We recently took a side trip to Chateauneuf du Pape. Now Slotovino is devoted to Diversity and Chateauneuf du Pape is an Appellation permitting no less than 13 different grape varieties;
Grenache (first and foremost as depicted in the middle above)
The order is taken from the above poster reading from left to right with Grenache first in pride of place. We assume this order reflects the proportions or importance of the varieties in the blend. In practise, the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape consist of only a few of these varieties. Indeed there are only three producers who make use of all 13 and they are not altogether the best wines from there.
We bought the poster in Ch. du Pape by the way, enchanted by the particularly French whimsy of the title 'La Symphonie des 13 cepages' which tells you not only how elevated they regard their wines and with what occasional dubious taste but also how serious they are about music which is to say not very.
Entering the village of Chateauneuf du Pape there are signs to the Chateau itself so that is where we headed. Having parked we tottered down the hill to the first tasting room where the following amusing scene took place.
A very well-informed person with perfect English was giving a tasting to a group of polite Americans. This girl was what the late Eric Newby would have called 'saucy'. She was charming but decisive so when we asked her whether anyone made any of the 13 Cepages by themselves she replied
"Ah non. On ne s'amuse pas de cette facon!"
We thought this quite hilarious. It summarised so much about the ethos of Chateauneuf du Pape. We took it just a little further by asking if the winemakers were to blend these grapes they would have to know what they tasted like so wouldn't it be nice if we could share that information?
This produced a treasurable expression of gallic contempt.
While we were doing a little tasting ourselves the following exchange took place between our saucy hostess and a lady from the American group;
S.H. You know, Chateauneuf du Pape is one of only two wines allowed to include white grapes as well as red in the blend.
A.L (genuinely puzzled). ALLOWED?
S.H. That is right. The other wine allowed to do this is in the Northern Rhone.
What a perfect illustration of the gap between Old World and New! the American Lady could not conceive of a situation where something as harmless as the choice of grapes to make a wine could be forbidden and the French person could not conceive of anyone not understanding thet there HAD to be rules. Vaut le voyage even if the wine we happened to taste did not.
Of course there is marvellous wine made in Chateauneuf even if it is on the high end of the alcohol spectrum. The terroir must be one of the most instantly recognisable - see the massive pebbles which characteristically form the surface of the vineyard as our picture above.
Having researched Chateauneuf before our visit we thought it a good idea to take a look at the biggest wine shop in the village. The one we chose is called 'Les Caves du Sud' and boasts an Arinarnoa on its list; one variety not allowed in Chateauneuf du Pape but available there in a monocepage bottling from a producer not far away.
The shop was closed (on a Saturday morning) but with the kind assistance of a neighbour we tracked down the charming M. Parisot who had been making a collection or delivery and who joined us some minutes later.
We asked for the Arinarnoa and he said he didn't have any. We must have looked very crestfallen indeed because he produced two hampers with all kinds of goodies under cellophane each with a bottle of Arinarnoa. He kindly extracted these and let us have them for 5 Euros apiece.
We bought a few other things and M. Parisot agreed to a discount and threw in a bottle to boot. Nice man!
In fact the Arinarnoa, a Merlot/Petit Verdot cross, was a disappointment. Certainly the wine was over the hill which is probably why M. Parisot hadn't remembered that he had any when we first asked for it but one bottle was better than the other and we had the opportunity to have an impression of what Arinarnoa might be up to. The impression is that this might not be much but we see it is grown as far afield as the Lebanon as mentioned in our post on Emerging Regions on July 6th this year (Chateau Ksara 'Le Souverain').
The name of this grape which one could be forgiven for thinking might be Malagash is in fact Basque for 'Light Grape', the original begetter being a Basque gentleman, Pierre Marcel Durquéty. On this evidence, Arinarnoa is not destined for the Slotovino Hall of Fame.