A Gorgeous Rhône WhiteNick Passmore
"We are not in the style of white Châteauneuf which uses a lot of oak; we prefer to emphasize the minerality we get from the terroir."
These are the words of Isabelle Ogier, spokesman for Domaine de Nalys, in the southern French wine region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
CNP is primarily known for its red wines—which is hardly surprising, as they comprise more than 90 percent of total production. This one-sided allocation, though, disguises the fact that the white wines of the region can be spectacular, as this week's Wine of the Week, the Domaine Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2008 ($33), clearly demonstrates.
Nalys is an anomaly in the region in that it has earned a reputation for its whites, which make up fully 15 percent of its production.
The domaine is dramatically situated on the high eastern plain of the appellation, with stunning views of both the town and the Rhone river to the west, and Mont Ventoux to the east. It was on a visit to this stunning property in the summer of 2009 that I first tasted their 2008 white. It had only just been bottled, and while it showed wonderful fruit, it was still closed and tightly wrapped. As Ogier explained: "We don't have big volume at this stage. It really needs more aging to be at its optimum."
The truth of her observation was apparent when we tasted the 2005. It was gorgeous—round and generous—and just beginning to develop those notes of mushrooms and honey, dried almonds, and white peaches, which are characteristic of older CNP whites. It retained an amazing freshness—and that minerality Ogier referred to—while at the same time managing intriguing hints of rancio. Ah, I thought, the perfect wine for truffles.
I revisited the 2008 again a couple of weeks ago, and it was now pleasurably apparent that this is a wine with a similarly remarkable, even decadent destiny. So buy a case, and enjoy watching the wine evolve and mature over the next five years.
When to Drink: Now and for the next five years
Breathing/Decanting: One our breathing helps it open up
Food Pairing: White fish, meaty fish, chicken, and pasta. Pork.
Grapes: Primarily Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Bourboulenc.
Web Site: www.domainedenalys.com