Domaine Les Cailloux in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the region’s most admired estates, thanks in large part to Andre Brunel, the estate’s third generation owner/producer. He and his wife Lucien run the 52-acre estate, which produces both red and white wines. The estate’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape is 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 12% Syrah and 3% other varieties. A limited production Cuvee Centenaire usually 80% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre and 8% Syrah, and is made from 100 year old vines. It is only made in years when Brunel believes the vintage is good enough for the Centenaire. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that “Andre Brunel is one of the bright shining lights of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.”
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the appellation, is a large area of nearly 8,000 vineyard acres centered around the picturesque town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Located in southeastern France just north of the Avignon hills, the name of the appellation means “new castle of the pope” and it is a reference to the 14th century, when the Popes of Avignon built summer homes in the Southern Rhone Valley. Today the appellation is one of the most renowned in France and its terroir is known for layers of small pebbles, called “galets.” The stones in the soil are thought to help store heat and keep the soil warm, which helps ripen the grapes. The stones also help keep the soil from drying out in hot summer months. In 1923 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was a leader in establishing the idea that AOC wines in France should be made only with specified grapes, and the appellation allowed 13 grape varieties to be used. Since then the rules have been slightly modified to include several more allowable grapes. Red and white wines are produced, though in practice about 97% of all Châteauneuf –du-Papes are reds made with a blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvedre, Muscardine, Syrah and Vaccarese. The red wines of this appellation are prized for being big, rich, spicy and full-bodied. White wines of the appellation are made with Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Picpoul and Picardin. Whites are floral, fruity and relatively full-bodied.