June 16 Monday
Today was the last appointment in our first leg of the tour from Champagne through Burgundy down into the Rhone and visiting the finest Chateauneuf du Pape (CNDP) producer would be a spectacular way to end our time in the Rhone. After a leisurely breakfast we boarded the coach and set out on the 30-minute drive to ‘Chateau de Beaucastel'; however Herve headed in the wrong direction and when coupled with a road closure we found ourselves arriving at the property 30-minutes late, the only time on tour we had not been punctual. Our host Kirsty was very accommodating and led us to the vineyards to begin our visit.
‘Chateau de Beaucastel' own 100-hectares of CNDP appellation land in a continuous plot surrounding their winery; a very large holding that was first gifted by Louis XIV to Pierre de Beaucastel in the 13th century in return for him keeping the peace between the local protestant and catholic communities. It remained in the family until the early 19th century when it was sold to the Perrin family (present day owners) and these days along with their Famillie Perrin and La Vieille Ferme wine properties/businesses are run by three sons and one daughter of brothers Jean-Pierre & François Perrin. Thomas Perrin runs the ‘Chateau de Beaucastel' property and would be joining us for lunch in the gardens later.
The vineyard is planted in all of the CNDP appellations allowable 13 grape varieties with Grenache and Mourvedre being the largest of those.Syrah makes up only 10% of plantings as the hotter climate in the south is not as ideal as that of the cooler northern Rhone. Rousanne is by far the largest of the white grape plantings. The vineyard contains 250,000 bush vines that are widely spaced to maximise airflow and exposure to the sun in this estate organically managed since the 1950's. No irrigation is allowable under the appellation rules so the roots burrow up to 13-metres in search of moisture down through 15cm of surface red rocks passing through the sandy/clay soils below before finding their home in the mineral rich limestone substrata.
We moved to the winery cellars and were immediately impressed with the stacked rows of 4,000 – 6,000 litres wooden cuves. Kirsty explained the winemaking philosophies of the house that included fermentation and maturation in concrete tanks and large wooden vats exclusively (no stainless steel). The grape reception area includes pre and post destemming sorting tables to ensure only the finest grapes make the final selection.
The two Beaucastel CNDP white wines represent 8% of total production and are variously aged between 30%-50% in oak with up to 50% new and are 4-years old on release.
The Beaucastel CNDP Rouge is cropped at less than 1-bottle per vine (appellation maximum allowable yields are 35-hectolitres per hectare – Beaucastel crop at 24-26 hectolitres per hectare) and is made with the same due process and care. After coming out of oak it spends a further 9-12 months in bottle, ageing in the underground cellars where all the wine is stacked in 6-metre deep purpose built concrete enclosures that house up to 40,000 bottles each.
Now it was time to taste the wines and Kirsty led us to the winery tasting room where a selection of two whites and four reds awaited including an unlabelled bottle Kirsty had stealthily acquired during our tour of the cellars. The wines as follows…
Famillie Perrin Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2012 – 50% Grenache Blanc with the other 50% largely made up of Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. It had very seductive aromas leading to a rich but expressive palate with a creamy texture, commanding mouth feel and salivating length.
Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc 2012 – 80% Rousanne, 10% Grenache Blanc with the remaining 10% made up of 5 other varieties. Highly textured wine with creamy layers of stone fruits, various spices and nutty complexities it is not unlike a serious Montrachet Burgundy in terms of its palate weight/texture and nutty elements. It's salty, fresh, mineral lift on the finish rounds out an impressive white wine experience to match any in the world.
Famillie Perrin Cairanne Rouge Blanche 2012 – Mainly Grenache with 30% Syrah the mellow black fruits are laden with spices and a white pepper note; the mid-palate is bright and fresh and the finish warm, silky and rich with a juicy acid lift.
