Wondering what’s behind the magnificence of Chateauneuf du Pape wine and the best bottles to invest in?
The answer lies in the commune’s rich winemaking history and the exquisite mastery of its winemakers. It’s no wonder Chateauneuf du Pape finds a home in some of the most enviable wine collections around the globe!
If you want to add one to your collection too, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we trace the appellation’s history, and delve into what makes these wines extraordinary, it’s taste and characteristics. We’ll also suggest 10 of its best wines to invest in 2021, and how to invest in them.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is Chateauneuf du Pape?
- Chateauneuf du Pape grape varietals and wine styles
- Vinification Techniques Used in Châteauneuf du Pape
- How Does Chateauneuf du Pape#blog- Wine Taste?
- Serving Chateauneuf du Pape
- Investing in Chateauneuf du Pape
- 10 best Chateauneuf du Pape to buy in 2021
- 2010 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Inspiration
- 2007 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee XXL
- 1989 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau
- 2011 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve
- 2007 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- 2011 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grand Cuvee Hommage a Jacques
- 1998 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve des Celestins
- 1989 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- 2010 Clos Saint-Jean Deus-Ex Machina Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- 1978 Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition
What Is Chateauneuf du Pape?
Châteauneuf du Pape is a French wine appellation that lies south of the Rhone valley, and known for its fruity, elegant red wines. The AOC covers a few surrounding villages between Avignon and Orange - Bédarrides, Courthézon, and Sorgues.
The Chateauneuf castle is located on a hill with the Rhone river to its west and Mont Ventoux to its east.
The dominant grape varietals of the Chateauneuf du Pape AOC are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. Besides these, the commune produces wines with 10 other grape varieties.
A Brief History of Châteauneuf du Pape
The town’s viticultural history dates back to the 12th century, with the local bishops tending to vineyards. But it took off when the 14th-century Avignon Pope, Clement V, relocated the papacy there.
Popes after Clement V took great care to improve Chateauneuf’s wine production. Pope John XXII even built a castle in 1333 that remains the appellation’s symbol to the day. Chateauneuf du Pape means ‘the Pope’s new castle.’
After surviving the phylloxera vine pandemic of the 19th century, Chateauneuf du Pape was the first wine region granted an AOC status by the French authorities in 1936.
How to pronounce Chateauneuf du Pape
The name of this French appellation is pronounced as ‘Shah-toh-nuf Dew Pahp.’
Châteauneuf du Pape Climate And Terroir
Châteauneuf du Pape, like most of southern France, has a Mediterranean climate. Southern Rhone experiences hot and dry summers (with temperatures up to 38°C) and wet winters.
The region’s characteristic dryness is due to the powerful mistral winds that strip the air of moisture. These fierce, dry winds blow from the northeast at nearly 100 km/h, preventing excessive rains and fungal damage to vines.
The AOC’s unique terroir is part of Châteauneuf du Pape’s identity.
You’ll find the village covered in three different soil types and the ubiquitous galets roulés (rolled pebbles.) These small rocks or pebbles are the remains of glacial activity in the region, smoothened over time by the Rhone river’s flow.
Galets soak in the sunlight during the day, release the heat into the wines at night, and drain the soil of excess water. Prolonged exposure to galet-rich soil helps grapes mature fully.
Read more: Hosting an intimate wine tasting or an elaborate dinner? Make sure you’ve picked the right wine glass for the occasion.
Chateauneuf du Pape Grape Varietals And Wine Styles
Chateauneuf is mostly known for its red wine. The village also produces small quantities of white wine and has recently begun making Rose wine.
The original AOC regulations allowed 13 grape varieties to be grown, which was later expanded to 18 in 2009.
Most of Chateauneuf’s red wine is made with Grenache Noir and Mourvedre. Grenache makes for the signature jammy, juicy base of the wine, while grapes like Mourvedre and Syrah add character, color, elegance, structure, and aroma.
Other red wine grapes include:
- Picpoul/Piquepoul Noir
- Terret noir
- Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté)
Read more: Find out how storing wine in a cellar preserves its value.
White grape wines account for only about 5% of Chateauneuf’s total production. Most of these are meant to be consumed young.
However, the Roussanne varietal wine is matured in oak barrels and can acquire exotic aromas over time. Other white grapes include:
- Clairette Blanche
- Clairette Rose
- Grenache Blanc
- Grenache Gris
- Piquepoul Blanc
- Piquepoul Gris
Read more: If sweet white wines interest you, check out this detailed guide on delicious Moscato wines.
