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Château de Beaucastel vertical tasting, 1985-2002

Château de Beaucastel has featured on this site before. It is one of the leading properties in Châteauneuf du Pape, with a track record of making ageworthy, complex wines with a higher-than-normal proportion of Mourvèdre in the blend.

This was a rare opportunity to taste an extensive line-up of Beaucastels reaching back to 1985. We began with the Coudoulet 2002 simply because no Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape was made in this vintage, a very tricky one in the region. Coudoulet is made from a 30 ha plot on the eastern flank of the Beaucastel estate, within the Côtes du Rhône appellation. It’s a blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 20% Cinsault and 20% Syrah. The geology is the same as their Châteauneuf du Pape vineyard. The different varieties are handled separately and blended after malolactic, then the wine is aged in large foudres before bottling.

The red Châteauneuf du Pape comes from a 70 ha vineyard. All 13 authorised varieties are planted. The blend is typically 30% Mourvèdre (this is atypically high for Châteauneuf), 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5% Cinsault and 15% the rest (Vaccarèse, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Clairette, Picpoul, Picardin, Bourboulenc and Roussanne – yes, some of these are white). Varieties are handled separately, blended after malolactic, and then spend a year in large foudres. Grapes for both Coudoulet and the Châteauneuf du Pape both go through the Perrin’s rather unusual flash heating process before crushing. This denatures the polyphenol oxidase enzymes (known in France as ‘laccase’, these are enzymes that have the potential to oxidise the wine) thus permitting lower sulphur dioxide levels to be used in the winemaking.

Some points worth noting. One release, Beaucastel 2000 and 2001 have both been exotic, sweet and quite rich, with masses of fruit. Interestingly, while the 2001 still shows this way, the 2000 has shed this initial showiness and is much more savoury. These are wines that invariably age very well, so this sort of change is perhaps to be expected. If you like the lush, rich fruit, then I suppose you could drink them in the first couple of years of their life. It’s not a sin. If, like most, you prefer the more complex, savoury characters, leave them to age. In good vintages these are very long-lived wines.

Vintage variation: there’s quite a bit of this with Beaucastel, but this isn’t primarily in terms of quality, rather personality. Each vintage has its own distinctive personality. That’s part of the fun of this wine.

Pierre Perrin says that there has been a change of attitude since the 1998 vintage, and now the policy is to harvest everything at phenolic maturity, not looking to achieve balance with the harvesting. If the grapes seem to ripe to make a balanced wine, then so be it: the policy is to achieve balance with the assemblage of the wine.

2003 looks to be a very good vintage. You can read about a tasting of the 2003 components here, and a vertical of the top wine, Hommage à Jacques Perrin here.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2002 Côtes du Rhône
Deep coloured. Savoury with a firm, spicy palate. Good acidity. Correct and nicely savoury, but a little charmless at the moment? Still, a good effort from a disastrous vintage. Very good+ 87/100

Château de Beaucastel 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape
This is extremely seductive and forward at the moment, and promises to be a very fine vintage indeed for Beaucastel. Lovely sweet, pure raspberry fruit nose is quite exotic, with some herbal notes. The palate is sweet, herby and wild with lovely fruit and some smooth, spicy tannins. Very good/excellent 94/100

Château de Beaucastel 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape
This is quite perfumed: the nose is savoury and dense with some earthy notes. Lively, rounded, herby palate is extremely savoury and spicy. Structured with good acid and firm tannins. This has lost its initial fat but will probably develop into a very interesting wine: all the components are there. Lose it in the cellar for a decade? Very good/excellent 93/100

Château de Beaucastel 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape
Intensely savoury nose is very spicy and leathery, with a dry, dusty herbal element. The palate is firm and tannic, with a savoury spicy character and mouth-coating tannins. Needs time, but this has never been a terribly rich, fat wine. Very good/excellent 91/100 

Château de Beaucastel 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape
Slightly closed nose showing some sweet herby fruit. The palate is open and herby with lovely spicy, chunky fruit and firm tannins. Not showing brilliantly at the moment, so if you have any I’d keep them for a good few years yet before opening. Very good/excellent 92/100

Château de Beaucastel 1997 Châteauneuf du Pape
Slightly faded colour. Earthy, spicy nose. The palate is chewy and spicy, showing some evolution and a distinctive herbal character to the fruit. Drinking well now, this is a lighter style. Very good+ 89/100

Château de Beaucastel 1995 Châteauneuf du Pape
Nice open evolved, herby, spicy nose with some leathery, earthy notes. The palate is open, chewy, savoury and spicy. Quite evolved and beginning to hit its stride. Very good/excellent 92/100

Château de Beaucastel 1990 Châteauneuf du Pape
A classic. Wonderfully perfumed open nose shows exotic spices and some animal notes with medicinal overtones. It’s bretty but it works. There’s a real sweetness to it. The palate shows a lovely sweet character with lively herb and tea notes. Very evolved and probably peaking now, although it will likely remain at peak for several years. Excellent 95/100

Château de Beaucastel 1989 Châteauneuf du Pape
Evolved nose showing sweet herbs and spices together with distinct leathery notes. The palate is soft, rounded and gently herby with a smooth savoury character. A powerful style that is drinking well now, but which may still put on more complexity. Very good/excellent 93/100

Château de Beaucastel 1988 Châteauneuf du Pape
Open yet firm savoury nose with an appealing herbal character. The palate is evolved, herbal and savoury. Leathery with good structure and acidity. This is a tasty savoury style but I’d be inclined to drink it up fairly soon. Others will disagree and stick it away for another decade. Very good/excellent 91/100

Château de Beaucastel 1985 Châteauneuf du Pape
Striking nose is very evolved with sweet, animally notes. The palate is rounded and herby with a chewy, spicy finish. It’s structured and evolved, and is perfect for current drinking. Very good/excellent 91/100

Wines tasted March 2004

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