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A papal evening with Domaine Pontifical from Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Wines from the South can warm nicely in the winter in the cold North. And can also cheer up a gloomy evening. Domaine Pontifical is a winery in Chateauneuf-du-Pape that makes excellent wines with a dominance of trendy grape Grenache. It also makes a prestige cuvée a rare white chateauneuf. BKWine Magazine’s Ulf Bengtsson went exploring one dark night.

Just when the Swedish Christmas rush is at its most anguished, in mid-December, when I still have not quite given up hope of finding the perfect Christmas gift, Xwine invited me to a tasting with Domaine Pontifical. Very nice! A little dash of wine does, it turns out, the trick for any kind of Christmas present anxiety.

Domaine Pontifical is a small, family-owned wine producer in the very centre of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Grandpa Albert planted the vines in the 1920s. Today it is François Laget-Royer who manages the vineyard together with his wife and their daughter Pauline.

The Laget-Royer family at Domaine Pontifical, Chateaunuef

The Laget-Royer family at Domaine Pontifical, Chateaunuef, copyright U Bengtsson

They have 18 hectares, 17 red and one white. A true family business in other words! On a scale from traditionalists to modernists, they are clearly on the traditional side. The ageing is done in large barrels, ie no barriques. The wines are made with a majority of Grenache. For the standard cuvée the base is 85 percent Grenache, in the top cuvéen the base is 90 percent Grenache.

But we start with white Chateauneuf-du-Pape. There is not much white Chateauneuf made. Southern Rhône is not exactly known for its white wines. First, it is perhaps a little bit too hot, it’s hard to get the acid up to a sufficient level and hard to keep the freshness of the white wines and it seems to be comparatively favourable to grow red. But here and there, there are some growers who like to keep a small stripe of white. For which we are grateful. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”via @bkwineper”]White Chateauneuf can in fact be totally awesome[/inlinetweet]. Pull the cork!

Domaine Pontifical, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Domaine Pontifical, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, copyright U Bengtsson

2013 Domaine Pontifical Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc begins with lovely light yellow fruit; it is full-bodied, slightly spicy. There is a well-balanced acidity, giving the wine a good back-bone and freshness. It was actually a very nice wine! After a while the wine starts reminding me of riesling, which is pretty curious. There is a little bitterness, but nothing that interferes. A very nice wine, fresh and full-bodied, good acidity, interesting nose. I would not mind buying more of this.

We then continue with the red wines. We get the 2011 and 2010 of the standard cuvée, Domaine Pontifical. Here the focus is on fruit and food! Both vintages have red-fruity character, good punch in the fruit and high acidity. Prefect to French home cooking! Both wines also have quite a lot of herbs. The 2010 also a little chocolaty.

Finally [pullquote position=”right”]2009 Vieille Vignes d’Albert Domaine Pontifical. Super delicioius![/pullquote] Significantly rounder than the previous two; this is a class better. More aromatic, which is interesting. Delicious wine to just sit and enjoy the smell of!

In summary, the Domaine Pontifical is an interesting producer, whose wines I would like to try more of.

Especially the last wine, the 2009 Vieilles Vignes d’Albert. Wonderfully integrated, great flavours, lovely southern French warmth, good food wine but works well on its own too. More wine like this!

Domaine Pontifical Vieilles Vignes d'Albert, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Domaine Pontifical Vieilles Vignes d’Albert, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, copyright U Bengtsson

We also get a glimpse of Xwine as a company and its background. From the beginning it was ten Swedes who started a vineyard in the south of France, with the interesting set-up of Swedish Management, French soil, and international winemakers. It came to be a pretty successful winery, which also sold a lot to Systembolaget (the Swedish monopoly). But because the monopoly’s capriciousness (“Nah, we felt that we wanted a change”) they ended the contract with the vineyard. When in 2007 it became allowed to sell wine directly to private individuals (bypassing the monopoly) they started Xwine with people who had been active in the vineyard.

Xwines mission is to tie the winery directly to the customer. It should be easy to visit the winery, it should be possible to stay overnight there, it should be easy to have a personal relationship with the vineyard. It’s about story-telling, creating a relationship with a wine and to a place, to say that “this wine, we have bought it ourselves at the wine grower’s, on-site, and we also lived there a couple of nights!” Personal, close, relationship-building. Xwine currently has contacts with many wineries, several in Piedmont and in Southern France but also in Alsace and Champagne. Slowly but surely, they add more.

A few hours later, filled with good food, very good wines and interesting conversation about wine and about innovative mobile applications, we walk out into the fresh December night. Christmas Gift anxiety is gone, this will be a super Christmas! Many thanks to Xwine and Domaine Pontifical!

Ulf Bengtsson writes about wine under the pseudonym Red Scream on his blog Red Scream and Riesling, on wine, food, photography and other things that are important in life. Like detective novels, taking long walks in Stockholm and the occasional burst of exercise. He is also on Facebook.

Domaine Pontifical is one of many excellent wine producers in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. If you want to meet some of the top winemakers and taste delicious wines then come on a wine tour to the southern Rhone valley and Chateauneuf with BKWine.

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The village Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and the ruins of the Pope's summer palace

The village Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and the ruins of the Pope’s summer palace, copyright BKWine Photography

Vineyard with galet stones in the southern Rhone Valley

Vineyard with galet stones in the southern Rhone Valley, copyright BKWine Photography

This post is also available in: Swedish

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