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Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the largest and, undoubtedly, the most beloved appellation in Southern France. With an impressive ‘3,200 hectares of vineyards and over 80 growers’ I was rather excited to experience my first ever wine tasting in the commune.
At the tasting we were presented with three glasses of Cheateauneuf-du-pape, one white and two red. It was at this point that I found out that a Chateauneuf-du-Pape can contain up to 13 different grape varieties! Whilst the main grapes used in the blend are Grenache (W), Syrah (R) and Mourvedre (R). To the left is a picture of the other 10 french grapes.
Before I impart the wines that we tasted with you, I want to first share a few tricks of the connoisseur trade. Our Sommelier was called Gael and he told us about the three ways of tasting wine. Eyes. Nose. Mouth.
Our eyes are important as they can assume the age of the wine. If a white wine is a young wine then it will have a green tinge around the edge of the glass, if a red wine is a young wine it will have an orange tinge around the edge of the glass. As a white wine ages the tinge around the glass becomes more golden and for a red the tinge has more hues of purple. The best way to observe the age of the wine is to hold your wine glass against a white background so the tinge is visible.
With our eyes we can also assume the body of the wine. You may have heard people talk about the legs on a wine, in France these legs are called tears. They are produced by swilling the wine (red or white) in the glass. If the wine has body then a ring of wine will remain on the glass long after the wine has been swilled. The ring will then start to run down the glass and these are known as tears (or legs). The slower the tears move down the glass, the more body we can assume the wine has.
Who knew you could learn so much from a wine without even tasting it!
Our nose identifies the aroma of the wine. The nose on a young wine is known as an aroma, on an aged wine it is known as a bouquet. Gael told us that the best way to identify an aroma is to tip the glass towards yourself, push your nose into the glass and inhale deeply. The wide rim at the top of the glass allows oxygen to the wine which in return releases a bolder aroma.
Now for everyone’s favourite part… tasting the wine!
The way to sample the best flavour and aroma when tasting wine is to whistle in air while you taste. We found this technique a little tricky at first and there was some coughing and spluttering before we got the hang of it but it really work. The flavours became much more intensified!
Better still it wasn’t just wine that we were tasting, we sampled chocolate too. Chocolate with very unusual flavours. For the white and the first red we tried lavender chocolate, for both reds we sampled thyme which I must say was a pleasant surprise. The thyme really complimented the tannins in the red whilst the lavender balanced the acidity of the white.
So now that you now the art behind tasting here are a few sentences about the wines that we tasted. Our first wine was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, a rather young wine having been bottled in 2013. It has balanced acidity and beautiful flavours of peach and stone fruit. The first red was a slightly more aged wine, bottled in 2011. This wine worked well with both chocolates as it had prominent notes of cherry and juicy black fruit. There was an earthiness to this wine and a slight hint of spice and pepper. The final red bottled in 2008 and was a superb vintage. There were still cherry and black fruit notes but the spice and black pepper was much more prominent. The tannins in this wine were well structured and gave the wine a well balanced acidity.
The winery itself was gorgeous. Each and every grape in the vineyards are hand harvested and grown organically. Pure class.