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2008 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Rouge, Côtes du Rhône, Ch. de Beaucastel
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.
Classified in 1937, Côtes du Rhône is an enormous appellation encompassing red, white and rosé wines covering an area of 40,300 ha and producing a crop that is 3 times larger than Beaujolais and almost as much as Bordeaux. Although this wine can come from across the Rhône region, more than 90% comes from the south. With the honourable exception of those produced by famous northern names like Jaboulet and Guigal, the finest examples are made in the south.
Red wine dominates, made with a minimum of 40% Grenache (except in the north where Syrah is allowed to be top dog) normally partnered by Syrah and/or Mourvèdre; another 18 varieties are also permitted. Typically light and fruity, the best examples can be rich, spicy and full-bodied. Almost all are best drunk young.
Quality varies from the very ordinary to the exceptional. Much is produced by cooperatives but the best come from the increasing number of individual estates and Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers like Beaucastel who produce premium entry wines here. White and rosé Côtes du Rhônes account for only 2% and 4% respectively, although both can be very good.