A White Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Out from the stones...

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vineyard

Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard in French white wine country

The stones are said to improve the wine's taste.

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Rhône Valley region of southeastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review one the area’s best-known wines, a white Châteauneu-du-Pape that comes from some of the stoniest vineyards you’ll ever see.

The Rhône Valley ranks second in acreage among France’s eleven wine-growing regions. Really we are talking about two separate areas whose wines tend to be quite different. The narrow northern Rhône Valley produces only a small fraction of the Rhône wines. Its major red grape is Syrah, and its major white variety is Viognier. Traditionally wines in the southern Rhône Valley are blended. For example, both the red and the white Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC wine may include over a dozen different grape varieties. The white Châteauneuf-du-Pape reviewed below includes four varieties, White Grenache, Rousssane, Bourbuolenc, and Clairette. With the exception of Roussane, these are not considered particularly high-quality grapes. Many of the other permitted varieties are also pedestrian grapes. And yet Châteauneuf-du-Pape is considered a fine wine. You will never see it on a $10 wine list. Only once in a while you will see it on a $15 wine list.

The village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is home to about two thousand people and some very well-known French wines. during the Fourteenth Century seven French Popes made their home in nearby Avignon and they got their table wine from the town named new castle of the pope. You may want to visit the Musée des Outils de Vignerons Père Anselme (The Father Anselm Museum of Winemakers Tools) or the ruins of the Château. The nearby city of Orange has a great Roman theatre and even an Arc de Triomphe, much less visited than its Parisian namesake.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape in French white wine country

Before reviewing the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Soupe de Lentilles Provençale (Provencale Lentil Soup). For your second course savor Pates aux Coquillages (Seafood Pasta). And as dessert indulge yourself with Fougassette (Sweet Bread with Orange Flower Water).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Fiole Blanc 13% about $22.50

Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Pale gold; aromas of mineral and grapefruit, crisp and dry with a mineral flavor. Serving Suggestion: Serve with fish or seafood.

In the first sips I tasted honey and minerals. The wine was mildly sweet. The first pairing was with a Middle-Eastern dish called kube (or kibbe) consisting of ground beef in jackets made of crushed wheat, slow-cooked in a peppery tomato sauce. The wine tasted of grapefruit. It was nicely long and fairly powerful.

My next meal centered around a barbecued chicken breast in a caramelized sauce accompanied by potato salad and a Moroccan style tomato salsa with garlic that wasn’t very spicy. The wine was sweet like many a Riesling. It went well with the chicken’s sweetness. The acidity was light but increased as the meal went on. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s predominant flavor was grapefruit. In the presence of a sweet but acidic, high-quality French style lemon pie the wine was round but weak.

The final meal was broiled salmon filet in a soy and honey sauce with brown rice and zucchini cooked in tomatoes. The soft acidity of the wine was a great compliment to the softness of the fish. Once again grapefruit came out with the rice and zucchini combo. The wine’s acidity paired well with the acidity of the tomatoes.

The first cheese was a Mozzarella. The wine was round, forceful, and frankly wasted. With a yellow Cheddar the wine was fairly tasteless. It just didn’t hold up to this fairly weak cheese.

Final verdict. I would buy this wine again but carefully watch what I pair it with. Never again would it be wasted with a pedestrian cheese. My idea of a great wine evening might be this white Châteauneuf-du-Pape with salmon fillet followed by a red Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a leg of lamb or roast duck. And live a bit like those French Popes almost seven hundred years ago.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine websites include
www.theworldwidewine.com    and    http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com

Visit his website devoted to Italian travel www.travelitalytravel.com

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