Over the course of the nearly ten years writing this blog (the 10-year anniversary is January 12, 2022), I have had the opportunity to visit some beautiful regions (although not that much in the last two years), eat incredible meals, and, of course, try some amazing wines. While all that is certainly true and surpassed even the craziest dreams I might have had a decade ago, by far the most impactful part of this rather amazing journey has been the people that I have met as a result of this little website.
Among the scores of winemakers, vintners, farmers, marketers, public relations professionals, cellar workers, retailers I have met, I consider a healthy number of them friends, several of whom have visited us in Houston. Again, I never envisioned such a scenario ten years ago, but today it seems, dare I say, “normal”?
One of those people that I have met and whom I now consider a friend is Christophe Bristiel, the export manager for Château la Nerthe, the oldest producer of record in Châteauneuf. He was in Texas for TEXSOM back in November and decided to stop by Houston for a couple of days afterward.
He sent a bunch of wine ahead of his visit, including all of the current releases from Château la Nerthe, which we tasted through one glorious afternoon. And even though we started with the reds and finished with the whites (as one is known to do in Burgundy), I present the latter first today. I will be back soon with my notes for the reds.
2019 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, France: Retail $60. 40% Grenache Blanc, 34% Roussanne, 20% Clairette, 6% Bourboulenc. I actually did not taste this wine in person with Christophe, but rather via Zoom. He was at his home in the south of France and I was actually in Paris for a funeral (I really should have hopped on a train to taste it with him in person, but I am a terrible friend, so…). As I have mentioned a number of times, due to a number of factors, the white wines of the Rhône are close to supplanting those of Burgundy as my preferred still whites from France. And this is at the top of the list. Great fruit (citrus), floral (whit acacia), and honeyed on the nose, which transfers to the palate as well. Rich, layered, and complex even though it is still quite young (I like my la Nerthe whites to get close to a decade on them). Really close to a whoa. Excellent. 92 Points.
2020 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, France: Retail $50. This is a wine that has not yet been released, but I understand that the varietal composition is similar to the 2019 (40% Grenache Blanc, 34% Roussanne, 20% Clairette, 6% Bourboulenc). This is hands down on my very short list of still whites that I would drink at my last supper. I have tasted many iterations of this wine now and while this is quite young, 2020 was a good year for whites at la Nerthe. Only about 6% of the production in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is white but it is closer to 20% at la Nerthe (thank you, Jesus). There was about one month between the harvest of Roussanne and Bourbelanc (which is quite unusual) and all of the varieties were fermented in oak (which is the norm). A bit tropical and citrus on the nose with some minerality on the nose. The palate is rich, stopping just short of unctuous. Fantastic fruit (tree and citrus), great tartness that really balances out the fruit, with a bit of chalkiness on the finish. Excellent and close to a whoa. Excellent. 92 Points.
2001 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Clos de Beauvenir, France: Retail $180? Roussanne, Grenache Blanc. Ever since I started tasting white Chateauneuf-du-Pape from la Nerthe a handful of years ago or so, it has been my benchmark and I measure just about every other white, regardless of variety, against it. Well, here I am not only judging la Nerthe against itself, but this is a) a white from the best plot (only about three acres) for white on the estate, but also a wine that has two decades* of age on it. Sure, it is a golden yellow in the glass (suggesting its age) but the nose is luscious with tropical notes, some citrus, a hint of vanilla, and a wheelbarrow full of verve. Whoa. The palate, if possible, is even more engaging than the nose for this 20-year-old wine. Rich & unctuous, but the fruit is subtle, this wine has impeccable balance, an incredible mouthfeel, and one of the longest finishes I can remember. Whoa. Outstanding. 96 Points.
2020 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Clos de Beauvenir, France: Retail $120. 65% Grenache Blanc, 35% Rousanne (2019). “Beauvenir” was the name of la Nerthe property before its purchase by the Tulle de Villefranche family in 1560. For a long time, the now exclusive plot served as the garden for the château and mostly consists of limestone soil and receives heavy doses of morning sun and evening wind. Roussanne is planted at the top of the Clos (the French word for a walled vineyard), with Clairette just below and Grenache Blanc interplanted a bit throughout. Fermented in larger barrels with 50% new French oak, the rest close to neutral. A very elegant nose of peach, pear, a hint of lemon, Yowza. On the palate, there is fantastic weight and it comes off a bit smoky with a lovely combination of fruit and acidity, really one of the best whites from the region I have ever had. It finishes with both finesse and power and a length that is unrivaled. Like all the whites from la Nerthe, this has an incredible future. Only 100 cases made–what an incredible treat. Whoa. And a Holy smokes. I hope I get to taste this wine again, maybe in a decade? Extraordinary. 98 Points.