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03 Dec 2018 | Samantha Dugan

Cherishing the Classic: Focusing on Chateauneuf-du-Pape

At least once a week I get a customer in looking for a bottle of wine to give as a gift but, “I’m not sure what they drink.”  This is where my instincts take me right over to the French department, more specifically, to the warm and rich wines of the southern Rhone Valley’s legendary Chateauneuf-du-Pape region.

The wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, (France’s first appellated wine growing region by the way), tend to be my crossover wines, or wines I suggest when people are struggling with what kind of wine to gift to someone.  The warmer climate in the southern Rhone give Grenache a chance to grow plump, flavor-packed and loaded with spice, the wild Mourvedre a chance to pick up all the feral and herby notes from herbs growing in the same soils, and the noble Syrah gets to put on some weight and be more playful than when grown in the much cooler northern Rhone.  There are in fact 13 permitted varieties in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but most of the great producers have scaled back and make Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre their focus.

Right on the heels of the press-adored 2015 vintage, we have just received the more classically structured and elegantly lifted wines from the 2016 vintage, a vintage that speaks to the traditionalist, but speaks with a riper and more saturated accent.  After chatting with several winemakers from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I’ve found that many prefer the 2016 vintage as the wines have just as much density as the 2015 wines did, but they also have higher acidity which brings more nerve and life to the wines making them more food and aging friendly.  A truly thrilling vintage and one that should you gift or share these wines with your friends and family, will blow them away with their balance, pleasurable texture and ripe joyous flavors.


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