Domaine Saint Prefert
Châteauneuf du Pape - Rhône Valley
Certified Organic since 2012
Wine Spectator: "Since debuting in the 2003 vintage, this has quickly become one of the reference point producers in the appellation".
Robert PARKER Jr: "Ever since winemaker Isabel Ferrando released her fabulous 2003s, this superb estate has become one of my favourite estates in Châteauneuf".
Domaine Saint Préfert "Clos Beatus L’Ille” - Côtes du Rhône
The wine’s blend is 85% Grenache with 15% Cinsault. Produced from 50 year old vines located in the commune of Sorgues on the edge of Châteauneuf du Pape. The yield is on average 25 hl/ha which is low for a Côtes du Rhône appellation wine. The grapes are destemmed before the fermentations which will be done in concrete vats over 3 to 4 weeks at 28°C. The ageing period will last about 6 months using the same vats, no oak barrels are used in the winemaking process.
PVins notes: As Isabel says “it is a great wine to drink while waiting for the Chateauneufs to age”. The terroir is similar to Chateauneuf du Pape and her wine making techniques are the same. It shows expressive aromas of red currants and spices with hints of toast and licorice, medium-bodied, well-balanced with a smooth texture. The wine may be cellared for up to 5+ years.
Domaine Saint Préfert 2010 / 2009 - Châteauneuf du Pape
This is the main white wine of the Domaine representing 1 ha of vines. The blend is 80% Clairette and 20% Roussanne from 60 year old vines. The yield is very low averaging 15 hl/ha. The wine is fermented in oak barrels for 3-4 weeks and aged in the same barrels for 7 months with 1/3 of new oak each year.
PVins notes: The wine has a wonderful crispiness with a lush and generous medium to full-body, the flavours of fruit and white flowers with well integrated oak fill the palate. The wine may be cellared for up to 10 years knowing that the flavours will evolve.
Wine Advocate 90
The 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc, which is 80% Clairette and 20% Roussanne, has wonderfully crisp minerality as well as hints of poached pear, lemon zest and nectarines in a fragrant, medium to full-bodied, crisp and generous, dry white Chateauneuf du Pape.
Wine Spectator 93
Ripe and showy, with a lush core of creamed Jonagold apple, ginger, persimmon and melon flavors, all harnessed by a bright floral note and a long, stone-tinged finish. Thoroughly delicious.
Light gold. Aromas of quince, orange and melon, with a spicy overtone. Powerful but light on its feet, offering good depth and energy to its citrus and orchard fruit flavors. Closes on a bright note, with refreshingly bitter lemon zest and mineral nuances and very good length.
Domaine Saint Préfert “Classique” 2015 - Châteauneuf du Pape
The blend is base on 70% - 80% Grenache with Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The wine is produced from the younger vines that are under 40 years old producing a yield averageing 28 hl/ha. The wine is fermented in concrete vats at 28°C and whole bunches are used since 2009. The ageing will last about 15 months with 50% in concrete vats and 50% in 600 litres demi-muid oak barrels that are 3 years old.
PVins notes: The wine shows great floral, spicy and red fruit flavours, medium to full-bodied, well-balanced with fine tannins. The wine may be cellared for 10+ years.
Wine Advocate 91-93+
The stunning 2015 Châteauneuf du Pape is a wine to buy a case of as it has beautiful concentration and depth, as well as the elegance, purity and finesse that’s the hallmark of the estate.
Wine Spectator 94
This energetic red offers a big ball of kirsch wound tightly with licorice, graphite and raspberry coulis notes. Shows lots of bright spice accents through the finish, which is carried by finely beaded acidity. Offers serious latent grip. Best from 2020 through 2035.
Jancis Robinson 17
Tasted blind. Bright crimson. Light and vital on the nose. Taken to the limit of ripeness and with marked tannin, this should ride out the long term. Still-dry but appetising tannins on the end. Drink 2023-2033
Vivid ruby. Lively, sharply focused red berry, floral pastille and Asian spice scents, along with suggestions of garrigue and smoky minerals. Sweet, focused and seamless in texture, offering intense raspberry, spicecake and lavender flavors that deepen slowly on the back half. Clings with real authority on the subtly tannic finish, leaving a suave floral note behind. This is an outstanding example of a "basic" Châteauneuf.
