2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Roussanne, Vieilles Vignes, Château de Beaucastel, Rhône
Jeb Dunnuck - 31/10/2013
About this WINE
Chateau de Beaucastel
The Perrin family of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are one of the Rhône Valley’s greatest vineyard owners. With over 200 hectares of top level, prime vineyards at their fingertips, they have the terroir and skill required to produce some of the region’s finest wines.
The estate traces its history back to a plot of Coudoulet vines bought by Pierre de Beaucastel in 1549. The estate was transferred into the Perrin family in 1909 through marriage, where it remains firmly to this day. Despite being one of the old guards of the region, they are also one of the most progressive estates. They were one of the first converts to organic and biodynamic faming in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which they adopted in 1950 and 1974 respectively.
César Perrin, winemaker at Beaucastel, is very happy with his 2021s. He tells of a cool and long growing season producing wines which are bright, fresh and lower in alcohol than has become the norm in recent years. Their Syrah vines were more heavily impacted by the Spring frosts, so a higher percentage of Mourvèdre - already signature of the Perrin’s style - went into the Beaucastel red than usual (40%, whereas the norm is nearer 30%). This helps bolster the dark fruit profile of the wine, as well as ensuring a balanced tannin structure.
We offered the Perrin’s full range of wines upon release in October last year, though we held back a small amount of their two flagship Château de Beaucastel wines so we could offer them to anyone who missed out.
The most celebrated village of the Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the birthplace of the now indispensable French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system – imperfect though it may be. Compared to the Northern Rhône, the vineyards here are relatively flat and often feature the iconic galet pebbles – the precise benefits of which are a source of much debate. Minimum alcohol levels required by the AOC are the highest in France, but at 12.5% it is well below the natural generosity of Grenache, which only achieves its full aromatic potential when it is fully ripe and laden with the resultant high sugars. Syrah and Mourvèdre contribute the other defining elements in the blend, adding pepper, savoury spice and structure to the decadent Grenache. There are a further 10 permitted red grape varieties which can be used to adjust the “seasoning”. Of the five white varieties permitted, it is Grenache Noir’s sibling – predictably perhaps – Grenache Blanc, which dominates, though Roussanne shows a great deal of promise when handled well, notably at Château de Beaucastel.
Roussanne is one of the most important white grape varieties in the Rhône Valley. It is a particularly pernickety grape to cultivate being a notoriously low yielder as well as being highly susceptible to rot. It is difficult to ripen, and seemingly prone to oxidation at every opportunity. Roussanne's name comes from its russet-coloured skin and it produces richly aromatic wines, often with fruit characteristics of lime and blossom.
In the northern Rhône it is typically blended with Marsanne to produce the white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph, and St-Péray. Generally Marsanne is the dominant partner and it lends colour, body and weight to the blend, as well as richly scented fruit, while Roussanne contributes bouquet, delicacy and finesse.
It is grown less extensively in the southern Rhône although it is one of the permitted varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are plantings of Roussanne in the Languedoc and Rousillon and in the last decade the grape have been cultivated with particular success in California, where it is produced both as a single varietal and as a component of Rhône-style blends.
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Our 2012 Rhône Vintage Recommendation: Favourite Southern Rhône
The 85-year-old vines, which yield just 15 hl/ha, give this enigmatic wine its unreservedly serious bearing. Compact to taste, yet giving enough away to hint at the sheer variety of flavours still to come. Drink this monumental wine up to 2017, then ride the hibernation years through to 2022 when it will emerge as something very different and quite spell-binding. A remarkable wine.
Tom Cave, Cellar Plan Manager
One of the undisputed great white wines of the world, Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes is a 100% Roussanne from a single plot which was planted in 1909. Of a deep golden hue and with fascinating aromatics, which seem to marry exoticism and austerity, the wine’s complexity is redoubled on the palate where the tension between latent freshness and underlying richness is played out with beguiling candour. The wine will live several different lives, each one equally fascinating.
Simon Field MW, Rhône Wine Buyer
It is hard not to like the Perrins, be it the genial Marc, the technical Pierre, the urbane François, or any other member of this extended and delightful family. The winery evokes a cathedral, rather like some of the Bodegas in Jerez, with its crypt full of maturing bottles which almost recalls Champagne. Most impressive of all, however, is the honesty, humility and industry of the whole team, who will never rest on their laurels. The happy corollary of this is the quality of the wines, which, amazingly, just keeps getting better and better…
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