Situated on the left bank of the Rhône, to the north of the beautiful city Avignon (the former summer residence of many popes), Châteauneuf ( ± 3,000 hectares) was, along with Tavel, the first region of origin in the Rhône Valley to be granted AOC status, in 1936. This is no coincidence, as the system of quality control was developed in 1923 by a group of winemakers from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, led by Baron le Roy. One of the strict conditions for Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the requirement that the grapes must be picked by hand and that the maximum yield is 35 hl/ha (which is between 11 and 25 hl/ha less than what is allowed in the Bordeaux).
Although red wine accounts for 94% of total production, the whites are no less interesting. The vineyards are situated around the village of the same name and in the adjacent municipalities Courthézon, Bédarrides and Sorgues, and in the direction of the city of Orange. There is considerable variation in the terroir. In the north, the relatively sandy soil produces wines that are lighter and more sophisticated, with a more herbal aroma. The soil in the south has considerably more clay and stones (essential for water management and the maturation of late ripening varieties such as grenache noir), and the wines produced here are fuller and have a more robust structure. The chalky soil in the west produces mainly white wines.
A red Châteauneuf may be made from between 1 and 13 different grape varieties (red and white). There are also differences in style and quality. In addition to traditionally produced, high-extract wines, which have great aging potential, we are now also seeing more modern production techniques, resulting in fruitier wines that are accessible when young, but cannot be kept for as long.
In view of the wide range of Châteauneuf-du-Pape available in the Netherlands, I have narrowed my focus and more or less limited my own selection to one domain. The organic winegrower Pierre Andre in Courthézon produces well-developed, traditionally-made wines that are well worth taking the time to discover.