At first, I thought perhaps it was the official altar wine at the Vatican and I thought it was perhaps a new Italian wine that I was not aware of. Before I get way off on a tangent, let me explain that I got a message on one of the Social Media sites from a young lady that lived on the same street I did, back in Detroit, and for her sake, I won’t say how long ago. She received a gift and sent me a photo and asked if I knew the wine, and I don’t know about others that write about wines, but I get this type of question frequently and most I can answer right off the top of my head. I was taken aback by this wine, and as I said, I immediately thought of an Italian wine, but I forgot my history lessons.
There is village between the towns of Avignon and Orange in the southern part of France’s Rhone Valley known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape which translates to “new castle of the Pope.” In the early 14th Century, Clement V chose Avignon for his home and for his court, this is the same Pope of the famed Chateau Pape Clement of Graves, in Bordeaux. Originally the wines from this area were just known locally, but in the 1920’s it all changed when a document was created in Chateauneuf-du-Pape which became the precursor of the famed Appellation Controlee laws of France, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape was one of the original appellations and still quite a famous one. Chateau Sixtine is a wine producer that was founded by the Diffonty family in 1900 and began with two hectares of vines. The family played a significant role in the creation of the Syndicat de Chateauneuf-du-Pape in 1924, and since 1993 Jean-Mar Diffonty has been in charge of the family estate. Beyond the two flagship wines, a red and a white, they also produce Manus Dei du Chateau Sixtine and Cuvee du Vatican Chateauneuf-du-Pape and then they produce wines under the appellations of Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages.
The Diffonty estate also makes Benedictus de Vatican Reserve Sacree 2019. As to be expected this wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, the famed trio of the Rhone, but this wine is a blend of his finest Cotes du Rhone cuvee and his well regarded Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines for a big bang in value, and the wine is made in a limited production. Because this wine is a blend from two distinct appellations, it has to be listed under the basic tier of Vin de France, which was originally called Vin de Table or Table Wine. With increasing competition both from the European markets and the rest of the world, the Vin de Table appellation was losing ground, and areas and districts strove to increase quality and worked towards additional appellations and finally for wines that were considered better than table wines, because of rules that affected their status like this particular wine, the Vin de France appellation was created. I have seen reviews for this wine that say that one can expect black fruits, spices and tobacco notes along with the velvety finish of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. My friend told me, that she prefers sweeter wines, but told me that this wine wasn’t too bad. And before I leave this interesting wine, I will mention one of my favorite peccadillos about this region and I have mentioned it before, that the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape has a famous municipal decree that bans flying saucers from taking off, landing or flying over the vineyards; and to my knowledge they have been successful with this law for the last seventy years or so.