There has been some nervous weather watching over recent vintages in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with poor bud break and drought depleting the 2017 harvest, mildew causing havoc in 2018 and high summer temperatures coupled with low rainfall reducing the size of the crop in 2019. Qualitatively, the wines that have been produced have been very good but it has entailed a lot of work in the vineyard and wine-makers are having to learn to expect the unexpected.
Father and daughter Jean-Pierre and Emilie Boisson of Domaine du Père Caboche, enjoy enviable vine holdings at La Font du Pape in the centre of the appellation and alongside illustrious neighbours on the famous 'La Crau' plateau. They have atypically high plantings of white grapes representing 10% of their total production which is twice the average in the region. Their white Châteauneuf' is made from a blend of 40% Clairette, 30% Bourboulenc and 15% each of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne and is a consistent crowd-pleaser. Without any oak influence, it has bright greengage and citrus scents and a smooth stone fruit palate with an elegant, dry finish. It doesn't demand food accompaniment but makes a fine foil to fish and poultry. The Boisson's main wine in volume terms is their popular red Châteauneuf' that is made from a base of about 70% Grenache Noir but deploys all of the 18 permitted grape varieties. Typically, it has a sensuous stewed red fruit bouquet and a bright damson and cassis palate offset by fondant tannins. It drinks wonderfully well from release and consequently enjoys a loyal following of restaurateurs. Jean-Pierre and Emilie's flagship wine is their impressive old vine 'Cuvée Elisabeth Chambellan' from a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre. It has much the same succulent red fruit appeal as the Domaine bottling but is denser, darker, more complex and age-worthy and is great value for a Grand Vin.
Half a kilometre along the route de Courthézon, brother and sister François and Claire Michel produce some of the appellation's most critically acclaimed wines at their Le Vieux Donjon headquarters. They produce a single red wine from a blend of 75% Grenache Noir, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault that is vinified in concrete vats and large oak foudres and is blended and bottled 18 months after the harvest. The finished wine has a bouquet of ripe garrigue berries, herbes de Provence and tapenade and a sleek palate of blackberry coulis and cracked pepper over a framework of fine-grained tannins. It drinks well from release (if decanted) and can age well for 10-20 years. Claire and François also make a fine Châteauneuf' blanc from equal volumes of Clairette and Roussanne. With fragrant white plum and peach scents, a smoothly-textured palate of apricots and mirabelles and a fresh finish, it has engendered a fiercely-loyal following.