Châteauneuf-du-Pape is home to some of the most prestigious wines in the world. It is truly a place where terroir, climate, and tradition have come together to form the perfect union for excellent wine making year after year. In our inaugural, A. Bommarito Wines blog post we will be taking a peak at the events that contributed to this great culture of wine and those directly participating in it today.
It is believed that dating back as far as the Roman Empire, the hills of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were covered in vines. However, the first written history of its existence dates back to 1157 when Bishop Geoffrey of Avignon had himself planted a vineyard within the territory. Two centuries later, in what is now known as the Avignon Papacy, the Pope of the Catholic Church moved from Rome to Avignon. This required a construction of a “new castle of the Pope” or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was during this time that the Papacy would host parties for representatives of foreign courts and serve them the “vin du Pape” which everyone found to be exquisite. This led to the wine being exported in barrels, which was rare at the time as transporting was expensive and dangerous, to other countries across Europe. At this time the small commune had approximately 800 ha of vineyards.
We’ll pick up again in the 19th and 20th centuries when the population of Châteauneuf-du-Pape was growing and the wines were better than ever. So good, in fact, that there were many “counterfeit” Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines in the market. Winegrowers were well aware that the best way of promoting and protecting the integrity of their wines was to introduce a standard of quality to the appellation. So, in 1894, winegrowers established a Syndicat Viticole to put a stop to this fraud and guarantee the quality of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The first attempt was achieved with the 1919 Act on Designations of Origin, which proved to be inadequate, as it only defined the naming of areas. Starting in 1923, the Syndicat took legal action in order to define all the conditions necessary to give wines the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Further amendments led to more stringent regulations and a system we currently known as AOC. Created in 1936, the AOC system set a standard for things like origin of fruit, specific fruit, and winemaking practices. Châteauneuf-du-Pape winegrowers were the first in all of France to impose these production parameters. Following this ruling, a bottle was created for use of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape winemakers to protect and designate wines of the AOC. This famous bottle is what we see today with an embossed logo of two keys and the papal crown with the inscription “Châteauneuf-du-Pape contrôlé”.
Despite some minor changes over the years these parameters are still in force today and continue to protect and guarantee the quality of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Today, vineyards cover almost 8,000 acres of the AOC and the excellent wines of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape are still well respected and enjoyed by many around the world. Two of these wineries of note are Domaine de Cristia and Vieux Telegraphe. These wineries share similar philosophies while also producing wines that are decidedly different.
Domaine de Cristia
Year after year, Domaine de Cristia is a favorite of wine critics everywhere. However, above all, the goal of Domaine de Cristia and the Grangeon family is to produce wines they are proud of and can be drank by all. Cristia is now certified organic, though they had been utilizing the same traditional methods since their origins with little fluctuation. They produce wines that bring people together with a finesse and elegance like no other.
Created by Etienne Grangeon 70 years ago, the original property had 2 ha of Grenache vineyards. Joined by his son Alain in 1963, it was decided to expand the selection to include some Syrah and Mourvedre which was planted on terrain specifically selected for those varietals. Passionate about viticulture, Alain notably contributed to the expansion of the domaine and helped shape the identity of Cristia. In 1999, Baptiste and Dominique joined their father. They brought to the table an expanded vision for the global growth of Domaine de Cristia. They prioritized respecting the land and selecting the best parcels of the greatest quality with a good aging potential. Today, three generations of Grangeons share in the winemaking at Domaine de Cristia and you can find their wines in more than 20 countries around the world.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2014
Vine age: 20-60 years
Bing cherries, strawberries, Asian spices and hints of violets. Medium-bodied, elegant, and deliciously textured. Will drink well for the next 7-8 years.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vielles Vignes” 2015
Vine age: 95 years
Lush, enticing blast of cassis, raspberry, and boysenberry preserve flavors. Silky structure that lets the fruit play out at length, giving adequate time for black tea, singed apple wood, dried anise and fruitcake notes to fill in throughout. Will drink best after 8 years, but can be cellared for the next 20-25 years.
97 points Wine Spectator
Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Renaissance” 2015
Vine Age: Grenache 110 years old/Mourvedre 55 years old
Crushed plum, raspberry and boysenberry fruit flavors, draped with melted licorice notes and backed by a wave of warm fruitcake. Accents of anise, violet and singed apple wood continue throughout. Will drink best after 8 years, but can be cellared for the next 20-25 years.
95 points Wine Spectator
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2016
Vine age: 40 years
Citrus and green apple give way to florality. Medium bodied, clean and pure while juicy and mineral on the pallatte. Can be drank now or will be quite tasty over the next 10 years.
Vieux Telegraphe is another family run winery of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Five Generations of the Brunier family have had a hand in Vieux Telegraphe dating back to the late 19th Century. At Vieux Telegraphe, all winemaking is done by hand and traditional methods of agricultural are utilized to maintain organic practices.
In 1891, in the southeastern portion of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Henri Brunier gifted his son Hippolyte several plots of land. These plots appeared unlikely places for agriculture as they were covered by pebbles and rocky soil; however, Hippolyte had a vision for vineyards and eventually extended the estate to cover 42 acres. These extended lands included that which was home to a signal tower that belonged to Claude Chappe, inventor of the optical telegraph; and thus, named his winery Vieux Telegraphe. Post World War II, Henri Brunier – the second of that name – revived the Domaine by enlarging it to 136 acres. These additional vineyards gave another dimension to the classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In the early 1980s, his two sons, Frédéric and Daniel, took over the estate and have continued growing.
Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2013
Varietals: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, and others
Vine age: avg. 65 years
Savory, mint and incense notes leading the way for silky cherry and raspberry coulis flavors. The finish is lined with subtle tobacco, warm stone and floral hints, ending with a light touch of balsam. Drinks well now through 2026.
92 points Wine Spectator
Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2016
Varietals: Clairette, grenache Blanc, Roussane, Bourboulenc
Vine age: avg. 45 years
Ripe and rich, but focused. Bitter almond and wet stone notes. Creamed yellow apple, pear and melon flavors. Very long, with a gorgeous salted butter echo. Drink now through 2020.
95 points Wine Spectator