Spotlight on Rhone Valley White Wines: Domaine de la Charbonniere 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc

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As mentioned in my last post, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc gets little attention. Nevertheless, these are distinct wines with their own expression of some of the famous terroirs of Chateauneuf that are quite unlike the whites of the Northern Rhone.

Galet Vineyards

Charbonniere makes their four red Chateauneuf and one white cuvee from four main vineyards: les Brusquières, la Crau, Mourre des Perdrix, and around the estate Charbonniere. These vineyards are in the north or north east and thus have clay and limestone soils (one of four broad types within CdP). The vineyards also contain the famous galets or rounded stones that sit in the vineyard soaking up and storing heat.

A Classic Vinification

From 20 year old vines Charbonniere makes their white using a blend of 40% Grenache blanc, 40% Roussanne, 20% Clairette, with the Clairette being harvested after the other two. The wine is then destemmed, crushed and vinified in 25% new oak and 75% stainless steel, with no malo-lactic fermentation. As the wine ages it sees regular battonages (lees stirring), which works well in this wine as its acidity balances the richness.

The classic approach reflects in the flavour profile, with this wine delivering good rounded flavours and structure, but little out of the ordinary or exciting.

A Wine of Itself but Lacking Punch

The nose is softly spicy with lemon and minerals that remind me very much of Chardonnay. This is more expressive than the Boursan, and the palate has better structure and length, with Chardonnay-like flavours of lemon, cream and minerals. However, it is quite a bit less distinctive than the Boursan, though more accessible and more immediately delicious.

Again, this is a well made wine but nothing particularly stands out. Everything is in its place, though I suspect the balance of the wine could be improved.

Very Good+
$55 at Marquis Wine Cellars

So What’s the Deal with CdP Blanc?

While signs are that these wines will continue to improve, right now they can’t match the range, complexity and better value offered by the white wines of the Northern Rhone. Despite this, these wines still possess enough interest and terroir to make them worth experiencing and are an important stop on a wine geek’s journey.

The remainder of this focus on Rhone whites will look at how these varieties are being treated in the New World – some of what is going on is quite surprising.

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