Just to throw in the question:

what´s the characteristics of a TRADITIONAL (red) Chateauneuf-du-Pape?

( I don´t mean to list the producers - we´ve already tried this - but the features a traditional wine should have … and resp. the methodes by which it has to be produced).

My 1st point is: stem inclusion - at least partially … and in consequence a certain quality of structure …

No new oak.

  1. Use of large oak foudres over barriques; used wood over new wood.

  2. Greater breadth in the use of the permitted 13 grapes over the 100% grenache super-cuvées.

This is an interesting question we’ve tried to wring out before. I know you said don’t list producers, but when you consider that Rayas, Beaucastel, and Pegau must all be considered “traditional” by any definition of the word, yet they are so different, I’m not sure there is a traditional style.

But… I would say field blends, whole cluster, old oak foudres, and brett.

  1. Less use of single-vineyard bottlings and so-called super cuvées. Modern vintners have dramatically trended toward multiple bottlings. Janasse is a great example of the modern trend, as is St. Cosme, who now produces a base Gigondas and four single vineyard cuvées.

Really tough question. Brett seemed to be a major part of traditional wines from the region. At least that has been the case in the past.


I agree.

  1. Agree reg. used wood, but the size of the foudres differ a lot with certain producers, e.g. the barrels used by Rayas and Bonneau are quite small, usually around 450 or 600 l, while others (Pegau) have large foudres of several 1000 liters, and a few used smaller barrels.

  2. the varieties in the vineyards usually are a traditional heritage … e.g. Rayas has (almost) 100% Grenache since generations, so that´s not a real criteria.

Sure no problem to name producers as examples …

Field blends: not necessarily, since some producers have superior vineyards they always used for their “Cuvee Reservee” while the rest has been sold off to negociants some decades ago … and now they still make a top-cuvee … and a regular cuvee from the lesser vineyards …
One example: Reserve de Celestins …

Brett: yes and no. Brett is a part of most red CdPs (and most other wines aged in wood), the question is only “how prominent” … even wines from destemmed fruit and aged in new barrels can have a lot of brett … and also wines aged in concrete tanks - so it´s not limited to “traditional producers” …
(but the most modern producers usually try to avoid it, granted, however not always successfully … )

IMHO not necessarily, because such special bottlings can be produced very traditionally … if you ever have tasted Pegau Maxime or Da Capo …

Just my 2 cents …

The taste or sensation of oak in the mouth or the palate is what I find more modern., and for the most part, not pleasing. I would think that Syrah and possibly Mourvedre have always been at least partially aged in some oak, but not Grenache. The blends we see today are probably quite similar to what has always been used, plus or minus to a great extent.

I like many of the special high end, special cuvees. And they can also be quite traditional. Have you tasted Hommage to Perrin lately? The trend to making these special wines is not going anyplace. Some of these wines were first produced in 1989 and 25 years later, they are going strong. Some have a longer history than that. Bonneau Reserve des Celestins has been in production since 1927.

I think what is more true than “less single-vineyard bottlings” is the fact that the domaine represented the “vineyard.” Rayas stands out to me. Sandy terroir across 10 hectares that the domaine is more synonymous than the vineyard or vineyards it encompasses. This also explains some of the vineyard specific bottlings of some of the top producers using select parcels in choice years. I think one of the reason for this is that single owners have dominated swaths of land versus say Burgundy when many vignerons work the same vineyard coupled with the parceling of inheritances.

This controversial in every wine region I’m familiar with, particularly in Chablis, where it is heated.

In 1985 I visited Vieux Telegraphe with a friend of their family, and got a super-tour (ie, maybe more than I knew enough to appreciate at the time.) It seemed like a futuristic winery compared to that I’d experienced before (which was not that many at that point). They maintained that they were super “traditional”…(despite bottling two cuvees: an “unfiltered” one for Kermit Lynch and a filtered one for the rest of their customers.

Somewhat of a meaningless term, IMO.

  1. No new oak (size of barrel container is less of an issue since and ancient barrique doesn’t taint the wine).

2)With Gerhard, I’d prefer no destemming and the ones I like don’t do it or do it much, but if the criterion is traditional, then I’m not sure if this shouldn’t be a matter of taste.

3)I agree with the avoidance of super cuvees. Almost all of them date back no farther than 1989 or 1990, and the practice was explicitly encouraged by Parker to increase prices, so, however traditional the winemaking–and, as Gerhard noted,if winemaking is defined simply in terms of how the wine is made, then Cuvee da Capo is as traditional as can be, the practice itself is a modern one. And–with exceptions–they tend more toward spoofing. Consider both Clos Mt. Olivet and Bois de Boursan, both of which make very good straight cuvees and very modern super cuvees.

