Thursday, 10 March 2011

Château de Beaucastel tasting with Marc Perrin

By Aaron Rice

Chateau de Beaucastel is one of the leading lights of the Rhone valley – and recent vintages were illuminated for us when Marc Perrin visited last week to host a tutored tasting of some of the impressive wines which he and his brothers have crafted in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Almost all of their wines are blends because, as Marc explained “Each grape is like an instrument – and the symphony will always be more impressive than the solo recital” hence Rhone wines gain their depth, complexity and unique appeal from the interplay of different varieties; so blending becomes as important as the growing and making of the individual wines. This he cites as one of the main differences between the northern and southern Rhone.

‘People think of the Rhone as one region, but the North and the South are completely different. In the north they mostly grow Syrah, the south we blend thirteen different varieties of grape. The north is granite, the south is clay and limestone. The climate in the North is continental, in the South its Mediterranean. The north is sloping, the south is mostly a plateau … and the food is different – butter in the north, olive oil in the south. We even support different football teams. We support Marseilles, they support Lyons.’

‘We want to be the major force in the Southern Rhone,’ he said. ‘All the big names – the brands – in the Rhone are from the north: for their wines from the south they become negociants. But we don’t want to buy grapes – you have no control – so we have invested and bought or leased vineyards. We own all our vines in Gigondas, Vaqueyras, Cairanne and are now running them along organic or bio-dynamic lines.’

The wines are all intended to fully express their terroir and the climate in every vintage – and this was illustrated beautifully in the contrasts between the ultra-ripe 2007s, the elegant 2008s and the silky, velvety opulence of the 2009s.

I have listed the notes for the wines below in the order they were tasted:

Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2007 Blanc
Marsanne 30%, Viognier 30%, Bourboulenc 30%, Clairette 10%. From vineyards just outside the Chateauneuf appellation which share the same terroir.   Ripe, full and honeyed on the palate with a bright, vivid acidity; lovely richness and a saline minerality on the finish. Drinking at its peak now and over the next two years.  

Chateau de Beaucastel 2007 Blanc
80% Roussanne, 15% Grenache Blanc, 5% Clairette, Marsanne and others. The Rousanne vines are all over 50 years old. Lush ripeness with hints of tropicality on the nose. Impressive weight and depth with an almost creamy texture and with a vibrant acidity which lifts the palate. Profound.

Chateau de Beaucastel 2007 Roussanne Vieille Vignes
The sole exception to the ‘symphony rule’, this comes from a tiny parcel of 75 year-old Roussanne vines.

Wonderful nose, toasty, nutty, smoky, honeyed and complex. Unctuous, honeyed texture with impressive weight and depth on the palate, yet a balancing acidity and delicious salty, minerally tang to the finish. Remarkably complex, praiseworthy. If you’re lucky enough to own this, either drink it within 5 years of vintage or (preferably) leave it in the cellar for a decade.  Marc Recommends it with sea urchin risotto.

Perrin Cotes du Ventoux 2009
Very ripe, with red and black fruits bursting from the glass. Vibrant and crunchy on the palate – an immensely enjoyable wine that would be delicious with or without food.

Perrin Cotes du Rhone Villages 2009
50% Grenache, 50% Syrah. Black fruits – damsons, plums and black cherries on the nose. Impressively deep, rich and dense on the palate with layers of fruit, spice, and minerality on the palate. Amazing depth and complexity for a wine at this level. Superb.

Perrin Vinsobres, Les Cornuds, 2007
The vineyards of Vinsobres are at some of the highest altitudes in the southern Rhone – so Syrah thrives here. This is a blend of 50% Syrah & 50% Grenache. Lovely fragrant note of violets and black pepper on the nose with a whiff of granite. Beautifully balanced and silky on the palate with supple forest fruits and mineral notes with hints of truffles.

Perrin Rasteau, L’Andeol,  2007
Quite a meaty style from a much warmer part of the region – and it shows. Rich black cherry and damson on the nose and palate with notes of leather, roasted game and garrigue. Very long finish with hints of winter spices and dark chocolate very complex and impressive and just beginning to open out.

Perrin Gigondas, La Gille, 2007
Marc calls this ‘a more feminine style of rhone’ due to the sandy soils of Gigondas which give wines of greater elegance than the stonier soils. Really complex nose; blackberries and cherries with floral notes and some gamy, earthy characters. Lovely texture in  the mouth, very pure and focussed with a finish that lingers for an age.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Rouge 2008
“A wine which proves” according to Marc “that even in a difficult vintage, great terroir will make fine wine”. This is a good reason to ‘buy‘wines and not vintages’ as Marc puts it. Already delicious (though some decanting is necessary for full enjoyment) this will drink nicely for a decade. Blackcurrant, cherry and spice with some garrigue and herby notes on the nose. Lovely, pure fruit on the palate and a very long, complex and delicious finish.

Chateau de Beaucastel Rouge 2008
Marc calls this ‘quite a Northern style’. Already quite open, the nose is immensely inviting with notes of liquorice, roasted game, blackcurrants, violets and garrigue. Beautifully focussed yet opulent texture, quite full on the palate with silky tannins, good freshness, and a long finish. Wow – a Beaucastel that can be enjoyed over the next decade instead of after two decades!

The diversity, complexity and across-the-board excellence of all the wines tasted, coupled with Marc’s passion and depth of knowledge, left everyone immensely impressed – and I guarantee that every member of staff who attended learned at least a couple of new facts about the family, the region and the wines.

So Marc, if you read this, thank you once again.

Aaron is a wine advisor at Averys. Should you wish to discuss any of our wines, you can contact him on 01275 812 237.

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