Hospice du Rhône: Châteauneuf-du-Pape Masterclass

Hospice du Rhône: The Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape

Hospice du Rhône: The Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape – with 400 Châteauneuf du Pape lovers!

I gave this seminar at the Hospice du Rhône event in 2017 in Paso Robles. This non-profit organization has been an incredible supporter of Rhône varieties from around the globe, and I continue to think it’s one of the best wine events in the World.

The title of this seminar was “The Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape”, and I put the wines together with the idea to show the differences between rolled stones terroirs and sandy terroirs, as well as highlight the differences between traditional and modern wine making techniques.

The Wines

I started the tasting with the 2010 Château de la Font du Loup Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as I always find this cuvee one of the more delicate and elegant wines from the appellation. It’s also all from a sandy, cool terroir located on the eastern side of the region. The 2010 vintage showed and it’s a surprisingly concentrated, rich cuvee from this estate that offered lots of kirsch and spice, with fine tannin. The 2012 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Trois Sources is also all from sandy soils, but it’s a bigger, richer wine that’s loaded with notions of licorice and more black/blue fruits. The 2012 vintage is a charming, forward one, and this was drinking beautifully. I loved the 2012 Domaine de Cristia Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes and this 100% Grenache (from seriously old vines and sandy soils) was signing.  Probably the best showing I’ve had from this wine (and the vintage), it possesses killer depth and richness, with a sexy, layered texture. I may have drunk this glass during the seminar.

I chose the next four wines to highlight classic, traditional Châteauneuf du Papes. The 2010 Domaine Bois de Boursan Châteauneuf-du-Pape was surprisingly closed (bottles from my cellar are much more open), yet still had plenty of garrigue and saddle leather aromatics. It needs 2-3 years of bottle age. The 2010 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau is about as classic as they come. Dark fruits, lots of minerality, ripe herbs and licorice all emerge from this full-bodied, ripe beauty. The 2012 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée showed the suppler style of the vintage, yet has plenty of concentration, lots of fruit, saddle leather and garrigue aromatics and terrific balance. It’s better than the 2006, but a step back from the 2009 and 2010. The 2012 Clos du Mont-Olivet Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Cuvée du Papet is brought up mostly in foudre and sees much more whole cluster than the base cuvee. The idea with this is make a more structured, age-worthy wine, and they succeed. Firm, angular and tannic, yet with terrific mid-palate depth, don’t open a bottle before 2020.

Jeb Dunnuck

Jeb Dunnuck

The final four wines kicked off with the 2011 Le Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Réserve (60/40 Grenache and Mourvèdre) and it was surprisingly open and ready to go. In general, the 2011s are charming and ready to go. Kirsch, orange blossom, candied cherries and lots of spice dominate this medium to full-bodied red. It’s not going to be the longest-lived vintage for this cuvee, but it’s one sexy drink.

The 2012 Domaine de la Mordorée Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de la Reine des Bois is one of the more serious, structured wines in the vintage. I was thrilled to pour this wine and a I read aloud a quote from now deceased winemaker Christophe Delorme, which I had saved from a mailer. The title of the mailer was “The love of a job well done”, and stated the following concerning his view on winemaking:

“It is certainly hard to accept for others, but I cannot bear not doing everything possible to obtain the best wines. In my case, it’s more a state of mind, it is a philosophy of life and it is called the love of a job well done. Never give up, care for every detail, even when they have no immediate effect, constantly question what you are doing, and always believe there is a better way, without losing sight of the core values of your winery, based on truly sustainable agriculture.” – Christophe Delorme

The 2012 showed beautifully, with firm tannin, impressive concentration and the classic black fruits, pencil lead and minerality of the estate. Give it another 2-3 years.

I finished the tasting with the 2010 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, and it didn’t disappoint. A great, great wine, with blockbuster aromas and flavors, this beauty fills your mouth with fruit, yet it’s never heavy, over the top or cumbersome. I’d happily drink bottles any day over the coming two decades.

All in all, I felt the wines showed well and I certainly had a terrific time at the tasting!