The Pope's White Wine | Drink | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
We need your help.

Newspapers and media companies nationwide are closing or suffering mass layoffs since the coronavirus impacted all of us starting in March. City Weekly's entire existence is directly tied to people getting together in groups--in clubs, restaurants, and at concerts and events--which are the industries most affected by new coronavirus regulations.

Our industry is not healthy. Yet, City Weekly has continued publishing thanks to the generosity of readers like you. Utah needs independent journalism more than ever, and we're asking for your continued support of our editorial voice. We are fighting for you and all the people and businesses hardest hit by this pandemic.

You can help by making a one-time or recurring donation on, which directs you to our Galena Fund 501(c)(3) non-profit, a resource dedicated to help fund local journalism. It is never too late. It is never too little. Thank you.

Eat & Drink » Drink

The Pope's White Wine

Getting to know Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc



I'm frequently asked about my favorite wine. And, I don't usually have a ready answer because the wine I'm drinking depends greatly on the food I'm eating (or not eating), the company I'm with, price, location, time, temperature and other factors. I don't really have a "favorite wine." Rather, I have lots of favorites.

Having begged the question, I will say that if I were exiled to a remote island and could only bring one type of wine with me, it would probably be Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I adore its racy, dense, earthy red wines, but my one true love is that lesser-known little tart of the southern Rhône: Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.

White Châteauneuf-du-Pape is always made from some (but rarely all) of the following six grape varieties: Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picpoul and Picardan. But let's back up just a bit. This strange-sounding French wine translates as "new castle of the Pope" and is named for the time in the 14th century when the walled-in city of Avignon, in the south of France, was the Pope's residence, instead of Rome. The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is only about 15 minutes or so from Avignon, and the region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape—the southernmost of the important Rhône wine appellations—boasts the world's best producers of this extraordinary wine: Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateau Rayas, Chateau La Nerthe, Domaine de la Charbonnière and the like.

Unfortunately, white Châteauneuf-du-Pape tends to be as pricey, if not more so, than the red. Less than 5 percent of all Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine produced in France is Blanc, and very little of that finds its way to America. But it can be found—at a price. Here, grand vin Château de Beaucastel Blanc will run you about $93 a bottle, and the crème de la crème Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes can set you back as much as $160, depending on its vintage.

Beaucastel Blanc is made from 80 percent Roussanne, 15 percent Grenache Blanc and 5 percent Bourboulenc, while the Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes is a very rare 100 percent Roussanne. Roussanne—which is the primary varietal of much high-end Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc—is an aromatic, stylish and elegant grape. It's frequently blended with Marsanne to take the edge off of that varietal.

A good Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (and there are plenty of insipid ones in the south of France) is a very dry wine that's loaded with mineral flavors, along with ripe peach, pear and melon. Chateau de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is typically a "fat" wine that will age well in the cellar. I can't imagine a better match for a simple roast chicken with lemon and thyme or rosemary.

Sadly, I can't often afford real Châteauneuf-du-Pape, whether red or white. But I've become very fond of a poor-man's substitute: La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Luberon Blanc. You can't beat the price at $7.99 for a 750ml bottle or $16.99 for 1500ml. It is a blend of equal parts (30 percent each) Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc and Ugni Blanc, and 10 percent Roussanne.

An even better Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc substitute is Tablas Creek Vineyard Cotes de Tablas Blanc ($24.99). The grapes come from Tablas Creek's certified organic estate vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif. It's a blend of four estate-grown southern Rhône varietals: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne. As in the great white wines of the southern Rhône, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne provide fruitiness and a bit of fatness to this wine, while Viognier lends floral aromatics and stone-fruit flavors. It would be lovely for Valentine's Day sipping.