Discovering the Terroir of Chateauneuf du Pape
There are various factors which influence the style of a wine, most notably the grape variety, the climate in which the grapes are grown and the production methods used after harvesting. However, generally less understood is how the terrain in which a wine is produced – or as the French would say ‘terroir’ – affects its character. A trip to Ogier, producers of the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Clos de L’Oratoire, was the perfect way to experience the effect of Terroir.
An electric bike ride around the vineyards of Chateauneuf helped to set the scene and allowed us to see first hard the remarkably different soil types present in this really very small appellation. There are four very distinct soil types which cover the surface of the vineyards in this area; limestone, sand, red sandstone and Galet (large round stones called, which soak up heat during the day).
Up to 13 different grape varieties are permitted in the production of Chateauneuf du Pape, though most use far less. We were lucky enough to taste (amongst other great wines it should be said) four Chateauneuf du Pape from Ogier, all made using 100% Grenache, but uniquely, each wine being produced from grapes grown exclusively on each of the four main soil types. The difference was marked.
Eclats Calcaires, produced on Limestone had a strong mineral character and clean fruit. The Safres, produced on sand, was elegant, fresh and perfumed. The Gres Rouge had darker fruit, and more spice. Finally, the Galets Roules, produced on Galet stones, was intense and powerful with baked fruit and subtle spice.
For me, Chateauneuf du Pape always had a certain mystique surrounding it, the tradition, all those different grapes, the complex terrior. However, this visit really opened my eyes to what is a really very fresh and approachable wine, being made in a very modern way.