If any of the wines in this week's Featured Wines column tickle your fancy, you can order them directly from Jordan by email (JCarrier@everythingwine.ca) or find him in the Vintage Room of Everything Wine's Morgan Crossing location in South Surrey.
The “New Castle of the Pope” that sits atop the hillside village that bears its name was originally built in the 14th century, to serve as a summer house of sorts for the Popes of the brief Avignon Papacy. Since it was the third one that they constructed and they haven’t built another one, I guess they can legitimately continue to call it “new”, but it underscores one of the prevailing differences between the New World and the Old: We think 100 years is a long time (and they think that 100km is a long way to drive).
Medieval Avignon was a bummer in summer. When the wind stopped, the bugs started. When the bugs stopped, the wind started, and flooding from the adjacent Rhone was commonplace (folks in Winnipeg say “wow, upgrade”). Pope John XXII ordered that a new castle be built on the top of a lone hill a few miles up the river, slightly uphill from the existing fortress that the locals called Castro Novo (Latin for New Castle, meaning that at some point there was an even older one). John celebrated the castle’s completion in 1333 by promptly dying, but the castle was used by subsequent Popes as a way to escape the heat and pests of swampy Avignon (it’s nicer now). Where the Pope goes, so does the church, and where the church goes, so does wine, so dozens of vineyard plots were cleared surrounding the village, many of which continue to be farmed today. The wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape were born.
After the Papacy returned to Rome and the Rhone valley was invaded by everyone but Orcs, Chateauneuf-du-Pape ultimately found itself part of Republican France, but despite its ever-changing allegiances, the town kept one constant over the centuries: amazing wine. American critic Robert Parker introduced these wines to the wider world in the 1980s, and although prices haven’t reached the crazy heights of Bordeaux or Burgundy (yet), the quality and acclaim have.
Here are some iconic, classic CDPs that are new to the Vintage Room:
2012 Chateau Beaucastel
Boasting its highest Parker rating since the legendary 2001 vintage, this is one of the thickest, fullest Beaucastels in recent memory (although I was also a fan of the more demure, introspective 2011). The Perrin family’s flagship wine is Grenache dominant but contains a larger component of structured Mourvedre than other CDPs, which is one of the reasons it cellars so well and so long. This is the wine that all its contemporaries measure themselves against. 96 points Robert Parker, $82.99 +tax (also see IW reviews from 2011, 2009)
2013 Chateau Beaucastel Blanc Roussanne Vieille Vignes
As if the Wine Gods misplaced what they were drinking and mortals found it and quickly bottled it. The texture is what slays: rainwater minerality among oodles of flesh and creamy viscosity. 100% percent white Roussanne from 100+ year-old vines, I tasted some bottles from 1980s vintages when I was there a couple years ago, and although it ages amazingly I think I still prefer the fireworks of youth. Oak aged but without malolactic fermentation, its buttery enough without it, and the citrus preserves on the nose seal the deal. I grabbed all that I could. If you don’t buy it, try to acquire a friend who did and make sure to do odd chores for them. 97 points Robert Parker, 96 points Wine Spectator, $142.99 +tax
2012 Roger Sabon Cuvee Reserve
The town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape is teeming with Sabons, the family name dates back to the 1500s there. Roger Sabon broke with his family winery Clos du Mont Olivet (also awesome) in 1952 to make his own wine, and this Cuvee Reserve is 80% Grenache, with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault fighting for position. Spicy, bold and present, but with a more traditional body (medium-full) that befits the house style. Dried herbs and white pepper support darker fruit to start, black pepper comes back on the finish. Way-cool and one of the better values I’ve found from CDP, recently. 93 points Robert Parker, $49.99 +tax