Wine of the pope does France proud

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Infallible wine: Chateauneuf du Pape, otherwise known as "wine of the pope," is produced in the Southern Rhone region of France . | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the focal point of France’s Southern Rhone region and just north of the former papal city of Avignon. French Pope Clement V moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon in early 14th century after rising tensions between Italy and the King of France. As with successive popes, he had an interest planting vines near their summer estate in the village of Chateauneuf. Pope John XXII is credited with expanding this initiative by building a chateau and cultivating the Chateauneuf vineyards to supply wine to the papal residence. This wine was first recognized as the “wine of the pope” and later designated as “Chateauneuf-du-Pape”.

The weather in this region is influenced by the strong cold winds of mistral, which pass through the Rhone valley to the coast. The soils consist of large, rounded stones called “galets,” which absorb the plentiful heat during the day and then transfer it to the grapes at night. There are 13 grape varietals in the Southern Rhone region but the dominant variety has always been Grenache. Syrah is the mainstay in Northern Rhone.

Domaine de Senechaux is one of the oldest vineyards in this region with 60 acres dedicated to red grapes and a modest seven acres to white. In 2006, the domain was purchased and revitalized by Jean-Michel Cazes of Chateau Lynch Bages fame in Bordeaux. The 2009 Domaine des Senaechaux Chateaneuf-du-Pape is a blend of 64 percent Grenache and 20 percent Syrah with the remaining Mourvedre and other grapes. Under the guidance of the Cazes family, it has achieved a new world richness while retaining the traditional structure of a classic Chateauneuf. The garnet color opens to a seductive nose of ripened raspberries, violets and wild strawberries. There are elements of crushed cherries and spring flowers intermingled with a fruitcake spice while the ripe tannins give it superb finish. This memorable accomplishment should serve as a benchmark for other wines within this region.

Suggested Retail: $43.99

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.