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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.


2016 Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley


Flavors of wild grown herbs, kirsch liqueur, dried flowers, and spice. Deep, medium to full-bodied, elegant and weightless on the palate. The blend is 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre. Despite the high Syrah component this is a Grenache heavy wine in flavor and texture. Playful and begging for grilled or seared meat.

$44.99 per bottle


2016 Bosquet Des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley

75% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah with tiny amounts of Cinsault and Counoise. This is a silky red with tons of raspberry, spice, coco and dried violets. I’ve tried and tried to think of another $50.00 red wine that is offering this much freshness and instant drinkability, made from this blend and I’ve yet to find one that comes close. The red berries and pepper stay with you on the super long finish. Dense but still full of bright energy and lift.

$49.99 per bottle


2016 Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley

Absolutely intoxicating aromatics here. Made from 75% Grenache, 10% each Syrah and Mourvedre with Cinsault making up the last bit of the blend. The flavors are packed but noble, ranging from black currents, baking spice, dried herbs and warm baked stones. Precise, focused, buttoned up but still offering big splashes of flavor with a bright and tangy finish. Decanting helps open things up here and beefy or lamb rich dishes will be made all the more saucy when served with this remarkable red.

$69.99 per bottle


2016 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley

Each year our allocation of this cherished wine seems to get just a little smaller, as more and more retailers and restaurants look to get their hands on a few cases of this world renowned gem from the southern Rhone. Made from mostly Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre bulking it up along with some tiny amounts of other permitted varieties. One cannot even begin to think of Chateauneuf-du-Pape without considering, and honoring this wine. The 2016 is a very elegant and focused vintage from Vieux Telegraphe. Pure, intense, regal and saturated with black fruit, stones, wild herbaceous flavors and hints of dried flowers. So friendly right upfront it would be hard to have this gorgeous wine tucked away in a cellar and not be called to drink it up right away. One of the best vintages I’ve had from this estate in a very long time.

$63.99 per bottle

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