What’s on your Bucket List? While a normal person wants to check off going to Mars, driving a racecar or meeting a president, wine writers have lists that almost always include visiting wineries in far off places. Having Shiraz in Australia, Tempranillo in Spain, Chianti Classico in Italy and Malbec in Argentina are on our lists, but top of the list for me has always been France. I had two days in Bordeaux years ago and a week in the Garda DOC in Italy that just wet my whistle for more, so when a small group of wine writers was being put together, to visit Chateauneuf du Pape for arguably the best Rhone wines in the world, I poised my pencil over my list and made a huge mark – YES, please, take me!
Quick travel tips: Bottles are priced much less at the source, even with shipping costs; we saved in buying a case to have sent home. If you can’t get winery appointments, or don’t have the time, we found several tasting rooms in town – as well as several places for meals. None of us in our party spoke fluent French, and though it would have helped, we were fine communicating in English. You can drive your own car, on the right side of the street, but there are many roundabouts, toll roads and narrow roadways.
Our first day in France began with a sunrise at our friend’s Villa in Monoblet. From there we traveled 90 minutes for a tour and tasting at Chateau (wines from the Cote du Rhone area) and Domaine (Chateauneuf du Pape area in Rhone) from Pegau. We have a few Domaine Pegau wines in our cellar and really looked forward to visiting the real deal.
From our host we learned that there are five towns in Chateauneuf du Pape that produced 95% red and 5% white wine grapes. They use 13 grape varieties and any given bottle only has to use one grape. Pegau – properly pronounced as “Pay-Go” – uses all 13, including blending white with red grapes. For their Cote du Rhone property Pegau makes 44% red wine and one Rose wine.
We learned that they are an old school winery, as far as winemaking techniques. When finished wine is ordered only then is a bottling truck ordered and labels created. (There are different laws for different labeling around the world, so that is the reason they have to wait to print the labels.)
Only old oak is used for aging and some barrels are 90 years old. Stainless steel tanks are only used for their white wines; some high-end whites also spend time in wood barrels and concrete eggs. They do no de-stem any of the wines, which for me meant that the terroir would show earthiness and tannins.
Now, onto the tasting! We sampled two Chateau Pegau Vallee du Rhone and two Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape, a white and red in each category, aged between 2019 and 2021. My personal preference on these leaned more toward the Chateauneuf du Pape wines and of particular note was the 2019 Cuvee Reservee that used all 13 Rhone grapes and 80% of that was Grenache. These wines were priced between 10 and 45 euros – which is pretty close to the same in American dollars.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.