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2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château de Beaucastel
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Château de Beaucastel has 200 hectares of vineyards which makes it one of the largest wine estates in the Châteauneuf du Pape region.
Chateau Beaucastel has been run by several generations of the Perrin family, beginning with the late Jacques Perrin (who died in 1978), then the brothers Jean-Pierre and Francois, and now their sons Thomas, Marc, Pierre, and Mathieu. The Perrins own an impressive portfolio of wines, from the extraordinary values, to the top-end world classics, including a sizeable operation under the Perrin et Fils label, as well as the well-priced negociant brand La Vielle Ferme, all of which showcase the complexity and diversity of terroirs in the Rhone region.
Beaucastel was one of the very first domaines to practise organic viticulture - namely no use of herbicides, insecticides or any other chemicals. Unusually, all 13 permitted grape varieties are grown although it is Mourvèdre which is Beaucastel`s signature grape, often making up a third of the final blend.
Beaucastel is renowned for its controversial vinification "á chaud" which involves rapidly heating the incoming grapes, which extracts colour and aroma and kills harmful bacteria. Beaucastel's wines are matured in 500-litre oak casks and, after blending, are bottled with a light fining and without being filtered.
From vines in close proximity to the great Châteauneuf-du-Pape property itself, the Coudoulet de Beaucastel is famous in the Wine Trade for being vastly superior to its Côtes du Rhône appellation tag. Low yields and high quality fruit underwrite the quality, and six months ageing in foudre completes the picture. The Perrins consider this wine to be an integral part of their impressive portfolio.
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest and most important wine appellation in the southern Rhône. It is home to more than 3,200 hectares of vineyards and over 80 growers; more wine is produced in Châteauneuf than the whole of the northern Rhône put together. The vineyards are bounded to the west by the Rhône river and to the east by the A7 autoroute.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first ever Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée established in France, in 1932. Small, rounded rocks from the ancient river bed known as galets roulés are a key aspect of what makes Châteauneuf -du-Pape wines so distinctive, with the rocks reflecting heat back into the vines at night, thus increasing ripeness and reducing acidity.
The gloriously rich red wines, redolent of the heat and herbs of the south, are enhanced by the complexity which comes from blending several grape varieties. Fourteen are permitted for reds: Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Vaccarese, Counoise, Teret Noir, Muscadin, Picpoul Noir, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Picpoul Gris and Picardin. With red Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Grenache typically dominates with Syrah and Mourvèdre in support.
White Châteauneuf-du-Pape is becoming increasingly sought-after, even though it represents less than 10 percent of the total production. Here, five grapes are permitted: Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Picardin.
Recommended Producers: Château de Beaucastel, Clos de Papes, Vieux Télégraphe, Château Rayas,, Domaine de la Charbonnière, Sabon, Château La Nerthe, Domaine Perrin