Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a village located in the southern Rhone Valley, in France. The name, which means "the pope's new castle", refers to the chateau, completed in 1333, that was built just outside Avignon as a summertime residence for Pope John XXII, who, like his predecessor, Pope Clement V, spent a great deal of time in the area and was an ardent admirer of the local wine.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is best known for its reds. Master of wine Jancis Robinson describes the style as "a big, beefy wine with lots of alcohol and extract, with a come hither if slightly bludgeoning approach to the wine drinker". One producer making a stylistically different Châteauneuf is Domaine de Beaurenard, whose wines veer towards elegance and purity and even go well with delicate Japanese dishes. The seventh-generation winery, which dates back to 1695, is now run by brothers Frédéric and Daniel Coulon.
Like other wine producers, the Coulons have felt the direct impact of climate change. Harvest is about 10 days earlier than it was 25 years ago while the alcohol levels in the wine are about 0.5 to 1 per cent higher. One way to mitigate the effects of the warming climate, Frédéric Coulon believes, is to adopt biodynamics. Preparations made from cow dung and silica are used to make vines more resilient. He says a biodynamic approach keeps the wines fresh, preserves harmony and accentuates their minerality. In the cellar, few additives are used, fermentation relies on indigenous yeast and a little sulphur is added after fermentation and before bottling to prevent microbial damage and oxidation.
Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape, white 2014
White Châteauneuf-du-Pape accounts for only 7 per cent of the region's wine production and is often overlooked. Wines can be heavy, a little dull and oxidised. Beaurenard's white is delicious, fresh and vibrant. It's made from 30 per cent clairette for its ethereal floral notes; 20 per cent grenache blanc, for structure and creamy texture; 25 per cent bourboulenc, for acidity; 22 per cent roussanne, which adds apricot and peach aromatics; and a sprinkling of picpoul and picardan.
A summery wine with attractive peach, apricot and floral aromatics. Quite full bodied, round with ripe fruit, a mineral edge and finishing fairly long. HK$388
Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape, red 2012
Châteauneuf-du-Pape permits 13 varieties of grapes. With this wine, the dominant is grenache, with the remaining components being syrah, mourvedre and cinsault.
Black fruit, cinnamon, some licorice and dried herbal notes. Full bodied, tight structure with fine, well-integrated tannins. Good fruit intensity and finishing very long. Elegant and refined. HK$388
Domaine de Beaurenard Rasteau 2011
Rasteau is 20km from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The wine is a blend of 80 per cent grenache and 20 per cent syrah.
Ripe black fruit complemented by savoury, spicy notes and a touch of thyme. Full bodied, good acidity and well balanced. Firm tannins and finishing quite long. HK$178
The wines are available from Watson's Wine www.watsonswine.com