Mar 1, 2024by Andrew Lowry

Nestled in the sun-drenched embrace of the Rhône Valley, Châteauneuf-du-Pape beckons with a rich tapestry of history, myth, and, yes, even a touch of extraterrestrial intrigue. Join us on an odyssey through this legendary wine region, where ancient vines whisper tales of centuries past and visionary winemakers craft elixirs fit for the gods.

We have many tasty wines made from grapes traditionally grown in the Rhone Valley so after you read this, be sure to check out this collection!

The Flying Saucer Debacle: A Story of Mystery and Intrigue

In the annals of Châteauneuf-du-Pape lore, one tale stands out among the rest—the mysterious appearance of flying saucers over the vineyards in the 1950s. Locals were baffled by the inexplicable sightings, which sparked a frenzy of speculation and fascination. Some whispered of otherworldly visitors, while others attributed the sightings to more earthly phenomena. To this day, UFOs are officially banned within the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. Watch out aliens. The EU police are coming for you.

Bonny Doon, a producer of excellent Rhone-style wines from California, makes a famouse wine named "Le Cigar Volant" (French for Flying Saucer). Thus, forever paying homage to the flying saucers sighted in the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape long ago. 

Le Cigare Volant

A History Steeped in Tradition

Chateauneuf-du-pape crest
Image source:

To understand Châteauneuf-du-Pape is to delve into a history as complex and layered as the wines it produces. The story begins in the 14th century when Pope Clement V relocated the papal court to Avignon, just a galet's throw from the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was here that the papal influence would leave an indelible mark on the region's viticulture.

The Avignon Papacy brought with it a demand for quality wine, leading to the cultivation of vineyards and the establishment of winemaking practices that would endure for centuries. The iconic papal crest, emblazoned on each bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, serves as a tangible reminder of this storied past.

The Essence of Châteauneuf-du-Pape: A Tasting Journey

Chateauneuf-du-pape galets
Image source: Cellier des Princes

What sets Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines apart is their unmistakable sense of terroir—a reflection of the region's diverse soils (yep, actually the famous "galets" filled vineyards is the minority soil type), microclimates, and grape varieties.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds are typically crafted from a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (with Grenache being the backbone and Syrah usage waning), but 15 other grapes can and will be used to craft these wines. Additionally, they must be at least 12.5% ABV, although this is very rarely a problem with how ripe Grenache gets and with rising temperatures in the area. Many of Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds will reach 15% ABV easily.  Most definitely a wine that can benefit from some time in the bottle and some decanting when finally enjoyed.

These wines offer a symphony of flavors ranging from ripe red berries and spice to earthy undertones and savory herbs.

Artisanal producers such as Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, Domaine de Marcoux, and Domaine de la Janasse epitomize the essence of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, crafting wines of exceptional depth, complexity, and finesse. Their commitment to sustainable viticulture and hands-on winemaking techniques ensures that each bottle captures the true essence of the terroir.

The Perrin Family Legacy: A Tale of Tradition and Innovation

Chateauneuf-du-pape famille perrin
Image Source: Famille Perrin

No discussion of Châteauneuf-du-Pape would be complete without mentioning the esteemed Perrin family, whose legacy spans generations and continents. Renowned for their iconic Château de Beaucastel and the ubiquitous La Vieille Ferme quaffer, the Perrin family has been instrumental in elevating the status of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines on the world stage.

In addition to their work in France, the Perrin family forged a pioneering partnership with the Hass family of California to establish Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles—a testament to their dedication to promoting Rhône varietals beyond the borders of France. Today, Tablas Creek produces some of the finest Rhône-style wines outside of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, showcasing the versatility and potential of these grape varieties in new terroirs.

Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc

Châteauneuf-du-Pape's Natural Winemakers: Embracing Tradition with a Modern Twist

Domaine de Villeneuve - Châteauneuf du Pape Les Vieilles
Image Source: Cave pur jus

While Châteauneuf-du-Pape is often associated with tradition and heritage, a new wave of winemakers is challenging conventions and redefining the region's identity. Embracing organic and biodynamic principles, producers like Domaine de la Biscarelle and Domaine de Villeneuve are crafting wines of remarkable purity and expression.

These natural winemakers eschew chemical interventions and embrace minimalist winemaking techniques, allowing the true character of the fruit and terroir to shine through in every bottle. Their wines offer a glimpse into the future of Châteauneuf-du-Pape—a future guided by respect for the land and a commitment to sustainability.

Exploring Beyond the Rhône Valley: 7 Producers Crafting Rhône-Style Wines

While Châteauneuf-du-Pape holds a special place in the hearts of wine enthusiasts, there are plenty of other producers outside the Rhône Valley who are dedicated to crafting wines in the region's distinctive style. From California's Central Coast to Australia's McLaren Vale, these artisanal winemakers are making waves with their Rhône-inspired creations.

  1. Bonny Doon Vineyard (California, USA) - Known for their eclectic lineup of Rhône varietals, Bonny Doon Vineyard is a pioneer of the Rhône Rangers movement in California.
  2. Yangarra Estate (McLaren Vale, Australia) - With a focus on sustainable viticulture and minimal intervention winemaking, Yangarra Estate produces terroir-driven wines that reflect the unique character of their vineyards.
  3. Ridge Vineyards (California, USA) - Celebrated for their iconic Zinfandels, Ridge Vineyards also produces exceptional Rhône varietals from their estate vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
  4. Rasa Vineyards (Washington State, USA) - Inspired by the wines of the Rhône Valley, Rasa Vineyards produces small-lot wines from estate vineyards in Washington State, showcasing the region's unique microclimates.
  5. Tablas Creek Vineyards (Paso Robles, USA) 
  6. No Girls Wines (Walla Walla Valley, WA, USA) 
  7. Mark Ryan Winery (Washington State, USA)

Top 10 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wines to Seek Out

  1. Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe "La Crau"
  2. Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes
  3. Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chaupin
  4. Domaine de la Biscarelle Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  5. Domaine de Villeneuve Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Vieilles Vignes
  6. Domaine de Montvac Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Adage
  7. Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Réserve
  8. Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  9. Domaine de Cristia Châteauneuf-du-Pape Renaissance
  10. Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Trois Sources

Top 7 Rhône-Style Wines from Outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape

  1. Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Tablas Rouge and Blanc (Paso Robles, California, USA) (we sell the Blanc version -- so yummy).
  2. Bonny Doon Vineyard 'Le Cigare Volant' (Central Coast, California, USA)
  3. Yangarra Estate Old Vine Grenache (McLaren Vale, Australia)
  4. Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Offerings (Sonoma County, California, USA)
  5. Rasa Vineyards QED Red Blend (Washington State, USA)
  6. Tournon Mathilda Shiraz (Victoria, Australia)
  7. Plus all the wines in our Rhone Varietals Collection :)