Say the word Chateauneuf and some wine drinkers will simply swoon. I don't know what it is about this stuff, but it drives some people mad, like Joseph Fiennes walking into a girls school gymnasium. It's tasty stuff, I'll give them that, and when it's well made, you will have a hard time finding a better wine to go with food of all sorts.
Part of Chateauneuf du Pape's mystery is due to the alchemy of its blending, closely guarded secrets by Southern Rhone producers, who are allowed to use something like 14 different varietals according to the rules of the appellation. Most common, and in order of their usual proportion (greatest to least): Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul and Terret Noir.
Chateau Cabrieres is located on higher ground, just to the north of the town which gives this appellation its name, and has stood there for the better part of five centuries, making it one of the oldest estates in the region. Amazingly, the property itself is predated by the use of the land to grow grapes, which apparently have been planted in this soil since 1344, shortly after the Pope moved into town for a while, resulting in everything being named "the new chateau of the pope" (and the rest is history). Cabrieres' current vines are around 40 to 60 years old, and continue to thrive in the flint-rich soil that housed their predecessors.
Cabrieres makes relatively small quantities of their wines, bottling two wines classified as Chateauneuf du Papes and using the remainder to produce a Cotes Du Rhone. They are also one of the few producers of white Chateauneuf du Pape, which they make from Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picpoul (again), and Rousanne. The latter is the only one that most folks (including myself) have ever heard of.
This wine, like most fine Chateauneuf du Papes is blended after each of the grapes have been separately fermented, and the final product is then aged in French oak barrels for 12 months before being transferred to a larger oak barrel for another 18 to 24 months before bottling.
A fine medium ruby in the glass this wine has a rich nose of earth, black tea, and bacon fat, wile on the palate it is dominated by herbal, black cherry, and raspberry flavors and tannins so velvety smooth that you almost don't want to swallow. The wine is nicely balanced and seems to shift its flavors, making it hard to pin down - at one moment redcurrant, at another rosehips. The finish is very nice.
Dominated by Grenache, this wine sits in a good middle ground that can easily accompany lighter fare as well as more substantial foods. I think it would be fabulous with a simple tomato and onion tart.
Overall Score: 9/9.5
How Much?: $40
This wine isn't that easy to find, but if you search around you can locate some. In the Bay Area (of over the Internet), Premier Cru carries the stuff.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse The Zinfandel Experience: January 31, San Francisco Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015 Vinography Images: The Colors of a New Season Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 2014 Vinography Images: Rich Skies Losing a Legend in Serge Hochar Flirting with the Ecstatic: The Wines of Nikolaihof, Austria Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014 A Grape By Any Other Name
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune