For aficionados of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, one of the most cherished estates is Chateau La Nerthe.
The estate is ancient, even though what one might call its “renaissance period” dates only to 1986. It may be as much as 800 years old, but the first document describing its existence was produced in 1560.
Then known as Grange de Beauvenir, the estate was owned by the noble Tulle de Villefranche family of Piedmont. The wines of the time enjoyed a good reputation, and even were enjoyed by King Louis XVI.
Some of the cellars still in use were constructed during that period, while work on the estate’s chateau commenced in 1736. By the middle of the 18th century, the fruit produced on the estate was widely distributed, and estate-grown and bottled wines began to be made after the harvest of 1784.
Like many French estates, however, Chateau La Nerthe was wiped out by phylloxera during the 1800s. It enjoyed a period of rebirth after being bought by Commandant Joseph Ducos in 1870, but once the new century dawned, Ducos was gone and the estate gradually declined.
Then in 1986, an accountant-turned winemaker named Alain Dugas advised the Richard family that the historic estate would make a good investment. The Richards agreed, and subsequently hired Dugas to serve in a supervisory role.
Today, all 13 of the permitted Chateauneuf-du-Pape varieties are planted in the vineyard that surrounds the chateau, with Grenache accounting for 62 percent of the acreage. Syrah has an 18 percent stake in the vineyard, followed by Mourvedre with 15 percent and Cinsaut with 4 percent. If you know your math, you realize that the other varieties encompass only a few rows apiece, yet theyâ€™re important because they add nuance to the finished cuvees.
The vineyard benefits not only from a favorable Mediterranean climate, but also from meticulous care. Yields are strictly limited in order to concentrate flavors in the grapes, and that concentration – combined with expert blending -results in wines that are beautifully balanced, rich, long lasting… and nearly impossible to procure.
The estate is open by appointment only.