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M. Chapoutier Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Bernardine Blanc 2000
The history of the Chapoutier family stretches back to the early nineteenth century when current owner Michel Chapoutier’s great-, great-, great-grandfather Marius purchased an estate and some vineyards in the now famous village of Tain l’Hermitage in the Northern Rhône Valley. Marius Chapoutier made history in the region when he became the first grape grower there to vinify his own fruit. Marius had tasted wines other winemakers produced using his fruit and he realized that something was lost in translation, so to speak. He knew that he owned some of the best growing sites in the appellation and he believed — rightly — that the grapes grown in his vineyards could produce long-lived world-class wines. In a move unusual at the time, he decided that he should make the wine himself. Not only did the quality of the wines increase greatly, but this move provided the capital to expand the Chapoutiers’ already legendary estate.
A visionary and pioneer in biodynamic winemaking, his restless energy and unconditional commitment to quality have produced tremendous success, with the most 90+ point ratings of all Rhône producers and 16 "100 point" rated wines.
Famous for its full-bodied, seductive and spicy reds with flavor and aroma characteristics of silky black cherry, baked raspberry, garrigue, olive tapenade, lavender and baking spice, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the leading sub-appellation of the southern Rhone 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 Cinsaut, 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.
Full-bodied and flavorful, Rhône white blends are made in France’s Rhone Valley and beyond, proving most successful in Spain, Australia, South America, and California’s Central Coast. They are made from a combination of two or more of the white varieties permitted in the Rhône, potentially including Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier.
In the Glass
Each variety brings something different to the table. Round, textural Grenache Blanc contributes green apple and white stone fruit flavors; weighty Marsanne adds structure and delicate honeysuckle aromas; russet-colored Roussanne lends intriguing herbal, tea-like notes, and Viognier provides an oily texture and an elegant floral perfume. The flavor of the final wine will depend on the chosen components of the blend and their respective proportions.
Since Rhône white blends tend to be fairly full-bodied, they can be quite versatile food pairing wines and can work with light to medium rich meals that might normally be matched with reds. Meatier fish dishes with bold seasoning like grilled swordfish with caper butter or baked, herb-crusted mahi mahi are natural allies for these flavorful wines. Other ideal dishes include roast pork in mustard sauce, poached lobster with beurre blanc, or a rich and savory vegetable quiche. `
In the Northern Rhône, blends of Marsanne and Roussanne are most common, in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, and St-Péray (in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, whites are made from Viognier only). The Southern Rhône, on the other hand, has much more variety, with many more permitted grapes including Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picpoul Blanc, and Ugni Blanc.