Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
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. Tthe 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 ’74 respectively.
The family was delighted with their ’20 vintage. Marc Perrin summarised it as “one of the all-time classics. The wines have superb intensity, wonderful poise, finesse and elegance. Each varietal was matured to perfection and our fortune of being at the funnel of the Mistral wind is so telling.” Indeed, the vintage is already being compared to the greats of ’90, ’10 and ‘16 – one approachable in its youth but also able to age to decades.
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.
Southern Rhône Blend
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.