Domaine de Nalys, Eicelenci, Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC, France, 2010, 14% abv

Ah, the Rhone Valley. After Bordeaux it’s France’s second most prolific region where 95% of what is produced is red.

There has been wine in this region since the first century BC. Once the Gauls discovered it was possible to cultivate vines, there was not much to hold them back – they were making wine in the North at Hermitages by 71 BC and Pliny the Elder wrote about their excellent quality. Theories abound as to where the two most prolific grapes of the region originated from – most believing the Phoenicians brought Syrah with them from Persia and that Viogner came from the Dalmatian Coast.

Fast forward to 1309 when the Southern Rhone Valley area that we now know as Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CdP) was ‘discovered’ by Pope Clement V. The name of this region honours a new Chateau built by Pope John XXII when the papal court lived at Avignon. While it was destroyed in a fire after WW2, the fame the region acquired for its wines has endured.

CdP was the very first French appellation, established in 1923 by Baron Le Roy to try and rebuild the vineyards following the devastation wreaked first by phylloxera and then by WWI. An astonishing 13 varieties of grapes are allowed in CdP wines. Most are red and focus on using Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault along with a mix of others, while white CdPs are relatively rare (only 1/14 bottles) and use Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Picardan, Bourboulenc, Picpoul and Rousanne.

The white Nalys is a blend of whites with a majority of Rousanne. Hand picked, there’s a note on the bottle warning about the possibility of tartrate crystals because the wine was not cold-stabilized, but I see none.

Clear and bright, medium gold with light legs, the nose is clean and developing with medium plus aromas of honey, minerals, dried herbs and stone fruit.

The palate is dry with medium plus acidity, medium plus verging on full body and medium plus alcohol. The medium plus flavour characteristics include flowers, herbal tea, almond, melon, pear, white peach and creamy honey. The wine has a lovely creamy mouthfeel and a medium plus finish.

WSET ‘very good’ and beautifully aromatic with a growing gamey quality to complement the fruit, herbed tea character and acidity. Complex and balanced; cellar it if you can for the next 5 years. We enjoyed it with appetizers and it went fabulously with the herbed cream cheese and smoked BC salmon.

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I love wine...and finally decided to do something about it.
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