Silky and beguiling, Châteauneuf-du-Pape defies imitation. It rises up from an ocean of pebbles, promising peaks of pleasure and taking you higher, higher…Christophe Tassan
Between Avignon and Orange, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard’s 3200 hectares dominate the plain. The village streets clustered at the foot of the castle, a 14th century Papal residence, are dotted with fountains... and the wine cellars that offer the best way to discover this famous variety of wine.
In addition to the diversity of the 13 varieties of grape, it is characterized by its consistent soil quality. The limestone earth produces full, aromatic white wines with a crisp freshness. To the South, the clay soil with galets roulés (small round pebbles) produces full bodied, well structured wines: the epitome of their kind. To the North, the sandy earth produces light, yet fine and spicy wines which we will learn more about later...
Propelled by Baron Leroy, the owner of Château Fortia in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is where the AOC concept was born: measures of quality that, when adopted in 1923, bestowed upon Châteauneuf the status of a high-quality wine when it became one of the first AOC in 1936.
13 grape varieties are traditionally approved, but Grenache forms the majority, along with Syrah and Mouvèdre, that give the red wine its colour, structure, aromas of summer fruits and aromatic complexity (hints of leather, etc.)
Today, the main varieties used are Grenache and Cinsault (which give the wines their mellow warmth), Mourvèdre, Syrah, Muscardin (structure, colour, and freshness), Counoise (body, freshness, bouquet), Clairette, and Bourboulenc. The Guyot vine training system is used for Syrah. For other varieties, gobelet or fan shaped two eyed spurs are used, with a maximum of 15 eyes per vine in addition to the bud. Wires and stakes may not be used.
As its name suggests, the history of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is intimately linked that of several Popes... As early as 1157, faithful to Roman customs, Bishop Geoffroy of Avignon himself planted and cultivated a vineyard in his Châteauneuf fiefdom. In 1308, Clement V also planted vines, thereby becoming one of the first winemakers in Châteauneuf. Jean XXII had a particular appreciation for the wine from this vineyard, and ordered a castle built in the area, and bestowed upon the wine the prestigious title of “Vin du Pape” (Papal Wine), the name by which it was known before it became “Le Châteauneuf-du-Pape”.
Since then, one of the main characteristics of this AOC has been the broad variety of grapes used (13 varieties identified in 1866). In addition to providing aromatic complexity, the range of grapes used also meant that it could resist the phylloxera outbreak of 1866.
In 1829, almost 2000 hectolitres of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were sold outside the region: the wine already had a sound reputation and was widely exported. In 1894, the winemakers formed the first “Winemakers’ Union”. Its mission: to guarantee the quality of the region’s wines. In 1911, the local government formed a commission of 34 winemakers to classify, and therefore maintain the quality of Châteauneuf wines.
In 1923, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Winemakers’ Union was created to obtain the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC status. A lawyer as well as a winemaker, Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarié was selected by his peers to head the Union. The Union and its famous Chairman led legal action that set the conditions and regulations for the production of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation wine, and which constituted a guide for the creators of the registered designation of origin (AOC).
After several years in the courts, the French Supreme Court rubber stamped the production area and conditions on 21 November 1933. The same regulations are still used to this day.
View the decrees granting appellation status (INAO)1933Birth of AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The appellation’s vineyards spread across almost the entire Châteauneuf-du-Pape local authority, with some extending across the four neighbouring municipalities (Bédarrides, Courthézon, Orange, and Sorgues).
The driest area in the Côtes du Rhône. The prevalent wind is the Mistral, and each year sees around 2800 hours of sunshine, with the heat being stored by the rocks during the day and radiated at night.
The terroir of this AOC is made up of three kinds of soil. On a base of clean white urgonian limestone deposits lie sediments of sands and red clay, and the Rhône then forms pebbles from quartzite and silica from the Alps.
surface area3 161 hectares
Total production81 732 hl
- 94% Red
- 6% White
Sales101 708 hectolitres
Average yield achieved26 hl/ha
*Export figures according to the most recent research
Source : Harvest statement 2013