This wine made in the south east of France, around five towns in the department Vaucluse, is also the first French good to have been protected by a quality sign. It is actually thanks to some defenders of the wine, that the French label, Controlled Designation of Origin, was created in 1936.
The Birth of the Wine
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape is today more than thousand years old. All began with the bishop Geoffroy in the 12th century near Avignon, in the south east of France. This clergyman already had a vineyard in his fiefdom of Châteauneuf, which he maintained in keeping with Romans traditions. However, this vineyard had grown in importance when John XXII, after his election as a pope, decided to set up the papal residence in Avignon. From Cahors, he brought with him some winegrowers and bankers to enhance the wealth of the new residence. Thereby, it was at this period that the major foundations that have enabled this vineyard to gain such recognition were established. John XXII was the first to give a denomination to this wine. Before being called the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it was le “Vin du Pape”, (the Pope’s Wine).
The reputation of the vineyard grew steadly over the centuries. The wine was even served at the court of the French kings. In the 19th century, the wine of Châteauneuf-du-Pape enjoyed a considerable reputation throughout France. Thousands of hectoliters were sold outside the Vaucluse department. However, this amazing development was stopped because of the catastrophic phytosanitary crisis of phylloxera in the 1860s. To fight against this devastation, one prominent citizen of the region, the commandant Joseph Ducos, himself owner of a domain, replanted and grafted new types of grapes, like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, … the first of the thirteen grape varieties, today used to make the red wine of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The First Wine Under Protected Designation
After the awful crisis, to ensure the quality of wines, the winegrowers created the first “Wine Union” in 1894. This union undertook to offer to their customers the high quality wines in their region.
In 1923, the “Union of Owners and Winemakers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape” absorbed the previous unions and associations into a single body. This last union was created in order to obtain the recognition of the ‘Appellation d’Origine’ of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Baron Le Roy, lawyer and winegrower, was elected the first president of the union if and only if the Châteauneuf winegrowers imposed strictness and honesty among themselves. All the actions lead by this union contributed to set up the rules of the ‘Appellation d’Origine’ of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and were a model for the definitions of the following indications of origin. The delimitation and the conditions of production were then implemented in 1933 and remain the same today. However, the AOC, Protected Designation of Origin, was officially recognized in May 1936 to ensure the high quality and specificity of this wine. Thereby, winegrowers were the first to follow strict rules to make the famous wine. One of the most important is that all grapes must be manual harvested.
Character of its Terroir
Nobody really knows which grape varieties made up the vineyard of Chateauneuf-du-Pape before the 18th century, even if some writings testified for the Counoise from Spain. But many know for centuries, many grape varieties have comprised the Châteauneuf vineyard, giving it its originality and its character. The wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, therefore, have always offered a diverse palette of characteristics and tastes.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine is a blended wine; it is made from several grape varieties. Research and developement has shown that it is the best way to develop the characteristics of the ‘terroir’ where the grapes are grown. Today, the Grenache is the the most commonly used grape variety in Châteauneuf wine, often combined with Syrah and Mourvèdre to enhance the wine’s character.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Today
Today, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be produced around five different villages of the Vaucluse in the south of France: the village Châteauneuf-du-Pape where all began, Orange, Bédarrides, Sorgues and Courthézon.
Some 3,210 hectares are planted with grapevines used to make this amazing wine. There are 311 operators who take care of these vineyard, of which 299 are winegrowers and 234 are winemakers. Together, they produce every year more than 100,000 hectoliters.
More About Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The famous French red wines have rare quality of aging. However, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines can be consumed after only two years, and reveal pleasant fruity aromas. The taste qualities assert themselves with its age, revealing a higher tannic structure, and an intense and deep bouquet.
The red wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape have very good potential of ageing. The taste of the magnificent wines from 1966, 1978 or more recently from 1990 all bear witness to this. The great vintages could be kept in a cellar for 15 to 20 years. These vintages match those of the other vineyards of the Rhône valley.
These wines go well traditionally with red meats, lamb and with most cheeses. Additionally, high-quality game deserves tannic tastes of red wine of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, matured and spicy.