4)Explicit seeking of overripeness and high alcohol. I know that global warming has something to do with contemporary ripeness levels. But I really don’t think they alone are responsible for wines coming in at 16% or, for that matter, various practices that entail very high alcohol and then watering back or reducing through mixing. Some wines that can advertize themselves as traditional–natural yeast, no new wood, etc.–still taste like jet fuel and CdPs before say 1998 didn’t used to taste like that.

Really, though, all these criteria are more a matter of taste than a matter of objective criteria. Some practices that we’re happy to have seen changed (bottling over the course of years rather than all at once, for instance) were surely traditional. I have some criteria of my own that are surely a matter of taste–I prefer less rather than more syrah as I don’t think the grape does well except in small quantities; I like mourvedre. I have no idea of whether there was more or less syrah 30 years ago. And I feel about this preference (to which, of course, I have exceptions much closer to home than Fonsalette) really the way I do about destemming, regardless of what was done in the past.

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You may be seeking absolutes as opposed to generalities. Hard to find absolutes in anything.

I still think the points I raised above all weigh heavily in favor of what is generally considered “traditional” versus “modern” CDP, bearing in mind that there are always exceptions to most statements. Rayas, for example, may be an example of a traditionally 100% grenache cuvee. How many of these 100% grenache cuvees were being made in the 1980s or earlier versus how many are being made in 2014? I stand by my statement that this is a modern trend.

I do not know the answer to this question, but since you raise the issue, were there wineries destemming in the “traditional” era?

I think the culture wars are difficult to adjudicate in Chateauneuf because of the inherent size and richness of the wines. I agree that stem inclusion and no new oak are important, though the size of the vessel is not. Big and rich wines like Bonneau (how long have the cuvee speciales been around?) and Pegau are traditional as they come. I don’t think it fair to include Brett, just as I don’t think it fair to do so in Burgundy. If looking at trends, I think the rise of Syrah and 100 percent Grenache have been “modern” developments.

Anyone have a rough idea how many producers still include stems? That might be the easiest indicator. It certainly gets a rise out of producers when one asks.


Had a 2010 Clos St. Jean VV last week that was 16% and drank like it. A mess.

Vintage 2001 is my last favorite vintage. I’ve pretty much stopped buying Southern Rhone with some small exceptions.

I think the watering back and spoofing is much more common these days and not for the better. But just going for richness and high alcohol, I’m less sure about. At least I’ve had some exceptions, like the 1990 Bonneau cuvee speciale, which was rich and port-like, not something I normally like. But it was delicious.

Seems like a confusing question. When you look at the two benchmark producers, the styles really couldn’t be more different! Throw a Telegraphe or Pegau in the mix, there’s a third interpretation!

Within the traditional camp, there is a wide stylistic range. What about on the modern side?

  1. It’s impossible to generalize this, and it depends on what side of the tree your concept of “traditional” comes from. Bonneau has historically made 2 to 3 cuvees a vintage (dating back to the 50s too), while Rayas has made one, so it’s not really like it’s a new concept, it’s just spiraled out of control. Some of the cuvees, like Hommage Jacques Perrin (mostly Mourvedre and usually under 14% alcohol), Da Capo (uses all 13 varietites) and Mas de Boislauzon Tintot (100% Mourvedre) are among the most interesting wines being made in CDP, in my opinion.

  2. Bonneau believed in ripeness. His wines are crazy high in alcohol, but that goes along with being ripe, and using Grenache. That’s a general issue for Grenache. It produces a lot of sugar, and with CDP being hot, flat, full of rocks, and generally has soil that does a good job of retaining sun light. Also, maybe I’m just being naive, but is it known that people are watering back? Did I miss something?

Like almost any other non-defined wine term (and some defined ones), ‘traditional’ means different things to different people. When applied to Chateauneuf du Pape, and based on the history of winemaking in the appellation, here’s what it means to me:

A high percentage of Grenache (usually 60% or more).
Little or no destemming.
Relatively long aging (up to 24 months) in neutral vessels.

There are also what some have termed the ‘modern traditionalists,’ who make Grenache-dominant wines but who partially or completely destem the fruit and age the wine in tank or neutral wood for a shorter period of time. Vieux Telegraphe is a good example.

Anything else (less than 50% Grenache; new oak for vinification or aging) cannot, IMHO, be properly labeled ‘traditional.’

YM, of course, MV.

Agree that the obvious taste of new (toasty) oak is certainly something anti-traditional !

I have tasted Hommage in most vintages up to 2005 … and the reason why I don´t think it is a typical traditional wine: they destem ! And that´s tastable … even more since 1998 …

Bonneau Celestins has been (reg. Harry Karis´book) produced since 1927, but I have only tasted examples from the 50ies and 70ies upwards … the alc. is no doubt up to 15% or more (past 16% in some years), but it rarely tastes like that because it´s got enough structur to counterpoint … and the same with Pegau … that´s what is essential for a traditional style … (not the size of the barrels).