My first introduction to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style wine was a bottle of Bonny Doon Le Cigar Volante at the Hudson River Club in New York City in the late 1980s. I’ll never forget the experience, because it was the first time I really understood that pairing the right wine with the right food can make for a magical culinary experience. The main meal was roasted goose in a superb red wine reduction sauce  – probably my first poultry experience outside of chicken and Xmas turkey! – and it worked beautifully with the medium bodied yet spicy and deliciously flavourful Le Cigar Volante.

Back then my husband was a big fan of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and his interest coincided with the birth of Rhone Rangers – at the time a loosely affiliated group of Californian winemakers who were interested in promoting the use of grape varieties from Rhone in Southern France. Bonny Doon was one of the first wineries to use Rhone style varietals: its inaugual Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 1984, a homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, was released in 1986. We loved the wine and we also enjoyed the quirky labels, which remind me a little of the humorous names of some of the d’Arenberg wines – one of Australia’s foremost Rhone Rangers, to borrow to the American term!

Many Australian winemakers also make fine examples of Châteauneuf-du-Pape style blends, usually at a fraction of the price of their American counterparts. Up to 13 varieties are officially allowed in Rhone Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but typically most are a blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre. d’Arenberg’s The Ironstone Pressings 2007, (rrp $60) for example, is 70 per cent grenache, 25 per cent shiraz and 5 per cent mourvèdre. Jay Millar of The Wine Advocate gave this wine 92 points, and his tasting notes reflect a … Read the rest