Vinification Techniques Used in Châteauneuf du Pape
Winegrowers in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation maintain low-yield, low-density vineyards where each row is a few feet apart from the next. This ensures that each vine receives maximum nutrition and space to grow.
However, it means that the region’s production remains under 35 hectoliters per hectare.
Carefully cultivated, ripe grapes are handpicked during the harvest season. In extra-tannic wines, the winemaker retains the grapes’ stems and seeds for their natural tannin content. Otherwise, the grapes are destemmed and crushed.
Most Chateauneuf reds tend to be a blend of two or more grapes. To achieve the right balance of flavors, the winemaker may choose to ferment the grape juices separately and then blend them or ferment them together using malolactic fermentation.
If it’s a younger wine (like a white Chateauneuf du Pape), winemakers choose the carbonic maceration method to preserve the wine’s fruity freshness.
Wines are fermented to achieve a minimum of 12.5% ABV, as per regulation. The wine is then aged in stainless steel, oak, or concrete vats, bottled, and aged further for up to a year.
Read more: Fascinated by the winemaking process of your favorite sparkler? Read all about how sparkling wine is made and the best wines to buy.
How Does Chateauneuf du Pape Wine Taste?
Every Chateauneuf evolves into its own over time. But they all share a few common characteristics in their flavor profile.
Typically, red Chateauneuf du Pape tends to be full of red fruit flavors (strawberry, cherry, raspberry), earthy notes (leather and tar), spices, and herbs. This play of herbal and earthy notes is known as “garrigue” in French.
These red wines also tend to be slightly high on acidity, tingling your palate.
Since 2007, winemakers have tried to dial down the extra tannic intensity that had come to define the AOC. Instead, the red wines now allow for a fuller expression of fresh fruits enveloped by a rustic balance.
The wine pairs best with a combination of vegetables and spiced red meats. Its versatility allows it to pair well with a range of fish preparations and cheeses as well.
Serving Chateauneuf du Pape Wine
This Rhone wine is best served chilled, below room temperature, at 16-18ºC (60-65ºF). Decant it for about an hour. Mature wines and young white wines will not require any decanting.
Read more: Become an expert host (or wine drinker) with our detailed guides on the number of glasses and in a bottle of wine and red wine calories.
Investing In Chateauneuf du Pape Wines
This southern Rhone village is the heartland of robust, age-worthy wines. Most Chateauneuf rouges are expected to last at least a decade, and some even up to 30 years. Any vintage made after 2010 would be perfect for cellaring now.
But here’s the twist. The wine is equally enchanting in its early years. And that’s why many wine lovers also prefer to drink Chateauneuf reds young.
When winemaker Beaucastel interviewed customers who bought their 2010 vintage (one that promised to age fantastically), nearly 80% of them had finished it within the first two years!
With fewer mature Chateauneufs in the secondary market, their prices keep going up. Even the younger (promising) Chateauneufs appreciate in value quickly. For example, Vieux Telegraphe’s relatively young 2008 has gone up nearly 35% since its release, and Beaucastel’s ‘04 has appreciated 23%.
These wines also perform really well at auctions. In 2018, a bottle of Hermitage Cuvée Cathelin 2009 by Jean-Louis Chave was sold for a cool $15,500! This puts the Chateauneuf at par with the finest wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Now, Chateauneuf winemakers regularly feature on the top traded wines lists. So if you’re taking notes, we have some excellent recommendations for your cellar this year.
10 Best Chateauneuf du Papes To Buy In 2021
Fill your cellar with these jewels from Chateauneuf.
1. 2010 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Inspiration
The Pegau family first planted vines next to olive trees on their land back in the 17th century. Their name is now synonymous with Chateaneuf’s glorious past.
The 2010 Pegau is the outcome of a phenomenal vintage, full of vibrant, lush, red fruit and hints of spices. Collect it now to see to its full maturity in about a decade.
Price of 2010 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Inspiration: $1,177
2. 2007 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee XXL
The Sabon family established their winery in 1967. Today, this Chateauneuf vineyard is known for its three Cuvees - Tradition, Chaupin, and Vieilles Vignes.
Bottled in 2010, the ‘07 was aged three years. It retains the characteristic jamminess of a Chateauneuf along with a balanced (yet lively) texture that will evolve well into 2035.
