Wine Monopole

Palais des Papes, Avignon

For the wine appellations in Southern France, the one that is probably most widely known is Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Located in Southern Rhone, approximately 10 km north of Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape literally translates to “the new castle of the Pope”. Why was the Pope involved in winemaking? Well, in fact, the history and evolution of nowadays renowned Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines was closely related to the papal history.

In 1300s, the Pope, Clement V moved his residence to Avignon (owned by the King of Sicily at the time). Clement V and the subsequent Popes in Avignon were lovers of Burgundy wines. While they helped promote the reputation of Burgundy wines, they were also promoting and advancing viticulture practices in the surrounding area of Avignon, particularly the area around 10km north of Avignon. The wines coming from that area were known as “Vin du Pape”, later becoming Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

The Rhone River

Unlike in Northern Rhone where Syrah is the dominant grape varietal, Grenache is widely used in the South. In addition to Grenache, winemakers are allowed to use up to another 17 varietals to make their blend. Most commonly used in the blend include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault, with each of the varietal offers different sensation to the final blend:
Grenache: roundness, richness and attractive hints of cherries and leather
Syrah: color, tannins, longevity and intense aromas of violets and truffles
Mourvedre: abundance of lovely tannins and an excellent structure for ageing
Cinsault: fruitiness and elegance

How come the regulation allows 18 grape varietals? It sounds a bit too many one would think. In the late 1800s, France’s wine industry was severely suffered from phylloxera – an insect that fees on the roots and leaves of grapevines. The Mayor of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Joseph Ducos (owner of renowned Chataue La Nerthe at the time) understood the important to graft vines onto phylloxera resistant rootstock. He conducted extensive research on more than ten grape varietals and identified the right varietals suitable for plantation given the climate and soil of the village, thus an authorized list was eventually enacted in 1935.

Our current selection features nobody else but the wine from the estate of the “father” of Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Chateau La Nerthe. Joseph Ducos made the name Chateauneuf-du-Pape official in 1893, bringing the appellation to another level, receiving worldwide recognition. Of all the cuvees from La Nerthe, Cuvee des Cadettes, created by Joseph Ducos himself, is the crown jewel of the estate, only produced in the finest vintages.

While enjoying a glass of 2000 Cuvee des Cadettes, you would sense and appreciate the harmony of the blend and how each varietal plays their role (38% Syrah, 35% Grenache, and 27% Mourvedre)…


Written by Wine Monopole — March 15, 2013


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