Jeb Dunnuck 92
Moving to the 2015s, these all showed elegant, lively profiles and will age gracefully. Ferrando's base cuvée is the 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape and it's a blend of 85% Grenache and 5% each of Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre, raised all in tank. Kirsch, framboise, dried flowers and spice all emerge from this classic, charming, impeccably balanced beauty. It shows the house style in its perfume and elegance, yet has terrific fruit intensity as well. It's a no-brainer purchase.
La Revue du Vin de France 16.5
Domaine Saint Préfert “Réserve August Favier” 2015 / 2014 - Châteauneuf du Pape
The blend is at least 80% Grenache with Cinsault and Syrah. A middle of the range wine produced from 40-60 year old vines producing a low yield of 25 hl/ha. The fermentation is done in concrete vats for 5 weeks at 28°C and whole bunches are used since 2009. The ageing will last about 18 months with 50% in a concrete vats and 50% in 600 litres oak barrels that are 2-3 years old.
PVins notes: The wine is richer than the cuvee “Classique”, it shows great aromatic complexity with hints of herbs, mocha and licorice, there is a lot going on here, full-bodied, well integrated oak and well-balanced with velvety tannins, long finish. The wine may be cellared for 15+ years.
Wine Spectator 97
Vibrant and captivating, with exuberant fruitcake, cinnamon and black tea aromas leading the way for a fleshy core of raspberry pâte de fruit, plum sauce and cassis, all allied to a lovely velvety texture. Maintains intensity through the finish, showing a long echo of pastis. Best from 2020 through 2040.
Wine Advocate 94
The 2015 Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve Auguste Favier is a blend of 85% Grenache with 15% Cinsault. It pushes the ripeness up a notch from the traditional cuvée toward blackberry, plum and chocolate but remains lively. It, too, is full-bodied and supple, with a creamy texture and a long finish. Drink 2017 - 2025.
Full ruby. Powerful, mineral-accented blackberry and boysenberry aromas are complemented by hints of incense, licorice and pungent flowers. Seamless and impressively concentrated, offering alluringly sweet dark berry, cherry liqueur and floral pastille flavors sharpened by a jolt of peppery spices. Rich yet energetic in style, finishing with excellent clarity and fine-grained tannins that sneak in late.
Jeb Dunnuck 95
The 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reserve Auguste Favier is a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Cinsault and was partially destemmed and brought up mostly in concrete tanks (15% was in demi-muids). Its ruby color is followed by a killer bouquet of raspberries, mulberries, orange blossom, spice and exotic flowers. Complex, nuanced and fresh, with full-bodied aromas and flavors, sweet tannin, integrated acidity and a great finish. It's the spitting image of elegance and purity paired with richness and depth.
Wine Spectator 92
This is generously fruited, with a core of fig, blackberry and boysenberry confiture pumping along, framed with a lively black licorice note and carrying through the rich, black tea—accented finish. For the hedonist crowd. Drink now through 2024.
Wine Advocate 92-94
Made from 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Cinsault and 5% Mourvèdre, the 2014 Châteauneuf du Pape Reserve Auguste Favier reveals notes of plums, violets, ground pepper, licorice and hints of scorched earth. Medium to full-bodied, seamless and sexy, it’s more focused and elegant than the classic cuvée, and more fruity than the Collection Charles Giraud, which is more tannic.
Deep ruby. A highly perfumed bouquet displays scents of fresh red fruits, incense and smoky minerals, and a suave lavender nuance builds as the wine opens up. Juicy, alluringly sweet raspberry and floral pastille flavors become fleshier and deeper with air while maintaining their vivacity. Seamless and pure, finishing with excellent clarity and persistence and harmonious tannins that come in slowly.
Domaine Saint Préfert “Collection Charles Giraud” 2015 / 2011 - Châteauneuf du Pape
The wine’s blend is 60% Grenache with 40% Mourvèdre. This is the premium wine produced from 60-80+ year old vines mainly from the “Quartier des Serres” area (pebble, gravel soils) with a small portion of grapes from the lieu-dit “Cristia” (sandy soil). The yield is very low at 15 hl/ha. The fermentation is done in concrete vats for 5 weeks at 28°C and whole bunches are used since 2009. The ageing will last about 18 months in 3 year old demi-muid barrels of 600 litres.
PVins notes: This is a dense and rich cuvee, great aromatic and flavour complexity with herbs, spices, leather, hints of mocha and licorice. Full-bodied, well integrated oak, well-balanced with elegantly smooth tannins and the finish lingers on. Cellaring for 3-4 years after bottling is recommended, should this be too long for your patience then decanting will be an alternative. The wine may be cellared for 20+ years.
