Domaine Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2011

domaine-chante-cigale-chateauneuf-du-pape-blanc-2011Those familiar with the merits of southern Rhone valley wines are undoubtedly aware of the high status of Chateauneuf du Pape. Part of the prestige belongs to local winemakers’ close affection for the rock-piled earth and the resistance to “go New World” with their product. The appellation’s resulting output stays affordable – relatively – and flush with native charm. Lush but not over-worked or cajoled by oak and the permutations of extraction, the vinous exports of the southern Rhone have distinguished themselves as less susceptible to the pumped-up sameness adopted by an increasing number of Bordeaux chateaus.

Chateauneuf lovers are appreciative (rather than dismissive) of simultaneous fullness and restraint, intrigue, earthiness and other notions tied to a sense of place – characteristics that tend to render food-friendly wines.

Red wine is the prevailing representative of Chateauneuf du Pape, owing to the dominance of the Grenache grape. Whites, while similarly expressive and self-aware, are a far rarer treat. Varieties like Bourboulenc barely constitute a percentage point of the area’s production. This is the primary reason why those who may have glancing experience with the wines of the Rhone are exponentially estranged from its whites. To the point, over the seven or so years I’ve been keeping track, I don’t recall a single Chairman’s Selection featuring Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc.

Our luck just turned, mes amis. Surprisingly, the PLCB was able to procure, in quantity, a recent vintage of a Domaine Chante Cigale white blend comprised of equal parts Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne and Bourboulenc.

The Chante Cigale is a fragrant, exciting rush of fresh and plentiful fruit, tempered by a flinty (and almost metallic) platform – part of the so-called terroir winos pine for. The wine’s light body carries a grippy viscosity and long finish that’s powered by mouthwatering acidity. The floral and fruity notes – think peaches and tropical goodies – are suggestive but ultimately countered by the wine’s earthbound influences. Full of life and balance, it could appeal as an aperitif or pair with Easter ham, fish, poultry and other lighter dishes. As is common with CdP whites, the alcohol is elevated but its 13.5% level is less extreme than many.

The Pennsylvania price of $19.99 compares very favorably against other online offerings hovering closer to the mid-$30 range. 90-92

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