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Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
Chateauneuf-du-Pape, an AOC in France’s Southern Rhone Valley, is the only wine in the world which is blended from up to thirteen different grape varieties. This rule applies to both the red and the white versions. One producer, Chateau du Beaucastel, tends to use all thirteen varieties, but most opt for a core blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvedre.

Grenache brings rich, opulent, flashy strawberry fruit to the mix. Syrah, the grape of the noble Hermitage and Cote Rotie of the Northern Rhone, adds finesse, depth, structure, and deep, brooding, sometimes peppery flavors. Cinsault adds fruity aromatics and suppleness; while Mourvedre brings earthiness, intense blackberry fruit and tannins for structure.

The vineyards are planted on both sides of the Rhone River here, as they are in the Northern Rhone. The environment couldn’t be more different, though. Rather than the traditional hillside trellis used in the north, grapevines here are trained low to the flat ground. Four foot tall trellises wouldn’t have a chance against the blustering Mistral winds from the northwest. Another reason the vines are trained low is to benefit from the heat-giving properties of the rocks, or caillou, which cover the ground. These rocks are so plentiful that they hide the topsoil. Long after the sun sets, these rocks are warming up the vines, giving them extra ripening time. They also serve as excellent drainage during the rainy season.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is in the geographical heart of the large southern Rhône sector. It produces the finest and most expensive wine from the southern Rhône. The character of wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape can vary considerably. Negociant Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are often lighter, easy drinking wines. Styles will even vary among quality minded estates, due to the differing proportions of grape varieties in use. Producers who blend significant amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre will produce wines of deeper color, richer tannins, and fuller body than will those that a very high proportion of Grenache.

Small amounts of white varieties are commonly used to add perfumed aromas. In short, Châteauneuf-du-Pape comes in all sorts of hues, with delicate red fruit to deeper black fruit flavors and varying amounts of spiciness. These wines are generally less fleshy, rich or long-lived than the northern Syrah-based wines. However, they more readily show a deep minerality that appropriately reflects the barren, rock-strewn landscape from which they come. (Wine/Appellations)