Located in the heart of the southern half of the Rhône valley, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a large appellation for the area, producing just over one million cases a year. The climate is hot and mediterranean in style. The landscape a diverse mix of soils that range from fine sand, clay and limestone to the famous galets, oval stones the size of a fist that covered the northern portions of the appellation after the last ice age. The wines are just as diverse, ranging in style from fruity and full to rich, gamey, spicy and hot. The common denominator will alwys be medium to full intensity, spice, pepper, rich fruits and a decidedly gamey note. Châteauneuf-du-Pape has the highest minimum alcohol content (12.5%) in all of France.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape has been producing wine for at least a thousand years, but it was not until a rift in the Papacy in the 14th century inspired Bertrand de Goth to settle here instead of returning to Rome that the region gained fame. His successor Pope John XXII built his summer home on the ruins of an old castle located near Avignon, and thus the "New House of the Pope" was born. But by the mid-15th century the Pope was back in Rome and the region slid back towards obscurity. Up until the 18th century the wines were sold as Vin d'Avignon.
Phylloxera hit this region very hard in the 1860s, and it took almost a century for the region to recover. Since then the amount of vines has expanded greatly, and today Châteauneuf-du-Pape produces more wine than all of the Northern Rhône appellations combined. In 1923 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first region to adopt a voluntary system of checks and regulations on their wines to ensure quality. This would become the basis for the Appellation Contrôlée system for the rest of France, and most wine regulations the world over are based upon this system.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape has a wide range of soil types, microclimates and grape varietals permitted which makes for a wide variety of wines produced. The northern half of the appellation is covered with galets that trap the heat of the sun and then reflect it back upon the vines during the evenings. Many Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are said to taste of this warmth. To the south there is amore gravel, while in the east a higher proportion of sand and in the west more limestone. Each of these areas has a different affect upon the vines.
Up to 13 differefnt grapes are permitted in the red wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, though most wines today are produced primarily from Grenche or Mourvèdre. Also permitted and used frequently are Syrah and Cinsaut, and to a lesser extent Terret Noir, Counoise, Muscardin and Vaccarèse, as well as the white varietals Clairette, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul and Picardin. A fragrant and rich white wine is now made primarily from Roussanne, but Terret Blanc, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul and Picardin as well. these wines can be fresh and fragrant in their youth, close down for a "dumb" period between 4 and 8 years of age, and then reemerge as rich, yet elegant wine.
Look for the Papal emblem on the neck of bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.