The whites of Chateauneuf get little attention from collectors, with perhaps the one exception of Beaucastel’s old vine bottling. Further they account for a mere 5% of the region’s production. As such, they are quite rare to come by, with a few examples here and there, but never much depth of selection. In my personal experience I have found these wines to vary considerably, from superb to mediocre and unable to deliver value. This wine falls closer to the former than the latter.
What to do with the 5%
The whites of Chateauneuf tend to be blends and can include any of Roussane, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette and Picpoul. These are wines that straddle the dense lushness of Northern Rhone whites and the waxy honeyed character of old Chardonnay. However, these wines also often struggle with acidity, and so can be difficult to pair with food. The good ones manage to maintain balance and can bring all sorts of interesting savory notes to the table when aged.
This wine does just that with its dill-weed, honey and soy sauce nose and a waxy, almond nut, honey and seaweed/umami palate. The Le Vieux Donjon (one of Chateauneuf’s best value producers) is nicely balanced even with its medium low acid. While it is not gothically complex, it is fully developed and playing its tune perfectly. The long finish adds contemplative interest, and the alcohol is nicely in check at 13.5%. This is a superb old wine for the price and shows how well good Chateauneuf blanc can age. This was only a couple dollars more than the current release and shipped directly from the winery cellar.
An equal blend of Roussane, Grenache Blanc and Clairette.
$50 at Liner and Elsen