Price of 2007 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee XXL: $472
3. 1989 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau
This southern Rhone estate has been in the hands of the Brunier family for over 100 years now. With 100 hectares of plantation, they’re also one of the region’s largest landowners.
The 1989 vintage is the earliest surviving wine that’s also fast approaching its maturity. So you should enjoy the timeless quality of its leathery richness enveloped in smooth tannins as soon as possible.
Price of 1989 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau: $173
4. 2011 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve
Unlike the other prime estates of Chateauneuf, the Rayas property is not covered in galets. They’re known for their red wines made entirely with the Grenache grape variety.
2011 was not a perfect year for southern Rhone. But Rayas’ Grenache came out with flying colors. It shows an impressive depth and vivacity, spiced notes, and tangy fruitiness. Save it deep in your cellar to enjoy after at least a decade. That’s the promise its hefty price tag holds.
Price of 2011 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve: $9,315
5. 2007 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The historic vineyard takes its name from the ruins of the papal castle nearby. Clos des Papes has the rare honor of growing all the original 13 grape varieties of Chateauneuf du Pape, making it a pilgrimage for wine lovers.
2007 is the right vintage for both drinking and collecting. Clos des Papes’ ‘07 already shows a stunning depth and complexity, marked by chocolate, coffee, spices, and dark berry.
Price of 2007 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape: $205
6. 2011 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grand Cuvee Hommage a Jacques Perrin
The Beaucastel property has evolved from a small, family-held plot in 1549 to a vineyard that regularly grabs headlines for its wines. The estate’s current winemakers are descendants of Pierre Perrin, who gained control of the property in 1909.
Drink to enjoy its blueberry and earthy qualities, or store it and watch its tannic complexity take shape. Beaucastel ‘11 is ready for you!
Price 2011 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Grand Cuvee Hommage a Jacques Perrin: $472
7. 1998 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve des Celestins
Henri Bonneau was the 12th generation of winemakers in his family, steeped in southern Rhone’s winemaking tradition. The winemaker’s ‘98 vintage’s success led to the inauguration of a ‘Cuvee Speciale.’
Just arriving at full maturity, the ‘98 is full-bodied, intense, and rich with a deep ruby-red color and a dense texture.
Price of 1998 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve des Celestins: $713
8. 1989 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The Richard family has run the 12th-century estate of Chateau La Nerthe since the 1980s. And all 277 acres of the vineyard have been certified organic since 1998!
1989 was a fantastic year, full of sunshine and just the right amount of rain for southern Rhone. La Nerthe made the most of it in the year’s wine. It’s a fully mature batch with a nose of pepper, licorice, and a chocolate finish.
Price of 1989 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape: $106
9. 2010 Clos Saint-Jean Deus-Ex Machina Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Clos Saint-Jean’s property occupies the commune’s highly sought-after La Crau land. Here, the winemaker practices sustainable farming to create critically acclaimed wines.
This phenomenal wine won a perfect score from Robert Parker of Wine Advocate for its full-bodied profile, bursting with aromas of licorice, graphite, and earth.
Price of 2010 Clos Saint-Jean Deus-Ex Machina Chateauneuf-du-Pape: $328
10. 1978 Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition.
From a small, family-run estate in the late 18th century to a prominent Chateauneuf winemaker, the Fortia estate has had quite the journey with the Le Roy family. ‘Tradition’ is one of their prestige Cuvees.
The fully mature, but now fragile, ‘78 is the product of a bountiful vintage and reminder of a bygone era. It shows hints of brown sugar, pepper, ripe raspberry, and ultra-smooth tannins if well preserved.
Price of 1978 Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition: $304
So, are these exceptional wines easy to get hold of?
How To Buy Chateauneuf du Pape Wine
Wine lovers around the world pine after Chateauneuf’s treasures. But the high demand also means dealing with counterfeits, middlemen, and sky-high prices.
If you want to invest in the most high-value Chateauneuf wines, you’re better off if you seek the help of experts.
Don’t worry. We’re not recommending enlisting the services of private Sommeliers. We have something better in mind.
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Straight From The “Pope’s Castle” To Your Cellar
It’s not hard to fall in love with Chateauneuf wines. Even the Pope was a fan!
However, acquiring an authentic Chateauneuf du Pape is easier said than done. You’ll need to jump through the hoops of wine auctions and spend a fortune for a bottle of this southern Rhone valley wine.
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