced by the preferences of powerful critic Robert Parker Jr.) much of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s output became bandwagon wines, jammy and alcoholic, lacking structure and tannin, in the process becoming more polished than rustic and more lush than nuanced. For some, this was delightful; for others, it was a betrayal of heritage and terroir.

These days, a new generation of winemakers seem to have identified the problem and corrected it. Recent vintages have seen the re-emergence of the classic, balanced style Châteauneuf-du-Pape, albeit at slightly higher prices. A changing climate has also altered traditional blends, so that more Mourvèdre may be found in cuvées that were once nearly all Grenache. Mourvèdre tends to have less sugar and so, produces wine that is less alcoholic and jammy, adding back some of the herbal qualities once so highly prized in the appellation. But a return to old school technique has also helped; however, many of the wines in this offer were destemmed prior to crushing and were fermented on native yeast rather than cultured yeast.

Vineyard Management and Grape Varieties

In 1936, the Institut National des Appellations l’Origine officially created the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, with laws and rules that growers and vignerons were required to follow. It was agreed that the appellation would be created based primarily on terroir (and to a lesser extent, on geography) and includes vines planted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and some areas of Orange, Court In 1936, the Institut National des Appellations l’Origine officially created the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, with laws and rules that growers and vignerons were required to follow. It was agreed that the appellation would be created based primarily on terroir (and to a lesser extent, on geography) and includes vines planted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and some areas of Orange, Courthézon, Sorgues and Bédarrides. 15 grape varieties are allowed in the appellation: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Terret Noir, Counoise, Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picardan, Cinsault, Clairette, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul Noir, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc. Vine density must not be less than 2,500 vines per hectare and cannot exceed 3,000 vines per hectare. Vines must be at least 4 years of age to be included in the wine. Machine harvesting is not allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, so all growers must harvest 100% of their fruit by hand.

Beyond that, vines are allowed to be irrigated no more than twice a year. However, irrigation is only allowed when a vintage is clearly suffering due to a severe drought. If a property wishes to irrigate due to drought, they must apply for permission from the INAO, and any watering must take place before August 15.

Climate And Weather

Located within the Vaucluse department, Châteauneuf-du-Pape has a Mediterranean climate—the type found throughout much of France’s south—and characterized by hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. It rarely snows at sea level (as opposed to the surrounding mountains, where snowfall may be considerable).

As the equal of elevation and rainfall, a third defining feature of the climate in Southern France is the wind. In a land dominated by hills and valleys, it is always windy—so much so that in Provence, there are names for 32 individual winds that blow at various times of year, and from a multitude of directions. The easterly levant brings humidity from the Mediterranean while the southerly marin is a wet and cloudy wind from the Gulf. The mistral winds are the fiercest of all and may bring wind speeds exceeding 60 mph. This phenomenon, blowing in from the northeast, dries the air and disperses the clouds, eliminating viruses and excessive water after a rainfall, which prevents fungal diseases.



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Posted on 2024.06.10 in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Lirac, France, Wine-Aid Packages, Southern Rhone


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