Do you ever think to yourself “I would like to be as fancy as the pope?” Good news: wine can help you do that.
Yes, there is a wine that is so wonderful, so regal, that it’s considered the wine of the popes: Châteauneuf du Pape.
Like all French wines, this majestic beverage is named after the region of Châteauneuf du Pape, an area in the Rhone wine region of southeastern France. The name literally translates to “the Pope’s new castle” as Pope Clement V relocated the papacy to the nearby village of Avignon, and successive Avignon popes became enthralled with Bordeaux wines. Pope John XII who came after Clement V helped improve the winegrowing of this area significantly, and also built the castle that became the namesake.
There are some pretty strict rules in this appellation in relation to the viticulture. Only 15 different grape varieties are allowed to be planted, and the vines must reach four years of age before they can be included in the wine. Harvesting must be done entirely by hand as machine harvesting is strictly forbidden.
You can find both a red and white in this region but the blanc is significantly harder to find. The red is robustly fruitful and just about explodes with flavor on the first sip. You can expect notes of raspberry and plum plus a light hint of leather and herbs. This papal gift is rich and full of alcohol so you’ll want to pair with heavily spiced foods, like those that come from Mediterranean cuisines.
On the other hand, the white Châteauneuf du Pape is rare, only making up about 7% of the region’s grapes but they’re worth the hunt. Because of their limited plantings, a white from this region is typically a blend of local grapes, creating a uniquely rich flavor for being a white wine. However, because of this, they age fantastically well and will be ideal with many foods, especially fish, game, and poultry.
There are many, many wines to try from France, particularly from Bordeaux, but if you haven’t gotten your hands on Châteauneuf du Pape yet, you should probably do so. As we get into cooler months, definitely look to the red for a lively addition to those chilly winter nights.
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