Coudelet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2012 – made almost identically to the Chateau de Beaucastel but from fruit off their vineyard holdings separated from the Chateauneuf du Pape estate/appellation only by a road. One of the great red wine bargains of France and arguably the world. The seductive floral spice, black fruit and baking spice aromas draw you into a lifted creamy palate laden with a mix of red and black fruits threaded with rich spicy and savoury pepper/smoky notes captured in mouth coating tannin. There's an endearing edginess to the protracted finish.
Chateau de Beaucastel Rouge 2008 – containing 30% each of Grenache & Mourvedre grapes and includes all 13 0f the appellations allowable varieties - it's a superbly complex and structured wine. Smoky, floral and nutty on the nose with complex fruit aromas adding allure. An immediate lift on the palate, which is replete with concentrated red/black fruit, spices, black pepper notes, soft smoky elements and has commanding mouth feel and energy. Still offering plenty of primary flavours but beginning to evolve subtle fruit complexities. The finish is exceptional with stunning freshness showcasing its genuine power.
Chateau de Beaucastel Rouge 2001 – this unexpected treat rounded out our fabulous tasting and having tasted it two years ago I was eager to see how it has developed since – not markedly so to be frank, it's a long lived red from an exceptional vintage. The evolution of rich/mellow secondary fruit complexities is captivating while still holding onto some of its primary youth… it's in a great place but with a further 10-15 years of cellaring ahead of it. Very round, complex and concentrated with silky tannin/texture and opulent black fruits. Exhibiting the hallmark freshness on the finish there was no spitting this wine.
The tasting completed we adjourned to the winery gardens for lunch with our hosts Thomas Perrin and Kirsty. We were led to a table located under a large tree where the La Vieille Ferme Rosé and Luberon white wines were served accompanied by a large block of superb Parmesan cheese, fresh breads and a stunning dried ham carved from the bone as required. By now the group were sensing this was going to be a highlight visit of our first leg. Thomas chatted with the group as we savoured the inexpensive La Vieille Ferme wines that were fresh and flavoursome and going down a treat in the warm sunny midday environment. Our group were both surprised and delighted to find out these pure flavoured and nicely balanced entry levelPerrin made wines were a mere $14.99/bottle on special at FWD Co. and will be keen to secure a case or two for regular enjoyment on their return.
The waiter beckoned us to the long table situated in the gardens in readiness for our special lunch. The menu and wine list will likely have you feeling understandably envious and was as follows…
1st course – Le Homard-Romarin aux Asperges… entrée of crab & lobster with fresh finely diced asparagus with a thin crispy crepe cover and it perfectly paired with the two white wines…
Famille Perrin - Perrin Reserve Blanc 2013 (served from magnum)Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc 2012
2nd course – Veau roti a la Truffe d'ete, Amandes au Lait et Petits-Legumes au jus… main course of perfectly cooked (medium rare) medallion of veal with shaved summer truffles and a selection of roast vegetables and legumes and equally paired perfectly with the two reds…
Famille Perrin Cairanne Peyre-Blanche 2011 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge 2011
This was food of the highest order paired with wines of exceptional class; as good as any in the world. The setting in the garden was quite magical and the weather that had been unsettled the day before was today absolutely perfect. Thomas is an intelligent, humble and engaging person and Kirsty fits the Chateau de Beaucastel culture of passion, excellence, knowledge and warmth perfectly. It was a memorable day and one of those occasions you wish would never end.
I took the opportunity to chat with Thomas and Kirsty regarding securing some cellar aged Chateau de Beaucastel wines to offer to FWD Co. premium wine collectors and met with positive response. The process is underway and in a few months (keep watching FWD Co. cellar journal) we will have a fabulous surprise for you.
It is always difficult to bring an end to such a special occasion but we needed to let Thomas and Kirsty return to other obligations after being so generous with their time hosting our group. A few parting photos and warm goodbyes and we boarded our coach for a return to Avignon; a free night was on the itinerary. However most of the group ended up gathering at a local wine bar where we enjoyed a couple of very tasty wines in combination with an array of cheeses/cured meats and other light fare, which was all that was required after our sensational lunch..