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
White Rhône Blend
In the north, the white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph, and St-Péray are produced from blends of Marsanne and Roussanne. Generally Marsanne is the dominant partner and it lends colour, body and weight to the blend, as well as richly scented fruit. Roussanne, a notoriously low yielder and pernickety to grow, produces intensely aromatic wines which contribute bouquet, delicacy and finesse to the blend.
Until about 15 years ago there was very little interest in southern Rhône whites as it was widely believed that the combination of dull non aromatic grapes and the baking summer heat meant quality wine production was nigh impossible. Since then the quality has improved markedly through the introduction of cool fermentation techniques and increased plantings of northern Rhône white grapes.
The base of many blends is still Grenache Blanc, a widely planted variety producing fresh wines with apple-like fruits, often with hints of aniseed. Ugni Blanc is still found in many blends, as is Clairette though their general lack of character and definition has led to a reduction in plantings. The future for southern Rhône whites appears to lie with Roussanne, Marsanne, and, increasingly, Viognier.
Robert M. Parker, Jr. - 31/10/2012
(Robert Parker - Wine Advocate - Oct 2011)