Wine Spectator 99
Gorgeous, starting off with warm ganache and Turkish coffee aromas, followed by dense, fleshy layers of fig cake, steeped plum and warm blackberry confiture. Shows lots of juicy energy through the finish, with anise and singed juniper accents adding range. Needs time in the cellar. Best from 2020 through 2045.
Wine Advocate 97
The blend of the 2015 Chateauneuf du Pape Collection Charles Giraud is 60% Grenache and a hefty 40% Mourvèdre. Yes, it's chocolaty ripe, but it also boasts enlivening hints of thyme and rosemary along with brighter notes of cherries. The tannins are powerful yet supple, giving this big wine a sense of velvety elegance on the lengthy finish. Wow! Drink 2020 - 2035.
Lurid ruby-red. A complex, explosively perfumed bouquet of ripe red and blue fruit, Moroccan spice and floral oil aromas is enlivened by a vibrant mineral quality that builds as the wine opens up. Sweet, seamless and expansive on the palate, offering densely packed raspberry, boysenberry and spicecake flavors that show outstanding clarity and back-end power. The mineral and floral components drive the extremely long, sappy finish, which is given shape by smooth tannins. This wine's balance of power and finesse is mighty impressive.
Jeb Dunnuck 96
The 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Collection Charles Giraud checks in as the normal blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre. It offers more roasted meats and spice aromatics, as well as gorgeous red and black fruits, full-bodied richness, building, ripe tannin and a balanced, seamless style. It's a big wine, yet stays graceful and pure, with a great finish. It will be at its best from 2020-2030.
Wine Advocate 95
A step up, the 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape Collection Charles Giraud is a smoking wine that’s up with the top wines of the vintage. Made from 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre, it has perfumed kirsch, black raspberry, licorice, dried flowers and roasted meat-like qualities soaring from the glass. As with the Reserve Auguste Favier, this has put on more mid-palate weight, has beautifully sweet fruit, and ripe tannin that emerges on the finish. It can be consumed anytime over the coming 10-12 years.
Wine Spectator 94
This features a dark, warm ganache spine that holds the cherry compote, plum sauce and steeped currant fruit together. Smoldering charcoal and tobacco notes line the finish. Shows solid muscle for the vintage. Drink 2015 - 2025.
Inky ruby. Highly perfumed bouquet of candied red fruits, Asian spices and incense, with a bright mineral overtone. Stains the palate with energetic raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that deepen with air. Closes on a suave floral note, with excellent clarity and length and smooth, harmonious tannins.
La Revue du Vin de France 17.5
Wine Advocate 100
An incredible wine that I thought was pure perfection on release, the 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Collection Charles Giraud still stays at the top of my hierarchy today. The most masculine, powerful and concentrated of the trio, it possesses massive amounts of fruit to go with darker-styled fruits, pan drippings, charred steak and roasted herbs. It has everything you could want in a Southern Rhone. Give it another year or two and enjoy bottles through 2030.
Wine Spectator 99
Massive yet remarkably graceful at the same time, with layer upon layer of fig, plum sauce and linzer torte flavors studded with espresso, graphite and black tea. Petrichor, shiso leaf and smoldering tobacco notes fill in on the broad and very muscular yet refined finish. This has terrific weight and loads of grip, yet it's effortless to drink thanks to the seamless mouthfeel. A stunning combination of power and grace. Best from 2015 through 2035.
Jed Dunnuck 100
Absolutely monumental and a phenomenal bottle of wine, the 2010 Domaine Saint Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Collection Charles Giraud, 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre, is the largest scaled wine in the lineup and boasts incredible richness and depth, while at the same time staying fresh, pure, and elegant on the palate. Possessing thrilling aromatics of blackberry liqueur, meat juice, roasted herbs, licorice, lavender, and garrigue, this hits the palate with a full-bodied, decadent, and voluptuous texture that carries masses of ripe tannin, beautiful freshness, and blockbuster length and focus on the finish. It is incredible stuff, hits all the right notes for me, and will drink well for two decades or more.
