About this WINE
Chateau la Nerthe
Château la Nerthe is one of the oldest producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The château itself was built in the 18th century, but winery records stretch back as far as 1560.
The Richard family – which also manages various other estates in Beaujolais, Bordeaux and elsewhere in the Rhône – owns the estate. La Nerthe boasts 90 hectares in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, two-thirds of which surround the château, while the final third is located on the famous plateau of La Crau. All the vineyards are farmed organically.
The soils here are a mixture of sandy clay and marl, as well as the typical galets roulés. The property is fortunate to have a natural spring within its grounds, which is incredibly beneficial to the vines in this often drought-prone region.
Although the property has plantings of all 13 of the appellation’s permitted varietals, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah dominate the red blend. The estate has one of the highest proportions of white vines in the region and produces a special white cuvée – Clos de Beauvenir – from the clos directly in front of the château.
Since young and dynamic winemaker Ralph Garcin joined the estate in 2016, small yet significant changes have been made here. Ralph has introduced vinification by plot, investing in smaller fermentation tanks and larger ageing vessels to showcase the quality of the fruit in the cellar. He’s also been making improvements to their viticultural practices, such as introducing organic farming.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest and most important wine appellation in the southern Rhône. It is home to more than 3,200 hectares of vineyards and over 80 growers; more wine is produced in Châteauneuf than the whole of the northern Rhône put together. The vineyards are bounded to the west by the Rhône river and to the east by the A7 autoroute.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first ever Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée established in France, in 1932. Small, rounded rocks from the ancient river bed known as galets roulés are a key aspect of what makes Châteauneuf -du-Pape wines so distinctive, with the rocks reflecting heat back into the vines at night, thus increasing ripeness and reducing acidity.
The gloriously rich red wines, redolent of the heat and herbs of the south, are enhanced by the complexity which comes from blending several grape varieties. Fourteen are permitted for reds: Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Vaccarese, Counoise, Teret Noir, Muscadin, Picpoul Noir, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Picpoul Gris and Picardin. With red Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Grenache typically dominates with Syrah and Mourvèdre in support.
White Châteauneuf-du-Pape is becoming increasingly sought-after, even though it represents less than 10 percent of the total production. Here, five grapes are permitted: Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Picardin.
Recommended Producers: Château de Beaucastel, Clos de Papes, Vieux Télégraphe, Château Rayas,, Domaine de la Charbonnière, Sabon, Château La Nerthe, Domaine Perrin
Southern Rhône Blend
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.
Jeb Dunnuck - 01/03/2017
(Robert Parker - Wine Advocate - Oct 09)