There is no doubt that Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a unique wine region—from its famous rounded “galet” stones which blanket the vineyards to the sometimes extravagant lengths that appellation rules go to in protecting the land (a 1954 law banning UFO flyovers is still in effect). It’s only fitting then that we should be tasting a unique wine! While some 95% of Chateuneuf-du-Pape wines are reds, there exists a small minority of whites produced—including today’s 2015 Chante Cigale Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.
Chante Cigale is a producer that is as much a specialist in white Chateauneufs as any, dedicating a fifth of their production to the equal parts of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, and Bourbolenc that make up their blend. The domain’s history dates back to the late 1800s when their founder Hyppolite Jourdan first started producing. Over the next century, many things of course would change, but current winemaker Alexander Favier is still dedicated to working the lands of the Rhone. Between their reds and whites, Chante Cigale grows 13 different grape varieties in their vineyards, each one harvested only when it has reached peak ripeness—a detailed process that can take up to three months.
This attention is representative of the domain’s desire to let the terroir come through with minimal intervention, balancing richness with freshness. Apart from a small fraction of Roussanne that is fermented in new Burgundy oak, the wine is made and aged in stainless steel, helping to keep fruit. No malolactic fermentation is allowed, opting for bright over creamy acid. Instead, Chante Cigale ages their whites from 3 to 6 months on the lees, allowing complexity and richness to develop.
When tasting this wine, I was impressed. In the glass, there is a welcoming nose of musky peach and lemon with a bit of toastiness offset by a note of salty minerality. The wine offers a lush body with lots of dry extract led by tropical flavors of passion fruit and quince. Racing acidity and tangerine pith bitterness with the slightest hint of almond on the finish gives the wine a beautiful freshness and counterbalance. For those who have never tasted a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the Chante Cigale will be an illuminating experience, offering a rich, delicious look into a lesser seen side of the Rhone.
At $29.99 and 93 points from Wine Spectator, the 2015 Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc offers a fantastic value for such a deep wine and will continue to bring pleasure over the next few years.