Chateau de Vaudieu Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2017
A philosopher's wine, without compromise. A vintage of long guard, of extreme depth, powerful, dense and racy. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, this wine always reflects the vintage in the final blend not only in its expression of the 40-70 year-old vines on the property but in the exact percentages of each variety present.
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Ripe and forward, with raspberry and blackberry puree flavors gliding through atop a silky structure, while anise, fruitcake and black tea notes swirl around. Moderate grip keeps this balanced.
The full-bodied 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape is a pleasure-giving mouthful of wine, a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre. Tasted on two different occasions (once blind), I scored it consistently, although one occasion I found it more tannic. Cherry and black raspberry fruit abounds; the tannins are ripe and silky in texture; and the finish lingers, adding hints of crushed stone and brine. I noted chocolate on one occasion, which makes me think it might not be terribly long-lived, so my aging estimate is conservative.
Located about a five minute drive outside the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape along the road which leads to Courthezon you will find Chateau de Vaudieu. It is one of three 18th century Chateaux located in the appellation, tucked into a small valley surrounded by hills and plateau. It is at the intersection of several major terroirs: sandy soils to the north, along a border it shares with Chateau Rayas (one of the best wines in Chateauneuf-du-Pape but not actually a Chateau), pale limestone and clays centered around a forested hillock, and two large plateaux of the somewhat overexposed galets. In total there are 70 hectares within one contiguous estate – something very rare in the appellation.
Famous for its full-bodied, seductive and spicy reds with flavor and aroma characteristics reminiscent of black cherry, baked raspberry, garrigue, olive tapenade, lavender and baking spice, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the leading sub-appellation of the southern Rhône River Valley. Large pebbles resembling river rocks, called "galets" in French, dominate most of the terrain. The stones hold heat and reflect it back up to the low-lying gobelet-trained vines. Though the galets are typical, they are not prominent in every vineyard. Chateau Rayas is the most obvious deviation with very sandy soil.
According to law, eighteen grape varieties are allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and most wines are blends of some mix of these. For reds, Grenache is the star player with Mourvedre and Syrah coming typically second. Others used include Cinsault, Counoise and occasionally Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picquepoul Noir and Terret Noir.
Only about 6-7% of wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape is white. Blends and single-varietal bottlings are typically based on the soft and floral Grenache Blanc but Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne are grown with some significance.
The wine of Chateauneuf-du-Pape takes its name from the relocation of the papal court to Avignon. The lore says that after moving in 1309, Pope Clément V (after whom Chateau Pape-Clément in Pessac-Léognan is named) ordered that vines were planted. But it was actually his successor, John XXII, who established the vineyards. The name however, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, translated as "the pope's new castle," didn’t really stick until the 19th century.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre form the base of the classic Rhône Red Blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. Though they originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley, with some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in other countries. Somm Secret—Putting their own local spin on the Rhône Red Blend, those from Priorat often include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.