Talking Cork #1: Châteauneuf-du-Pape -
Grenache Grape CDP

Talking Cork #1: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Does the wide world of wine confuse you? Let professional sommelier Vinodhan Veloo guide you through the steps in the easiest way possible, through his signature Talk Cork style. Get your glasses and wine key out, it’s time for a new appreciation for wine.

Wine trends are moving towards softer, more elegant wines. With the new generation of drinkers seeking out wines that drink readily in their youth, without the need to wait for the product to age, some styles of wine are placed well to rise up. Burgundy and its other Pinot Noir counterparts from around the world may be in revelry of this shift – considering that just last generation, Bordeaux and the Barolos were the easy preference at dining tables.        

There is one wine that seems to have been somewhat forgotten in this mad rush for lightness and low-alcohol swigging. Here’s a big clue: it happens to be very important for a few different reasons – it’s a wine that has survived Phylloxera after being at the forefront of its pestilence, an appellation that initiated the AOC framework for the rest of the French wine growing regions, and also, subsequently becoming the largest single-village appellation in all of France. Yes, I am talking about the great Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Bold, meaty, smokey and peppery, these wines may be produced to live a life as long as most us and longer, but their approachability can be surprising even as a young wine. This is all thanks to the softer tannins and acidity of the more dominant grape variety here – Grenache. Thriving in this warmer climate in the Southern Rhône, the late ripening Grenache variety is also helped by a few strategic farming methods that see the vines planted especially close to the ground, protecting it also from the strong Mistral winds (The strong, cold, northwesterly winds that blow from southern France towards the mediterranean sea)  that come through. Though Grenache may be the main variety, up to 13 different grape varieties are permitted to be used: a few of which are Syrah, Mourvèdre (Mataro), and Counoise.

Some legendary estates have lasted a few hundred years, consistently putting out incredible wines and if I had one to recommend, it would be Château Beaucastel. The history of the Beaucastel estate dates well back into the Middle Ages though the more recent ownership had been more significant to its commercial and international success. The Perrin family that acquired the estate in the early 90s have been active to improve the quality of its wines, and have more recently converted the estate to biodynamics.        

Beaucastel’s wines are a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre mostly, with Syrah and Counoise making up the rest of the blend. One thing that sets their wines apart is their freshness even in warmer vintages and balance. The wines spend about a year in oak that helps soften the wines further for earlier accessibility. A gorgeous, lifted nose brings not just red fruit aromas like raspberries and red plums, but also more savory aromas such as thyme, sage and dried meats. The 2017 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape will pair well with a wide variety of dishes, and I’d even be as bold as to say that it would compliment some meatier smoked or grilled fish like Turbot and Monkfish.

If you prefer a more powerful CDP, then perhaps Janasse – another icon in the region – would be something more up-your-alley. The estate may not have as long a history as the wines of Beaucastel, but it certainly has the reputation to challenge those of its more established neighbours. Founded in 1973 by Aimé Sabon, the Janasse estate is about 90 hectares in size and farms mostly Grenache. Its wines however need time and can display more black fruit aromas and flavours, like black cherries and blackcurrants, than Beaucastel. It is also wine that would pair better with lamb, venison and beef. I would not pair these wines with fish, not unless all I want to taste is chocolate covered fish. The 2016 Janasse Vieilles Vignes wines are made with 65% Grenache with Mourvèdre and Syrah making for the rest of the blend. The wines are also aged for 12 years in large, 600 liter barrels.

In a world that only seems to talk about Burgundy when discussing French wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape could be the wine that you have been missing out all along. The wines effortlessly combine elegance with power, helped in part by the complexity of the Grenache variety. Be rewarded with its intensity, as you enjoy a bottle of CDP as your next wine this weekend.

Our gratitude to Vinod for his fine knowledge on the matter. You can check out more of his writing on his blog site Talk Cork – a personal, curious-as-a-cat exploration into wine by a man deeply in love with its calling. Want to explore the wines mentioned in this article yourself? Check out our exclusive bundle deal of wines from Domaine De La Janasse, you can thank us later.

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