For the cuvée "Colombis" - Châteauneuf du Pape made from 100% Grenache Noir see Domaine Isabel Ferrando
Domaine Saint Préfert was created in the 1920’s when the pharmacist Fernand Serre from Avignon discovered that a “lieu dit” of Châteauneuf Du Pape had the same name as him named “Quartier des Serres”. A true lover of great wines he purchased nearly 80 hectares of land in this district of the village with a secret longing to become a vinegrower-winemaker. He planted additional vines, built a cellar and a house in the heart of the vineyard and quickly learnt the art of wine making. Having become an excellent winemaker, Fernand SERRE was a trail blazer for the reputation of this appellation. Domaine Saint Préfert was officially founded in 1930 and was one of the first Châteauneuf du Pape estates in the 1930s to sell its wines bottled and to conquer far away markets such as the U.S.A. Fernand passed all his skills and know-how down to his son Camille and daughter-in-law Suzanne. Unfortunately, decades later the vineyard was virtually left abandoned as Suzanne became a widow and lost interest in the Domaine. She would sell pieces of land when needed and having no children there was no inheritance possible to keep the Domaine alive within the family. In 2002, a new chapter for Saint Préfert was to be written when Isabel Ferrando purchased what was left of the original estate. After nearly two years of tough negotiations, Madame Serre finally declared her readiness to sell the buildings with its 13.40 ha of vineyard, the contract was signed on the eve of the 2002 harvest.
Isabel was born in Carpentras about 15 kms from Châteauneuf du Pape. Before getting involved in wine making she spent ten years working as a banker in Nîmes in the finance department which gave her the opportunity to be in contact with numerous local winemakers from the Rhône Valley. She admired them for their work, but learnt how not to go bankrupt running a Domaine having to deal with their financial situation. After the birth of her daughter Guillemette in 1997, Isabel wanted to find a profession that would bring her closer to nature and away from office stress. In the late 1990s Isabel’s passion for wine grew stronger and she started spending time visiting various estates in the Rhône Valley doing tastings and asking a lot of questions and learning. In 1999, her husband Germain Giraud happens to be at a meeting with the mayor of Châteuneuf du Pape, also a winemaker and asked him if there was a property for sale in Châteauneuf du Pape. By chance Saint Préfert had just come on the market, but things were not simple with Madame Serre as she was upset with the whole village, plus growers only like to sale parcels to the locals. While Germain was negotiating with her, Isabel went back to studies to complete a two-year course at the Lycée Viticole in Carpentras and Orange while also doing her practical training at Domaine Raspail in Gigondas. It was the only estate willing to give her a chance after knocking on many doors, being a 34 year old woman and not coming from a family of growers it was not simple.
When Isabel took over the estate on the eve of the 2002 harvest, the very next day a massive storm swept through the area with 600mm of rain destroying the harvest and flooding the cellar. Isabel could have had a nervous breakdown having lost the vintage and having a big mortgage, but her motivation for her new project was strong and she soldiered on working hard to rehabilitate the abandoned vineyard over the following year. Her first vintage was to be 2003, a very hot year in contrast to 2002. She managed to produce an excellent first vintage with the advice of oenologist consultant Philippe Cambie and a local grower that had become a friend. The following years, being passionate about the terroir approach, she went on a buying spree increasing the domaine's holdings by purchasing parcels in various lieux-dits and creating a new wine in 2004 named Domaine Isabel Ferrando.
Overtime, with Isabel’s changes and evolution in her approach to wine making put a term at the consultancy from Philippe Cambie in 2010. Their ideas differed on various issues including the use of stems in wine making. In 2011, she employed Baptiste Olivier who has had experience working with other reputable estates. Isabel now prefers to be surrounded by young people that have an open mind and think that everything is possible. As she says, the reasons for the changes over the past decade is because her palate keeps evolving and her vision of what her property can produce has evolved as well. Today, after numerous successful vintages, Isabel can be proud of what she has achieved as an outsider as some in the international wine press refer to her as the “Queen" of Chateauneuf du Pape.
Domaine Saint Préfert is situated in the southern plain of the appellation at the lieu-dit “Le petit Serres”. The terroir is composed of pebbles, gravel and loam providing an excellent natural drainage, the soil structure is rather aerated and porous enabling the vine's roots to grow deep. This area of the appellation is known to be the hottest due to the climate and terroir composition, meaning the grapes have no problem reaching a high maturity. When Isabel took over the estate the vines were 60 to 100 years old but many vines were dead and had to be replaced, following the replantation the average age of the vineyard is now 60 years old. From her beginnings in producing Châteauneuf du Pape wines, Isabel relied on the knowledge and advice of well-known wine consultant Philippe Cambie. He advised her to implement organic work in the vineyard which she decided to do in 2009, but her decision to convert all the parcels to organic farming was also by personal conviction, the Domaine was certified organic in 2012.
