Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines were the focus of a workshop by Maison Brotte’s Laurent Brotte at the Wine Lab in HORECA. Maison Brotte wines come from the heart and birthplace of where the Châteauneuf-du-Pape legend began – the Avignon region where Pope Clement V, former archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the papacy in 1308 and promoted the region’s varietal blends.
The legend of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is directly linked to the church in France that helped promote those wine varietals following Pope Clement V’s taste. The monks would use the castles in the area as their summer homes, and because they were the only people with the right to produce wine, they had the time to test the varietals and the different approaches to mixing and producing them. They saw that this terroir could house many varieties mainly centered upon Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Bourboulenc, Cinsault, and Clairette. The rest of the grapes available are Clairette Blanche, Clairette Rosé, Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Muscardin, Picardan, Piquepoul Blanc, Piquepoul Gris, Piquepoul Noir, Roussanne, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse.
The name Châteauneuf-du-Pape became a popular marketing tool because the name itself has the word “Châteaux” in it, so the consumer’s schema automatically perceives the label as one of high quality. But just like any appellation in France, you have great wines and not so great wines, “the good Châteauneuf-du-Pape like Maison Brotte’s range, are some of the best in the world. When you ask a consumer what they know of French wines, the typical answer is Chablis and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Depending on the producer and how they blend and ferment the wine, you have a good or bad Châteauneuf,” explains Brotte. Brotte’s blend of different vintages gave birth to a buttery palate, roasted notes, woodiness, spiciness, and a full bodied texture that all at once give just enough acidity and tannin, without that aftertaste that can sometimes be a dreaded commodity in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends.
The way Maison Brotte works is by instituting the most controlled modern standards on a very old-fashioned production style. The aging process is done traditionally in 60-year old oak casks of 4000 liter barrels whereas a regular barrel is 225 liters and is used for only 3 years. Young barrels are used for only a portion of the quantity and are blended with the majority of the produce, which is fermented in traditional old oak casks. The principle grape is the Grenache that covers about 80% of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape terroir, closely followed by the Mourvedre and Syrah varietals. Specific grapes are used for the white Châteauneuf-du-Pape like Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Roussanne popular in the Northern Hermitage area. “Grenache cannot live on its own as a mono-varietal wine, so it definitely needs to be blended because it misses color and tannin. Its main role is its full-bodied rich, buttery, roasted texture. We get tannin and spiciness from the Syrah that we add, and color, acidity and longevity for aging from the Mourvedre,” explains Brotte. So in essence, the Grenache grape, which grows abundantly in warm weathers with little water, is the base that is tweaked by the other varietals to give a complete homogeneity.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Grenache base allows for the bottle to be opened and enjoyed on the spot whereas Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends somewhat call for a “waiting” and “breathing “of the wine first. “With Cabernet Sauvignon you sometimes get caught in risking a high tannin palate, which with Grenache is never a problem; we add Syrah and Mourvedre to keep it subtle yet rich and buttery. It also approaches many types of food from the grill to pasta and pizza and although extremely rich, will go down very smoothly,” ensures Brotte.