Historical Châteauneuf-du-Pape – for a Great Value!

Today’s Story: Château La Nerthe

Château La Nerthe was established in 1560 by the Tulle de Villefranche family, though they had lived in Avignon since the 14th century. Located in the Provence region in southeast France, Château La Nerthe sits about 80km north of Marseille and occupies 92 hectares of vines in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The estate’s vines are organized into 57 different plots representing all of the appellation’s terroir variation, as well as the 13 grape varieties planted there. Château La Nerthe practices organic farming (ECOCERT certification in 1998); hand-picks, table-sorts, and destems their fruit before fermentation; uses only indigenous yeasts during fermentation; vinifies by individual plots to showcase terroir variation; and blends only after the wines have aged for 12 months.

While the proprietorship of the Tulle de Villefranche family lasted several centuries, the estate grew drastically under Marquis Jean-Dominique Tulle de Villefranche (1711-1760) when he developed the vineyards to become one of the preeminent estates throughout the Rhône Valley. Between 1736 and 1784, the castle at the estate took shape as it exists today and allowed the family to not only live on the property but host guests in elegant style. Coincidentally during this time (and the 18th century as a whole more or less), members of the Tulle de Villefranche family in high military positions embarked on marketing endeavors throughout Europe and the wines of Château La Nerthe were sold in Russia, America, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In 1776, Château La Nerthe became the first estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to ship their wines in bottles while gradually fading out barrels.

Château La Nerthe was destined for arguably its greatest change, however, in 1870 when the Tulle de Villefranche family sold it to Commander Joseph Ducos. At this time, many of Joseph Ducos’ neighbors were tearing up vineyards and replanting the land with fruit trees, however he replanted his new estate with phylloxera resistant rootstocks. These visionary efforts accomplished by Joseph Ducos helped shape his neighbors’ changes in winemaking and certainly find their place in overall history of the appellation. In 1985, the estate changed hands yet again when the Richard family purchased it and promised to ensure revival of the original values of excellence and innovation at Château La Nerthe.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

50% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 La Nerthe CdP is moderately transparent and medium garnet in color with ruby variation near the rim. Once this breathes for about 45 minutes, the nose showcases aromas of cherry, baked strawberry, tomato sauce, cedar, cola, worn saddle leather, clay, mineral, freshly baked bread, and oak-driven spice. In the mouth, I get notes of sour cherry, tart raspberry, strawberry leaf, purple and blue florals, dried tobacco, parched dusty earth, a hint of bitter chocolate, and sandalwood. This CdP is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. This was drinking very nicely after an hour and a half decant.

Price: $50. This is a good value CdP, though there are a number of other options in the same price range that seem to be drinking better now. I’m curious to see how this develops with some bottle age. Pair this with game, steak, or lightly spiced lamb.