Last week, I was fortunate to be experience a fantastic dinner celebrating over 20 years of Beaucastel. Hosted by Marc Perrin and Mistral, Beaucastel’s agent in the UK,
they presented both whites from 2007 as well as a vertical of their reds – 2007, 2005, 2001, 1998, 1990, 1989 and 1988 while finishing with their 1995 Hommage from magnum. It was a spectacular evening and the wines were paired with seasonal English produce prepared by Mark Hix at Brown’s Hotel:
Potted Morecambe Bay Shrimps – quite flavoursome and intense
Chargrilled Looe Bay squid with Bath Pig chorizo and sea aster – okay a bit Spanish but all the ingredients were English (and tasty)
Fillet of Kingairloch red deer with roasted cauliflower and girolles – my favourite, the deer was the most tender I ever had
Hereford Hop, Lincolnshire Poacher & Waterloo
Wood Pigeon on toast with elderberries and cobnuts – because most of the evening was focused around red wine, they opted for a savoury finish. I personally would have liked a chocolate dessert at this point as I was a bit meat-saturated, but it was different
Beaucastel Blanc 2007
This wine was surprisingly open and softer than I thought it would be (it is 2007 and I thought it might need more time). Pretty notes of pineapple, honeysuckle and forest floor. It was beautifully pure and focused with enough age to take the 2007 edge off. It was a beautiful and relaxed wine and I found it more enjoyable at the moment than the Vieilles Vignes Roussanne which will require a bit more time.
Beaucastel Blanc Vieilles Vignes Roussanne 2007
The first commercial vintage of this wine is 1986 when they began separately bottling old vine Roussanne. This 2007 was similar to the straight Chateauneuf du Pape but with much more intensity. A bit more toasty brioche with a richer, more heady palate and a slightly hot finish. The length was incredibly long and for someone who wants their white wine to pack a punch while remaining dry, layered and harmonious, this is it. This has a long life ahead of itself but as Marc explained, one needs to drink this wine within 5 years or after 10. For a phase, it tastes oxidative (and will actually turn dark) when actually it isn’t. It is just a transformative phase and the wine will eventually open up with complex tertiary flavours. But it will need time.
The Perrins think that Roussanne is the greatest white variety in the southern Rhone and based on this tasting, it is difficult to debate this.
Deep red, rich and velvety. An impressive wine that dives off a springboard and explodes onto the palate. But was I really expecting anything less. Not really. A very complex wine that exhibited notes of dark chocolate, pencil lead, spice, all types of berries while the wine finishes on celery seed and granite. Layered and ethereal. Powerful but not heavy handed.
A fairly weighty wine with notes of smoke, tea leaves and roasted meat. Deep and rich, yet with still good acidity and poise. On the finish, there is a treacle character slightly weighs it down but this is not nearly as burly and muscley as some other 2005 Chateauneuf. Finishes ‘digeste’ and mineral.
This is very similar to other 2001s with its sleek refinement. A pronounced character of mole (savoury mexican chocolate sauce) surfaced upon swirling the glass which was then joined by celery seed, garrigue spice, dried fruit, leather and tobacco. It is richer than some other Chateauneuf du Papes that I’ve had (eg Clos des Papes) which lends a slight heaviness on the finish. As odd as this is to say, it almost felt like it was frowning on the finish. But saying that, it was also the first one I finished. So, balance does mean something.
This was one impressive wine that was incredibly youthful and powerful. It was originally heralded an exceptional Chateauneuf when it was first released (and I was lucky to have it then too – though it was a bit impenetrable at the time). The 1998 offered deep and rich flavours of dried fruit and bramble liqueur. Despite Parker saying that you can drink it now, I would suggest holding onto it for at least another 5 years. It would only get better.
This was an interesting comparison to the 1989. These have been long term rivals with the 1990 securing 96 Parker points and the 1989 firmly sitting pretty at 97 (despite a dip to 95 in 2000). Marc compares the 2007 to the 1990 while the 2009 would most ressemble the 1989. But they are two different wines. The 1990 is big, broad and muscley. This bottle did show of bit of the ubiquitous brettanomyces for which Beaucastel was famous at this time. Subtle notes of black truffle, cedar and pencil lead surfaced with a bit of aeration. I really liked it BUT I was more enamoured of the 1989. The 1990 was impressive but a bit 4-square. A bit rugby player.
This is a legendary bottle which I have been fortunate enough to taste 4 times before. I’ve had amazing bottles and then I’ve had bottles that were on the wane so it was interesting to see where it is today. It all honesty, this bottle was lifted, poised and feminine. It was like watching a Royal Opera production of Giselle – lacy, friendly, silky. It did not have the density of the 1990 but it was enticing and charming. True, I remember it being a much ‘bigger’ wine, but I was not disppointed. Marc commented that in its youth, it had instant appeal just like the 2009. It shall be interesting to see just how similar or different they are someday.
The 1988 was actually a very pleasant surprise. Brettanomyces was again present on the nose, but it offered a lovely palate that was round and smooth. Coy yet charming. It offered lifted notes of crab apple and cinnamon. A delicious and easy drink that will not blow your socks off but will keep you wonderfully cosy like a worn-in duvet.
1995 Hommage a Jacques Perrin (magnum)
This is an interesting one. It was recently served blind at a wine dinner from a magnum. Half was decanted 6 hours before while the other half only had 2 hours decanting. They were two completely different wines with the 6 hour one being far more open, velvety and opulent. This wine was similar offering a rich palate of fruit liqueur with sweet, tender tannins. It was deeper and richer than the others which made it stand out. This has a long life ahead of it.