This week my wife and I were invited to visit the wonderful Château La Nerthe winery in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As guests of a friend, we were given a private tour of the cellars and grounds where we learned about the fascinating history of the estate, which dates back to the 12th century. La Nerthe was an established wine producer by the late 1700s, and in 1782 a French author noted that "the best wines are harvested in the Clos de La Nerthe….they have smoothness and charm." There are even records documenting that the winery exported wine to the United States in 1786--just 10 years after the Declaration of Independence.
The oldest part of the cellar dates back to 1560, with stone tanks with walls measuring 1.20 meters thick. Recently an archeologist examined the huge cellar stones and determined that they had been taken from the Roman amphitheater in Orange!
Château La Nerthe is one of the few estates that grows all thirteen grape varieties allowed in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape domain, and it is also one of the few that chooses to produce a white wine. Unlike many areas of Provence, the wine makers of Châteauneuf are not restricted in how they can blend the varieties, which means that each vineyard has an opportunity to handcraft very personal wines. That said, the predominate grape in La Nerthe red blends is Grenache Noir.
The 90 hectares (about 222 acres) of vines at La Nerthe are an average of 40 years old, and some date back almost 100 years. Because older vines yield fewer (but more intense) grapes, they estimate that they get about one bottle of wine per vine. And when it is time to plant new vines, despite the fact that they will yield grapes after about 5 years, it will be 20 years before any of those grapes are used to make Château La Nerthe wines. All of their wines are certified "bio" (organic), and have been long before it became something fashionable to do as a marketing strategy.
Of course our visit would not have been complete without a tasting of their wines. We sampled both the reds and whites and we were not disappointed! I don't claim to have the gift of describing the finer points of wines, but I found them to be very nicely balanced and subtle. The 2011 Red (which we purchased) was absolutely delicious, with flavors of red berries and plum, and was ready to drink (though would cellar nicely for another 10 years or more). A special tasting of their 1984 vintage was a rare treat, and the difference in flavor profiles was fascinating; to my palette it tasted of rosemary and figs.
One wine we did not taste was the Cuvée des Cadettes. These wines are in such high demand that they are not offered in the tasting room, and vintages are sold out by advance order. The winery does hold a small quantity of bottles for purchase however--something to look forward to on our next visit!
If you find yourself in Provence I highly recommend a visit to Château La Nerthe. I can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend an afternoon than to pack a picnic lunch, buy a bottle of wine, and spend a few hours overlooking the stunning Châteauneuf-du-Pape landscape.
All Images © 2014 Ken Wallace Films LLC. All rights reserved.
Château la Nerthe
Société Civile Agricole
Route de Sorgues
Tél : 33 0 490 83 70 11
Fax: 33 0 490 83 79 69
Coordonnées GPS Lat: 44.049596 Lng: 4.856644 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit of the cellar with appoitment.
Vente à la propriété.