Isabel’s passion for the terroir approach has pushed her on a buying spree purchasing new parcels over the years. The new acquisitions in the various ‘lieux-dits’ are: “Colombis” 1.30 ha (2004), “Les Roues” 1.20 ha (2005), “Le Bois de la Ville” 0.88 ha “Cristia” 1.10 ha (2009). The reason behind these new purchases was to produce a Châteauneuf du Pape from different terroirs to that of Domaine Saint Préfert, which resulted in the creation of Domaine Isabel Ferrando in 2004. In 2011, she purchased another large parcel of 4.25 ha in the appellation Côtes du Rhône at the ‘lieu-dit’ “La Lionne” in the commune of Sorgues, about 1.40 kms from the cellar of Domaine Saint Préfert. Isabel was very excited about this new parcel as the terroir is very similar to Châteauneuf du Pape. With the recent purchase of other small parcels around Domaine Saint Préfert its vineyard now covers 16 hectares of which 1.18 ha is planted in white grapes and 14.82 ha are planted in red grapes. After a decade of purchasing, Isabel Ferrando owns approximately 26 ha under two labels: Domaine Saint Prefert and Domaine Isabel Ferrando.
The year 2009 was a turning point for Isabel. A new cellar was built at Domaine Saint Préfert to increase the storage space and to further improve the winemaking conditions to enable each parcel to be treated individually. She also started the estate’s conversion to organic farming. Isabel likes to try new things and evolve in winemaking and 2009 also marked a change in her approach as a winemaker. Normally Isabel would destalk the grapes before pressing, but this year she decided to use whole bunches, seeking wines with more structure, freshness and precision. As for the wine making concrete vats as used for the fermentations and both concrete vats and French oak barrels are used for the ageing process. The style of wine and quality of the vintage will determine the duration of the ageing and the proportion of oak barrels of various sizes and age to be used for each wine.
Isabel produces two white Chateauneuf du Pape, a premium white “Spéciale Vieilles Clairettes” made from old vines of Clairette only, while the main white of the estate "Tradition" is a blend of 80% Clairette with 20% Roussanne.
As for the reds four wines are produced, three as Chateauneuf du Pape and one as a Côtes du Rhône. The "Classique" is made from the younger vines that are under 40 years old and the "Réserve August Favier", named after Isabel’s grandfather, is made from 40 to 60 years old vines. The premium wine is the "Collection Charles Giraud" named after an ancestor of Isabel’s husband, it is made with 60 to 80 years old vines and only produced in excellent vintages. The wine has received the perfect score of 100 for the 2007 and 2010 vintages by the Wine Advocate. The fourth red wine under is the Côtes du Rhône “Clos Beatus L’ille” produced from a parcel with vines averaging 50 years of age. The predominant red grape planted at Domaine Saint Préfert is the Grenache, but you will also find some Syrah, Cinsault and some very old Mourvèdre.
French version (english subtitles)
CHÂTEAUNEUF DU PAPE
The appellation Châteauneuf du Pape located 15 kilometres north of Avignon is the most famous appellation of the southern Rhône region. It was consecrated an A.O.C. in 1933, the first of its kind in France. The 3,210 hectares of vineyards spread over five communes: Châteauneuf du Pape, Bédarrides, Courthézon, Orange and Sorgues.
Like all appellations in the Rhône valley Châteuneuf du Pape has a long history of viticulture dating back to the Romans. However, the first written evidence of its existence dates from 1157. But the Popes in the 14th century were the real developers of the vineyard. In 1314, Pope Clement V the first Avignon Pope discovered the special soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In 1316 he was succeeded by Pope John XII who regularly drank the wines from the vineyards ‘in the north’ and did much to improve viticulture practices. He also found the ideal spot on a hillock overlooking the Rhône Valley about halfway between Avignon and Orange to build a castle “Châteauneuf” which began in 1317 and was completed in 1333. Under the reign of Pope John XXII, the village became the summer residence of the Papacy and he promoted the wine to the rank of "Vin du Pape", during his reign the vineyard grew in size and reputation. Throughout the 16th and 17th century the area suffered from many plague epidemics and wine production slowed down. The plague was probably responsible for the sudden drop in population in Châteauneuf from 1,200 to 558 people. At the beginning of the French Revolution the name changed to “Châteauneuf d’Avignon” as the properties of the church were dismembered by the Republic.
