This Chateauneuf-du-Pape Pops
Every famous wine appellation has a story behind it. This one basically boils down to a tug-of-war, political rather than theological, between Italy and France as to control of the Church. From 1378 to 1417, two clashing clergyman, John XXII and Clement V, claimed to be the true Pope. John XXII unknowingly gave his name to the most famous red wine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, literally, new castle of the pope, when he built himself a summer home near Avignon in southern France. Nowadays, only bottles sporting the papal coat-of-arms on the neck of the bottle can be used. The appellation’s best vineyards lie in the hills north of the ruins of the papal palace. The soil, or lack of it, is legendary. Some vineyards, the ones that tend to be shown in pictures, are covered in a layer of fist-sized stones. The vast majority of vineyards, however, are a combination of various soil types of clay and sand and surface rocks. Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be a vinous cocktail, blending up to thirteen allowed grape varieties. The signature blend of every producer will emphasize spice versus tannins versus aging ability, or whatever the producer thinks will make his or her wine stand out. Ferraton Pere & Fils is an iconic Rhone Valley producer. Their 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah blend spends 20 days fermenting and then another 12-15 months in oak barriques. Brilliant garnet in colour, on the nose we get complex aromas of sour cherry and plum. We encounter silky tannins, long in the mouth, with further notes of leather and spice. Respected rater Jeb Dunnick gave it 92-94 points. Dark meats such as lamb, venison or roast duck will pair perfectly.