Picture: Jean Lancon, Owner of Domaine de la Solitude, with wife Francoise and Christian G.E. Schiller
I was able to join Jean and Francoise Lancon from Domaine de la Solitude, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France, who poured their wines at Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the one of the most famous wine regions in the world, situated in the southern Rhone Valley in France. Other great appellations in southern France include Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage, of the Northern Rhône.
The New Castle of the Pope - In 1308, Pope Clement V, former Archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the papacy from Italy to the city of Avignon, France. Seven Popes resided in Avignon before the papacy returned to Italy. A little town, not too far away from Avignon, where the Pope’s summer palace was constructed, was called Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Itis a cute little town, dominated by the towering ruins of the Papal summer palace. The town’s narrow streets of golden medieval houses, with their red tile roofs and pastel shutters, wind down into the vineyards.
The wines grow on a soil that is a mixture of large quartz stones (galet roules) and sandy red clay. The galets roules reflect sunlight upon the vines, having a warming effect. A wind - the Mistral - whips up through the Rhone valley from the Mediterranean Sea and has a cooling effect, but the region is nonetheless quite warm and very dry.
With more than 8,000 acres under vine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest appellation in the Rhône, producing mainly a red Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Today, there are 60 to 70 wine estates. Chateauneuf du Pape, was the first region to gain AC status in France (in 1923).
Unlike its northern Rhône neighbors, Châteauneuf-du-Pape permits thirteen different varieties of grape; the blend is usually predominantly Grenache. In recent years, the trend has been to include fewer - or even none - of the allowed white varieties and rely heavily - or solely - upon the Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah.
Picture: The Rhone Valley
Although the French appellation system has its roots in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the wines never achieved the prestige enjoyed by the wines of such regions as Burgundy and Bordeaux. That changed, when wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. fell in love with them. His influence pushed up their price considerably. While the French drink about two thirds of the Bordeaux they produce themselves, most of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are exported, a large part to the US.
Winemaking styles among the Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines range from easy-to-understand fruit-filled wines and to wines of greater intensity and gravitas, which can be powerful, full-bodied and concentrated.
Grenache is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late and thus needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain and the south of France.
It is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate and tends to lack acid, tannin and color. It is usually blended with other varieties. Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Grenache is also used to make rosé wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône. And the high sugar levels of Grenache have led to extensive use in fortified wines, including the Banyuls in Roussillon.
Domaine de la Solitude
This classic Domaine, owned by the Lancon family, dates back to 1535. The first member of the family came from Italy in 1264 to serve the Pope in Avignon. His name was Barberini - the name today of the special cuvees.
Over the centuries, the Lancons had two Bishops and even one Pope in their family. The three hats on the label refer to this. The medal on the label refers to a medal that one family member received from Napoleon after the battle of Waterloo. The three bees on the label is a family weapon from the Middle Ages.
Brothers Jean and Michel Lancon are in charge of the Domain, with Florent Lancon, son of Michel Lancon. It is a large, 38-hectares property. The regular cuvee of the Domaine de la Solitude is a very traditional Chateauneuf du Pape. The Barberini and Reserve Secrete are more modern-styled Chateauneuf du Pape wines. 8 hectares are planted with white varieties: 30% Roussanne, 50% Grenache Blanc, 15% Clairette and 5% Bourboulenc. 30 hectores are planeted with red varities: 60% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault and 10% other.
What Jean and Francoise Lancon Poured
2009 Cotes du Rhone Rose $12
Tasting Notes: A convincing Rose as I know them from the South of France, bursting with citrus, cranberry, and spice notes, a very well made summer quaffer.
2007 Cotes du Rhone $15
Tasting Notes: A delicious, attractive, elegant, deep, berry fruit-filled Cotes du Rhone, with a velvety texture as well as wonderful length for a wine of this pedigree.
2007 Châteauneuf du Pape $37
Blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, aged 80% in tank and 20% in small barrels. The 2007 is the finest traditional Chateauneuf since the glorious 1967.
Tasting Notes: Dense ruby/purple color in the glass, sensational perfume of kirsch, cassis liqueur, plums, roasted herbs, and meat juices, a full-bodied, huge, rich, massive wine, it will benefit from 2-3 years of cellaring.
Domaine de la Solitude, Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape, France
Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Beverages
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