Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most famous of French wines – yet also the most misunderstood. Harry Eyres explains more – and celebrates its latest superb vintage.

I recently tried the 2016 northern Rhône wines, which I found thoroughly enticing in their freshness and elegance. However, even as I tasted those the word on the street was that the southern Rhône wines – Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, the Côtes du Rhône villages – performed even better than the north.

The rumours were right. I can confirm that it was a great year for Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Why you should be buying it

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most famous names in French wine, but I’ve often felt it was also one of the most misunderstood. Grapes achieve high levels of ripeness on the famous plateau with its large white pebbles, but elegance is as much of a keynote as strength.

Some of the wines, especially those made by Clos des Papes, are almost Burgundian.

What to buy

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition 2016, Domaine Raymond Usseglio

£102 per six via www.bbr.com

An attractive bright colour, then sufficient meat and heft on the palate combined with good freshness. Now 100% biodynamic, this is, in my view, one of the best domaines in Châteauneuf.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Impériale 2016

£198 per six via www.bbr.com

Made from centenarian Grenache vines, has terrific concentration and intensity, with substantial tannin as well as superb freshness – but don’t touch it for seven years.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Domaine de la Janasse 2016

£144 per six via www.bbr.com

Domaine de la Janasse has risen to the very top in Châteauneuf without any great flourishes. This wine is deep-coloured, beautifully fresh and pure.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de la Janasse Cuvée Chaupin 2016

£280 per six via thevinorium.co.uk

Even better, more refined and, if possible, even more intensely fresh than the Domaine de la Janasse Rouge is the same domaine’s Cuvée Chaupin. It may seem steep, but it’s worth every penny.