This is the second article in a series of posts that are chronicling a trip that I was supposed to be on this week….
As I mentioned last week, my buddy Christophe Bristiel, the export manager for Château la Nerthe (one of the oldest producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape) is currently cycling across the South of France, visiting all the wineries owned by the Richard Family. Of course, I would have been there with him were it not for Washington’s completely incompetent response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(That last comment was not intended as a political statement but rather as a fact. Most of the countries in the world have banned Americans from entering. Even Canada, for goodness sake. Canada.)
Last week, Christophe started his epic 1200 kilometer ride in the Beaujolais region of France where the Richard Family owns two estates: Château des Tours and Château de Corcelles, both located in Brouilly.
Following that visit, he headed south to the Rhône Valley, first stopping at his “home” winery and perhaps the flagship of the Richard Estates, Château la Nerthe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We tried to have our second video meeting while he was there, but there were some technical difficulties (if you ask me, the “technical” difficulties consisted of which wines he and the rest of the la Nerthe crew were going to select for dinner from the 15th Century cellars, but I digress).
Instead, we “met” the following afternoon (evening in France) with Christophe phoning in from Tavel, atop the Prieuré de Montézargues, a Priory turned winery estate that dates from the 12th Century.
Along the way, Christophe decided to climb the Mont Ventoux, one of the toughest rides I have ever had on a bicycle.
After discussing and tasting the fantastic Prieuré de Montézargues, we moved on to the Cassagnes de la Nerthe and then the wine of Château la Nerthe itself:
2017 Château La Nerthe Côtes du Rhône Villages Les Cassagnes Rouge, France: Retail $22. 60% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah, 10% Mouvèdre. There is a ton of wine that is classified as “Côtes-du-Rhône.” A. Ton. Most of it is, well, crap. OK, maybe not “crap” per se, but not really all that good. This is not your typical CdR. Nor is it your typical GSM. This is pretty close to gangbusters. Fairly dark in the glass with dark berry aromas, spice, and earth, I am hopeful if not giddy at the prospect of tasting this wine. Well, it did not disappoint. The palate is defined by the fruit as this might be the fruitiest CdR I have had in memory. Don’t misunderstand, however, this is far from a fruit bomb. It is nuanced, layered, and complex, balanced with the tartness associated with the appellation. There are also characteristic tannins, but they are supple and largely integrated. Yes, this is a beautiful wine now, but it will likely improve in the relatively short term (3-5 years). Close to a Whoa. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2016 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France: Retail $60. 37% Grenache Noir, 29% Syrah, 27% Mourvèdre, 7% Cinsault. I do not profess to be a Châteauneuf-du-Pape expert. While I have some familiarity with Château la Nerthe, I am in no way one to consult when it comes to advice on the region. Having said that, this is good. Really freaking good. Slightly dark in the glass, with dark berry fruit (blackberry, cassis), spice, leather, even anise. The palate is rich, tart, layered, lovely. Again, I do not have a wealth of knowledge around this region, but this is spectacularly good. Outstanding. And Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2018 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, France: Retail $60. 42% Grenache Blanc, 41% Rousanne, 12% Clairette, 5% Bourboulenc. Whoa. Way back, well, let’s just say many years ago, I had a vanful of about 23 bikes and I was tasked to drive them from Avignon to St. Jean de Luz. As geography would have it, I needed to pass through the Southern Rhône Valley. As chance would have it, I got a bit of a late start (long story) and I was passing by the tiny town of Chåateauneuf-du-Pape at lunchtime. Not one to be known to ever miss a meal, I took a slight detour off the A-7/A-9 route to have lunch. And one singular glass of wine. That wine turned out to be a Château la Nerthe, and my life was forever altered. Whoa. I have said more than once that if I were ever denied a white Burgundy at my final meal, it should be replaced by a Château la Nerthe Blanc (in the years since I first uttered that decree, la Nerthe has easily moved to the top rung). Slightly golden in the glass, this wine is simply a masterpiece: rich, unctuous, mineral, floral, holy mother of Jesus, I could smell this for days. The palate? Initially a bit of fruit, but only a hint, followed by a wave of tartness, and then a bed of white flowers. It finishes with a subtle fruitiness that causes one to beg for more, only to realize that the flavors remain en bouche for much more than a lingering moment. Whoa. Wow, and Holy cow. This is a bucket-list kinda wine. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
Next week, I’ll publish a few videos where we discuss a few of the Richard Family’s wines from Bordeaux.