Châteauneuf-du-Pape is essentially, before all, a village in South East France, in Southern Rhone valley between the towns of Orange and Avignon.
Of course, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is famous for its powerful, rich and full-bodied red wines made from the 3 classic southern Rhône grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (the GSM blend).
Although, Châteauneuf is also famous for being one of the rare appellations to allow a huge variety of grape varieties (including red AND white grapes) to be blended together to make red wines.
The appellation of Châteauneuf allows up to 18 different grapes to be used under the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOP regulations.
The Eighteen Grapes of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Up from Thirteen
5 of these 18 grapes are actually very rare and hardly used except in very small quantities at some wineries that happen to have small plots of it remaining from an old tradition or working at reviving them.
The original legal text of the AOC Chateauneuf du Pape dating back to 1936 only allowed 13 grapes. The 5 rare ones were added in a recent amendment in 2009.
This is why you will generally hear people talk about Chateauneuf as having 13 grape varieties allowed, even though there are now 18.
Watch the 18 Grapes of Chateauneuf explained in Video
What grapes are in Chateauneuf du Pape?
Those 18 grape varieties are:
- The Mainstream grapes
- Mourvèdre (those 3 making the majority of most wines in reality), but also:
- Other allowed red grapes
- Counoise: the only other red grape to be used here in significant quantity, the other generally representing small proportions in blends
- Picpoul Noir
- Terret Noir
- Authorised white grapes
- Grenache Blanc
- The 5 very rare grapes that are allowed:
- Clairette Rosé
- Grenache Gris
- Picpoul Blanc
- Picpoul Gris
The red and white blend of grapes of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Although blends vary from winery to winery, and from cuvée to cuvée Grenache is dominant in the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It is virtually used in every Châteauneuf red wine, as a predominant feature or not, and many are made entirely from it.
Grenache enjoys the dry and warm climate of Southern Rhone, providing wines with a full-bodied texture, a juicy fruitiness often with some jammy notes and high level of alcohol.
The next most important grape varieties after Grenache are Syrah and Mourvèdre, forming the famous GSM blend, the backbone of most Chateauneuf wines.
Syrah tends to be grown on cooler sites as it doesn’t like heat and drought as much as Grenache. Syrah brings tannic density and structure to the Rhone blends, as well as its typical black pepper spicy flavors. and spiced black-fruit notes to the blend. Late-ripening, sun-loving flourishes only in the hotter, drier vineyards, and adds dark depths and bitter-chocolate notes.
Mourvèdre is a late-ripening grape that needs abundance of sunshine to reach its full potential. Generally speaking, only the old to very old vines of Mourvèdre make it to the top Chateauneuf cuvées (Vieilles Vignes). Grown on some of the driest vineyards, it adds tone of earthy characters, dark and bitter tones of licorice and roasted cocoa.
White grapes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape make the white wines on the appellation (locally called Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc) but sometimes find their way into the red blends, providing acidity and taming down the powerful enthusiasm of Grenache in particular.
White wine grape varieties of Chateauneuf include primarily Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc.
The 5 rare grapes that are allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape but hardly ever used except for some wineries that still have some old vineyards from an old tradition of viticulture, or working at reviving them, are:
- Clairette Rosé: the pink cousin to the white Clairette (the grape making the famous Clairette de Die sparkling wines in the Rhone)
- Grenache Gris: the grey/pinkish version of Grenache
- Picardan: a rare white grape variety.
- Picpoul Blanc: the flavorsome white grape also famously behind the Picpoul de Pinet in Languedoc
- Picpoul Gris: the grey-skinned sister of the white Picpoul.
How to Pronounce Châteauneuf-du-Pape (French Pronunciation)
Watch the video below and listen to the correct typical French pronunciation, learn how to say Chateauneuf du Pape with the right accent:
The Terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Climate and soils
The climate of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is obviously Mediterranean, dry and warm with hot summers and mild winters.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known for being the driest of all Rhône appellations. Irrigation is not allowed by the French AOC/AOP laws, so growers must encourage their vines to develop deep root systems to find water.
This encourages the concentrated expression of Chateauneuf terroir into the wines.
Soils in Châteauneuf-du-Pape vary from vineyard to vineyard, but always including important proportions of pebbles and sand deposited in geological times by the Rhone river.
The typical and famous Châteauneuf vineyard everyone has is mind is one covered with large round pebbles known as galets roulés (rolled pebbles eroded from being dragged by a flowing river).
What does Chateauneuf mean in English?
Or, why the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape?
The name Châteauneuf-du-Pape literally means the “new castle of the Pope“.
Indeed, during the 14th Century, the city of Avignon, close to Châteauneuf was chosen as the new home for the Pope of the Catholic Church as he needed to be relocated from Rome.
The Pope back then was Clement V, one who is also famous for having given his name to the Château Pape Clément in the Graves/Péssac-Léognan area of Bordeaux.
Another notable fact is that the official Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation regulations was one of France’s very first AOC to be declared, back in 1929.
What does Chateauneuf du Pape taste like?
Chateauneuf wines are deep in color and intense in flavors. Grenache imprints a wealth of red berry and cooked fruit characters, plum and prune, cooked apples, and cherry liqueur. While the Syrah and Mouvedre add notes of black pepper, sweet spices and earthy tones to the aromatic profile.
What is the best Chateauneuf du Pape?
The best Chateauneuf du Pape wines include:
- Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf Reserve
- Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee
- Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe ‘La Crau’
- Chateau de Beaucastel Grande Cuvee Hommage a Jacques Perrin
- Henri Bonneau Reserve des Celestins
- Domaine du Pegau Cuvee da Capo
- Domaine de la Janasse Cuvee Vieilles Vignes
- Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- Chateau Rayas Pignan Reserve
- Domaine Saint Prefert Collection Charles Giraud
- Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Roussanne Vieilles Vignes (white chateauneuf)
- Domaine de la Janasse Cuvee Chaupin
- Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- Domaine Pierre Usseglio et Fils Cuvee de Mon Aieul
Here are what are generally considered the best vintages of Chateauneuf du Pape of the past decades: 2016, 2015, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1985, 1981, 1978, 1970 and 1961.
Chateauneuf wines are generally age-worthy wines that can age well for up to 20 to 25 years if not more for great years/ They reach their peak of quality at around 10 years of age, say between 8 and 12 years of life.
Watch the Vineyard Landscapes of Mas de Boislauzon (Chateauneuf Winery) in Video