Yes, the wines cellared and consumed within the walls of the Vatican are the stuff of legend, and have been for centuries. Just look at the links between the papacy and some of the finest wine producing parts of the world; Châteauneuf-du-Pape, anyone?
This deeply prestigious area gets its name from a period in the 1300s when the Papacy temporarily relocated to Avignon in the South of France. The big move precipitated a boom in locally produced fine wines, and the effects of this period can still be seen in the quality of wine coming from the region today.
Of course, the Papacy has traditionally been an altogether more Italian affair, and there is a truly ancient tradition of viticulture in that country that has doubtless kept the many Bishops of Rome in good spirits over the years. All in all, there is very little doubt that the Catholic Church has worked wonders for the wine industry in Europe over the years.
But that all changed this last week; finally, the Papal Conclave saw fit to give a resounding “you’re hired” to a chap from the ‘new world’ of South America. Now, between you and me, it was about as soft as this ‘bold new step’ could have been, for two reasons.
Firstly, yes, he is an Argentinian, but given his parentage, he is also technically (you guessed it) Italian. Go figure. Secondly, he comes from yet another country that produces amazing wines. Win-win for the Vatican traditions,
and their wine cellars!
So, if you were looking to raise your glass and tip your mitre to the new pontiff, what the devil is the right tipple? Here are a few ideas that I’m sure Pope Francis wouldn’t deny once, let alone three times.
Starting with the most obvious, but with a wee moral twist worthy of Francis of Assisi himself, is
Wine Not War Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011 (£19, Oddbins). It’s a classic rich and robust CNDP at a great price, but with an even more delightful aftertaste, because £1 of every bottle sold goes to War Child UK. A wee bit of cellaring is recommended, but the wine is vibrant enough that you could drink it now if you simply can’t wait.
If that is a bit much for your pocket (or if you aren’t the giving kind) there’s always
Chat-en-Oeuf Rouge 2010 (£5.99, Waitrose), a tongue-in-cheek budget version of the CNDP blend, which tries to mimic the hot and spicy fruit of its more opulent big brother. The name is a cute pun in French, and it has an illustrative label of a cat sitting on an egg. Tee-hee. Think of this as a lapsed catholic as compared to the altogether holier CNDP.
If you want to get into the spirit of his holiness’ nationality, look no further than the truly stunning
Masi Tupungato Passo Doble 2010 (£10.95 plus postage, Winedirect.co.uk). Masi, a huge Venetian wine producer, set up shop in Argentina (see what I did there?), making exquisite wines using a mix of traditionally Argentinian and Italian grapes, alongside some decidedly Italian methods. This is a mix of Malbec and partially dried Corvina grapes (like those used to produce Amarone), and has a voluptuous, velvety, raisiny character. Highly recommended.
Finally, If you really want to celebrate the new pope, you could push the boat out a little and get a bottle of
Charles Melton Nine Popes 2009 (£35, Oddbins). From Barossa in Australia, this has been aged for two years in French and American oak (some of it new oak, too) so it is a big, spicy beast of a wine, and much more intense and weighty than the CNDP style it pays homage to. To be frank, this wine could happily enjoy up to ten years of ageing, so you might want to save it up for the next puff of white smoke…
Amen to that!
Reading Between the Wines: free drinks for all at festival frolics
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