Despite the unfortunate consequences of a non-regulated market in the 19th century, the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were very well-known. In the early 19th century some estates started bottling their own wines and later exported them. Anxious to defend the growing reputation of the wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the winemakers were at the origin of the current system of AOC. With no legislation to protect the appellation, fraud was a real problem: grapes and wines from outside the region entered the commune in order to benefit from its prestigious name. In 1894, the winegrowers established a Syndicat Viticole presided by Mayor J. Ducos to put a stop to this fraud and guarantee the quality of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The 1919 wine appellation law did not put a stop to fraud, as it was too general and essentially limited to the question of geographical boundaries. Judging the 1919 Act on designations of origin too general they decide it was time to put in place stricter regulations and more specific legislation to protect their appellation. They were well aware that the best way of promoting and protecting their wines was to improve its quality. In 1923 a delegation of vignerons went to Château Fortia owned by Baron Le Roy Boiseaumarié a winemaker and a lawyer by trade to seek his help in this task. The Syndicat took legal action at the Orange law court in order to define all the conditions necessary to entitle the wines to the name of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Thanks to Baron Le Roy’s enthusiasm and his legal expertise, the Cour de Cassation (French court of last resort) defined the appellation boundaries and production conditions on the 21st November 1933 after several years of proceedings. Châteauneuf-du-Pape winegrowers were therefore the first in all of France to impose production regulations. Their example, was soon followed by many other French vignerons, paving the way for the creation of a nationwide set of appellation regulations in 1936 known as “Appellation d’Origine Controlée” (AOC), today know as “Appellation d’Origine Protégée” (AOP). In 1937, the union of growers of the appellation chaired by Baron Pierre Le Roy Boiseaumarié, created the famous bottle with the embossed logo. This logo symbolizes a papal tiara placed above the keys of St. Peter with the inscription: "Châteauneuf-du-Pape contrôlé" written in Gothic letters around this emblem. Its purpose was to promote the wines of the appellation and guarantee the authenticity of the wine against counterfeiting. In a judgment delivered in 2004, the French Supreme Court has confirmed the validity of the rights attached to this special embossed bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape for indisputable legal protection.
The town of Châteauneuf is on a hillside with the surrounding vineyards set on a rolling landscape and a large plateau that starts west of the lieu-dit “Mont-Redon” (altitude 119m), going eastward to its highest point in Pied Long (altitude 128m) and finishing southward in the lieu-dit “La Crau” (altitude 110m). The terroir of Châteauneuf du pape was mainly structured during the geological Tertiary and early Quaternary periods. To generalize, one can say there is limestone soil in the western part of Châteauneuf-du-Pape; sand and clay soil covered with large stones on the plateaus; mixed sand, red and grey clay and limestone in the northern part of the appellation; less stony soil alternating with marl in the east and shallow sand and clay soil on a well-drained layer of gravel in the south. The large pebbles carried down the Alps by the Rhône River over time contribute to the quality of the vines and grapes by storing heat during the day and releasing it at night.
There are 13 red and white grape varieties permitted in the appellation: Grenache Noir/Blanc, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Clairette, vaccarèse, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul, Picardan and Terret noir. Grenache Noir, the main grape variety, is perfect for the region's meager dry soils and Mediterranean climate with hot summers (34-38°c) and strong Mistral winds which keep the vines dry and protected from diseases. The Grenache Noir contributes warmth and strength and typically displays a wide spectrum of flavours while the Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre achieve balance, structure and colour in the blend. The aromatic whites which only represent 6% of the appellation are medium to full-bodied and well-balanced with a crisp freshness.
The region benefits from an exceptional Mediterranean climate. Châteauneuf is the driest area in the Côtes du Rhône with around 2,800 hours of sunshine every year. The heat stored by the rocks during the day and released at night enables the grapes to reach optimal ripeness. Summers, which are seeing an increase in subtropical anticyclones, are warm and dry with the occasional violent stormy period. The winters are mild with frequent precipitations but snow is rare. Another important element is the Mistral which is a strong wind from the north that blow through the valley for nearly half the year. Its advantage is that it keeps the grapes dry and healthy especially after a rainy period, but there is a saying that if it remains for long period of time it can drive a man crazy.