2017 Domaine de la Cote de l’Ange Chateauneuf du Pape



During the Great Occidental Schism of the late 14th century, the Catholic church had two Popes.

Now I’m not a Pope but if I were, I’d definitely have a hard time sharing my town with another Pope. So it was that there was a Pope in Rome – with his wine country vacation home of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (so named because of the Pope) and a Pope in Avignon, France – with his pile of, well, rocks: the galet stones of the plateau La Crau.

Now you don’t need to be Catholic (or a Pope) to understand that if you’re going to run a church properly, you need wine. And not just any wine, but really, really good wine. So it was that the pile of rocks out back of Avignon began to be thought about, and considered in viticultural ways.

A million years before the Great Schism, a great flood created what would eventually become the Rhone River. For most of this time, the future-Rhone rushed up onto a plateau and then spilled into the Mediterranean. And on that plateau, called La Crau, these river-washed galet stones settled.

Popes aren’t dumb, and once this one in Avignon finished moving in, he quickly realized that this plateau with its stones was something very special. The plateau gets complete sun exposure, which is great for the grapes Grenache and Syrah. The galet are also exposed to the sun, much of which they reflect back to the underside of the grape leaves. Thus, vines planted in La Crau get double sunlight. Further, the sun-bathed galet stones hold their heat. Which means at night, the vines are still warmed. All of this adds up to wines that are concentrated—doubly rich if you will—with a warm, rounded fruit character.

So the new Pope quickly found a wine worthy of his house and church, naming it after, of course, himself – the new house of the Pope. Or, in short, Chateauneuf du Pape. It’s now the most famous wine-growing region in the southern Rhone. Our example today is Domaine de La Cote de L’Ange – a perfect name for our epistle “the slope of angels.”

The glass opens with a profound expression of blackberries, ripe plums, and currants. Full-bodied on the palate, the fruit flavors seamlessly integrate with touch of savoriness – black pepper, baking spices, and just a hint of bitter chocolate. It’s got enough power to stand up to a robust French country dish such as cassoulet or Andouillettes with garlic aioli, but it also is rounded and mature enough to build and complement the meal, rather than overwhelm it.

It’s no wonder Chateanuef du Pape is such a celebrated place for making delicious wines. If communion wine were this good, we’d all be Catholic!

Critical acclaim:

“93 points.

“The 2017 Chateauneuf-du-Pape checks in as a blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, and the rest Syrah that was destemmed and brought up in a mix of fougre and concrete tanks and tronconique tanks. It’s fresher and focused, with a good mid-palate depth and concentration, as well as classic notes of dark berry fruits, peppery herbs, graphite, and licorice.” – Jeb Dunnuck