2000 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($40)
When the popes moved from Rome to Avignon, around 700 years ago, one of them decided to build a little summer getaway outside the cramped and steamy city. Nothing fancy. Just a hilltop fortress with stone walls a yard thick, a dungeon, and a few openings for pouring boiling oil on invaders. In other words, your usual 14th-century papal cottage. These days, the Pope’s New Castle, as it was called, is not much more than a crumbling pile of rubble, but the area named for it is still famous for its wine.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most important appellation in the Southern Rhône. The wines can be blended from any of 13 permitted grape varieties, but the fruity Grenache grape dominates the mix. Château La Nerthe, one of the loveliest estates in the area, is a large but inviting mansion surrounded by well-kept vineyards — and the wines are equally charming. The bright, juicy 2000 is loaded with thrilling raspberry and spice flavors.
1999 Delas Freres Marquise de la Tourette Hermitage Rouge; www.mmdusa.net
Lush and complex
Great with game
2000 Perrin Vinsobres Côtes du Rhône Villages; www.vineyardbrands.com
Ripe and tangy
Try it with grilled foods
2000 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape; www.clicquot.com
Racy and spicy
Serve with roast pork loin