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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Grape Varieties of Chateauneuf du Pape

I chose Chateauneuf du Pape from the Southern Rhone this week to cover a few grape varieties. Of course the main grapes of the Rhone is the Syrah predominant in the Northern part and the Grenache in the Southern Rhone. Both these grapes are found in Chateauneuf du Pape but the interesting thing about this wine is it allows for up to 13 grape varieties in total.

So we are going to try to cover the 11 others that are allowed in a Chateauneuf du Pape. Grenache Blanc which is not part of the 11 others could also be included in the mix bringing it up to 14 but since we are not sure if it is actually included under Grenache , we will skip it.

Mourvedre - a high acidity grape variety it flourishes in hot climates where it buds late and ripens late. Known most for Bandol in the Provence region of France along the Mediterranean.

Picpoul - one of France's oldest white wine domestic grape varieties the vine buds late so it does require a warm climate. Relatively unknown and questionable as to whether it is used in the wine at all nowadays. Very little of it is grown these days.

Terret Noir - Buds extremely late but adds perfume to the Chateauneuf du Pape and is rather tart adding some nervosite to the wine. This means it gives the wine a bit of an edge which is what it needs that the warm weather cannot give it.

Counoise - listed as a separate grape variety it is identical to the grape variety Aubun found in the Southern Rhone Valley. As Aubun it achieved some notoriety for it seemed like it had good resistance to phylloxera , the disease that ravaged the European vineyards in the 1930's. The sandy soils of Gigondas is where it's home is. Prone to heat stress , it buds late but it is pretty fat in the mouth with a slightly bitter finish as a wine. Baron Le Roy considered counoise one of the best Chateauneuf ingredients at one time.

Muscardin - High in acid , low in alcohol , light in colour and prone to oxidation it offers the farm yardy fruit found in many Chateauneuf du Papes. Lightens up the wine as well.

Vaccarese - rarely vinified as a varietal , it is a late budder and sensitive to powdery mildew. Chateau de Beaucastel winemaker Francois Perrin is one who offers tastings of the grape varieties that go into a Chateauneuf du Pape and his Vaccarese is similar to a Syrah wine. Peppery , highly tannic on the palette , with a hot nose indicating a high alcohol volume.

Picardan - a white wine grape variety that is relatively unknown. When the rules were drawn up way back some of the grapes permitted have sort of fallen off the map.

Cinsault - a workhorse variety of the Languedoc , Provence and southern Rhone it is mainly used in blends adding softness and sweet perfume to red wines but makes great roses on it's own.

Clairette Blanc - not much to say other than it is a grape high in alcohol and low in acid and prone quickly to oxidation. I doubt this grape is seen much in the Chateauneufs of today.

Roussane - known as a white wine grape variety in the Northern Rhone it is one of the 4 white grape varieties allowed in a Chateauneuf du Pape. Roussane wines in the north can even age 10 to 20 years after going through a maderized state in the middle part.

Bourboulenc - all that remains of this white wine grape variety are some ancient plantings on some estates in the Southern Rhone. It produces a thin neutral wine although some say it is capable of producing a strong rustic wine full of character. There are few takers on this.

So there you have the 11 other grape varieties permitted in a Chateauneuf du Pape.

Chateauneuf du Pape definitely has a following with it's always high alcohol by volume and a nose with some spice , leather , blackcurrant , tar and raspberry. There is no question when you nose this wine you can detect many aromas just because of all the grape varieties that can go into a bottle.

Grenache the main grape variety in this wine is low in pigment and tends to oxidize quickly so it alone cannot produce a great wine. It generally needs a long maceration period for more colour. Therefore it is hard to pinpoint what percentage of the other grapes are used to make a Chateauneuf du Pape. All I know is the final result is a wonderful wine that goes well with game and meaty casseroles and foods of that kind. With it's high in alcohol it gives one a glow as well on a cold night.

6 comments:

MiketheWaiter said...

wow, steven, another insightful look at the grape. You are a walking, talking, wiki-grape-opedia!
I have had some tech probs at mikethewaiter.com ... Among them was I had to reinstall wordpress. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
mTw

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Mike the waiter...glad to see you back Mike. I try to keep it interesting.

MikeTheWaiterDotCom said...

hey steven, if you thin of it, maybe you could re-link me?

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Mike the Waiter...will do.

banquet manager said...

Chateauneuf du Pape. I like the way that sounds.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Banquet Manager...it's a nice one.