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Châteauneuf-du-Pape

A wine practically everyone 's heard of !

A wine practically everyone 's heard of !ORDER & Customer Service Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-8pm. Tel: (66) 97 083 8355 (66) 84 836 1855 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it BKK1855 boasts one of Thailand’s largest wine selections. Wine is our true passion, and whether it’s our competitive prices or the care we take with handling and storage, BKK1855 will always be ready to serve you. 22 www.siamwininganddining.com Châteauneuf-du-Pape A wine practically everyone's heard of! If there is one wine that is guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of your family and friends on Christmas Day, it's a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Even today, its imposing name precedes it. The bottle always looks the part, and its high alcohol and warm, ripe fruit make it the perfect match for roast turkey. The iconic wine, from the Southern Rhone Valley, must surely be one of the most famous wines in the world, and is often the subject of wine clichés. I can remember, as a child, watching a television play (possibly written by Tom Sharpe) where a comic Lord-of-the-Manor type

character was frantically trying to hide several cases of his cherished Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The reason why the wine had to be hidden escapes me, but the name captured my young impressionable imagination. And I realized it was something highly sought after.

It cannot be denied that Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a wine steeped in rich history. After all, the ancient Romans planted the first vines there. Today, the ancient Roman ruins remain, including one of the best-preserved ancient amphitheatres in all of Europe. Châteauneuf-du-Pape takes its name from the time when the Pope (Pape) moved to Avignon in 1309, due to issues between the King of France and the Papacy. And it presided from there until 1378. The first Pope to move to Avignon was Pope Clement V, a Frenchman, who was an avid wine lover and encouraged viticulture development. At this time, most of the local wine being produced was made by the Church or for the Church. And the next Pope, John XII was, not too surprisingly, a big fan of the refined wines of the region. He erected a castle and began planting vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in 1317. To begin with, the wines were known as ‘Vin du Pape.’ By 1344, 45% of the land was devoted to producing grapes for wine. (As a point of comparison, many of Europe’s future famous vineyards were still planting cereal crops.) When the Papacy moved back to Rome, it left the legacy of wine making prowess, and it’s been important to the region and its identity ever since.

Many of the citizens at the time owned at least a small parcel of vines for growing grapes. And by the late 1700s, Châteauneuf-du-Pape had earned a reputation for the quality of its wines. But, like the vast majority of Europe, many of the vineyards were destroyed by the phylloxera epidemic that struck the region, in about 1866. In fact, its appellation was the first major French wine growing area to be hit. And it took several decades for the region to rebound. Eventually, around 1936, the official appellation was created, along with the very strict laws and rules that growers needed to follow. Châteauneuf-du-Pape has gone on to become the standard-bearer for the Southern Rhône, making France’s most potent, and some of its most individualistic, dynamic wines.

The soils found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with its combination of rocks, stone, sand, limestone and clay soil would be poor for most living things. But it’s perfect for the grapes grown in the appellation. They play an integral part in the terroir. The various stones reflect light back to the vines, leafs and grapes. They also absorb heat during the day and radiate that heat to the vines during the cooler evenings, which aids in the development and ripening of the fruit. Another important factor that helps create the uniqueness of the wines is the proliferation of old vines. Some of the oldest vines in France are in the vineyards of the Southern Rhone. A number of Grenache vines are more than 100 years old! The older vines naturally produce low yields, delivering intense levels of concentration in the fruit, which adds a great depth of flavour, character and complexity.

Geology and long established grapevines are not the only positives shaping the character of the wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape also benefits from fortuitous weather conditions. Generally speaking, it has a Mediterranean climate that often delivers hot, dry, sunny weather in the summer, with cool, but seldom freezing winter conditions. The climate in the Southern Rhone is also shaped by its close proximity to the Rhone River. The mistrals, the wonderful name for the strong, cold, dry winds that blow from north to south are a major factor in the nature of the wines. These strong winds, which can reach more than 60 miles per hour, help keep the air and the fruit clean, while removing excess water, insects and disease.

Most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are produced from blends, a surprisingly high total of 18 grape varieties are allowed by AOC laws, although many feature as much as 90% Grenache. And it has always had the distinction of having the highest minimum strength (12.5% alcohol) of any French wine. But in this era of global warming, its wines are rarely less than 14.5% and occasionally reach 16%, presenting somewhat of a challenge to winemakers.

Well over 90% of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is red wine, but it’s hugely variable in style. Most is easy to like, being spicy, rich, big and bold. Big companies and co-operatives may blend a light(ish), sweet(ish) version for relatively early drinking. But a classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is much more likely to be the product of an ambitious, family-owned estate making highly individual, age-worthy wines that hopefully express their particular combination of terroirs and grape varieties. These red wines, often tough in youth, thanks to the dry summers, can age to sumptuous, sometimes outstanding, mature dark red wine, full of integrity.

I just wish I could remember why that crazed Lord-of-the-Manor was hiding all his cases, instead of drinking a bottle of it?

Peter James


 


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