The vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CNDP) are relatively flat and traditionally characterised by the famous and much photographed galets roulés, or large pebbles, which retain heat and assist in the ripening process. Despite the fixation on the stones, the appellation actually possesses a variety of soils.
Unusually for one of France’s great wine regions, CNDP has no official classification system (like the grand and premier cru system of Burgundy) to identify superior vineyard sites. Some domaines have created their own classification by producing special cuvées.
So what can you expect from a good red CNDP? Wine author Andrew Jefford rather poetically describes it: “The best is unique within French wine. A grandly soft wine, deliciously burdened with a sweetness and spice like a cedar whose branches are laden with snow. It’s a wine to welcome drinkers at 2 or 3 years yet its flurry of goosedown tannin and meaty extract will hold two decades at bay.”
Robert Parker gets equally carried away: “Its glorious perfume, which is reminiscent of an open-air produce market in a Provençal hill town, expansive, generous, well-endowed flavours, sumptuous texture, and heady alcohol content evoke an image of hedonism.”
Keeping it simple, I’d describe red CNDP as a rich, round, generous and full-bodied wine that’s spicy and alcoholic. It has the potential to be long-lived and silky, but can still be enjoyed when young and lush. Common flavour descriptors include: cherry, raspberry, kirsch, violets, herbs and black pepper.
Here's a terrific example from Domaine Charvin a small, and highly regarded family estate located in the north of the appellation.
"The 2019 Châteauneuf Du Pape from Laurent is the usual blend of 82% Grenache and the rest nearly equal parts Syrah, Mourvèdre, Vaccarèse, and Counoise that was brought up all in concrete tank. It shows the sunny, spicy, Provençal style of the vintage beautifully while still having incredible freshness in its red and black fruits as well as garrigue, ground pepper, spring flowers, and incense aromas and flavors. Gorgeous on the palate as well, this medium to full-bodied Châteauneuf du Pape is balanced and has terrific tannins, no hard edges, and a great finish. Rhône lovers need to have this beauty in their cellar, and it's going to offer pleasure for a solid two decades."
96 points, Jeb Dunnuck, March 2021.
"Dark fruited but so alive and bright on the nose. Plums, damsons, and their crushed stones. Very rounded and generous this year, it has strong inner architecture to back up the fruit, and a long, structured and textural finish from the stems. Ends proud and mineral. This will be very good indeed when it's ready - structured and fresh enough to stay the course and give complexity when the time comes. 82% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah, 4% Counoise, 4% Vaccarèse. Organically grown at the north-west of the appellation, lieux-dits Cabrières and Maucoil, galets roulés and sand. It's fermented and then aged for 21 months in concrete using indigenous yeasts, then bottled unfiltered. Drinking Window 2026 - 2037."
95 points, Matt Walls, Decanter.