About this WINE
Chateau la Nerthe
Château la Nerthe is a stunning, 500-year-old property that has become a ‘one to watch’ over the past few years. Working organically since 1998, its range of 57 parcels on various soil types and expositions produces a seamless and complete expression of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – marked by a wonderful complexity. The noticeable care taken in both the vineyard and cellar has, over the past few years, resulted in seriously impressive wines. This property is, in every way, a worthy rival to the likes of Château de Beaucastel.
Winemaker Rémi Jean is as inspiring as the terroir itself – his understanding of the multiple plots on this complex property and meticulous attention to detail is impressive. In 2020, he comments that, despite the ‘easier’ vintage, La Nerthe’s viticultural team was especially vigilant, carefully surveying plot by plot to anticipate certain interventions.
The remarkable terroir at Château la Nerthe allows this estate to produce beautiful wines, year-in, year-out. The mix of rocky, clay and sandy soils with the natural springs at the property imbue the wines with a wonderful freshness and minerality. Rémi talks about how Grenache gives his red blends “magic”, Mourvèdre brings complexity and Syrah the structure. The very special top white cuvée, Clos de Beauvenir, comes from a single, walled plot: an old castle garden right in front of the historic château.
Côtes du Rhône
Classified in 1937, Côtes du Rhône is an enormous appellation encompassing red, white and rosé wines covering an area of 40,300 ha and producing a crop that is 3 times larger than Beaujolais and almost as much as Bordeaux. Although this wine can come from across the Rhône region, more than 90% comes from the south. With the honourable exception of those produced by famous northern names like Jaboulet and Guigal, the finest examples are made in the south.
Red wine dominates, made with a minimum of 40% Grenache (except in the north where Syrah is allowed to be top dog) normally partnered by Syrah and/or Mourvèdre; another 18 varieties are also permitted. Typically light and fruity, the best examples can be rich, spicy and full-bodied. Almost all are best drunk young.
Quality varies from the very ordinary to the exceptional. Much is produced by cooperatives but the best come from the increasing number of individual estates and Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers like Beaucastel who produce premium entry wines here. White and rosé Côtes du Rhônes account for only 2% and 4% respectively, although both can be very good.
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.