The House of the Pope

While once upon a time the emperor may have gotten some new clothes, the pope, specifically Pope John XXII, got a new castle. In the southern Rhône Valley, near the historic walled city of Avignon where Pope John built his medieval manor, is one of France's most well known and acclaimed wine-growing regions: Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Literally translated, Châteauneuf-du-Pape means The Pope's New Castle. While Avignon is known for the Avignon Papacy, where the pope resided from 1306 to 1376 rather than in Rome, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known for its GSM blends; GSM being an acronym for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Grenache is the dominant varietal in CDP (Châteauneuf-du-Pape acronym) but legally 13 different varietals are permitted. Another fun little factoid about CDP is that Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the very first French wine appellation; created in 1936.

Here's the thing though: CDP is expensive. Worth it? Absolutely. Bur pricey for sure. Here's the next thing though: you can drink CDP wine without having to pay CDP prices. And that's precisely what we'll be doing this week. How is this possible you ask? Simple. Drink a GSM (or all 13 varietal) blend from a different commune, town or village right there in the southern Rhône. Places like Gigondas, Vacqueyras or Rasteau. All three of these communes make the same exact style of wine in the same exact climate and weather in pretty much the same exact terroir as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And all three communes are right by the commune of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Often referred to as baby CDP, wines from these villages are just as good; they just can't command the same price point simply because they're not as well known. 

Think of it this way: Charleston is more than just the Peninsula. And even on the Peninsula there are different character traits depending on which street or part you're on. But Mount Pleasant is also "Charleston." James Island: Charleston. Folly Beach: Charleston. IOP (you should know this acronym already), Sullivan's Island, Daniel Island: Charleston. John's Island, Kiawah Island: Charleston. Park Circle: Charleston. You get the point. All these places fall under the Charleston umbrella, but each is unique and has its own personality. Each also has its own price points, for living, visiting, recreational activities, etc. This is how Gigondas, Vacqueyras or Rasteau are in comparison to CDP. All the same, just different.

Of these three places, the furthest away from CDP is Rasteau at a mere 15 miles. So of course the same kinds of grapes grow here in the same climate, etc. And this is how you can get away with drinking CDP but not spending the same amount of money as CDP. Having been cultivated since the 1st century BC and both geographically and stylisticlly closest to CDP, Gigondas is located just north east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the wines can be much the same to those found in CDP. Due south of Gigondas is Vacqueyras, where the Roman colonization allowed the development of vine cultivation in Vacqueyras since the 2nd and 1st century BC. Back to Rasteau to finish, Rasteau is known for using a high percentage of Mourvèdre, giving it a more unique typicity but still in the CDP wheelhouse.

Helping us along on this journey through the southern Rhône Valley is Famille Quiot's Château du Trignon, who produce wine all throughout the southern Rhône including the three baby CDP's, Gigondas, Vacqueyras or Rasteau. All of the wines we'll be trying are current release with both the Gigondas and Vacqueyras being the 2015 vintage and the Rasteau 2016. As far as vintages go, in that part of southern France, CDP and its surrounding wine growing areas, 2015 was considered very good. But 2016... was Exceptional. CAN'T WAIT for that Rasteau!

Of course good years or great years or moderate years, wine is subjective and is open to your personal preference and taste. We're looking forward to hearing your thoughts on which village is your favorite to enjoy and exploring the nuances between them all.

We'll see you there!


The Wine Shop Team

Post Script - Yes, we'll have a White to start with as well. Château du Trignon's Côtes du Rhône Viognier!

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