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The wines of Perrin & Fils and Château de Beaucastel, Southern Rhône, France

Château de Beaucastel enjoys an almost legendary reputation as one of the great estates in Châteauneuf du Pape. It is owned by the Perrin family, and they have now set their sites on expanding their portfolio of wines from the Southern Rhône . According to Pierre Perrin, who showed me through the range, their concept is to become the specialists of the Southern Rhône , making small volumes of wines that have a real identity from each part of the region. The Vieille Ferme label is used for wines made from bought-in grapes, while the name Perrin & Fils is used for a more upmarket range made from vineyards owned by the Perrins or under their control.

As many readers will know, the Rhône in general suffered a nightmare vintage in 2002. As a result, there will be no 2002 Ch de Beaucastel red, although the whites were picked before the widespread flooding that ruined the vintage, and there will be an estate white in 2002. The good news is that 2001 was a pretty good year and as I write (August 2003), things are shaping up very well for 2003.

My overall impression here was that the Perrins are definitely on the right lines, with good quality across the board. These are wines with personality and a sense of place, something we can always do with more of. No indication is given of prices here. As a general guide, the Vieille Ferme wines are under £6, the Perrin & Fils wines are £7–£11, Coudoulet is around £10–12 and the Beaucastel estate wines £25–£35 on release. If you have to ask the price of the Hommage, then, as they say, you can’t afford it—we’re talking trophy wine status and more than £100 a pop.

Pierre mentioned about the slightly controversial flash heating that Beaucastel employs. The grapes are heated to 80 degrees centrigrade before crushing. The purpose is twofold. First, it kills the polyphenol oxidases which are partly responsible for oxidation of the must, which allows them to use less sulphur dioxide. Second, heating the grape skins kills the cells which then allows better extraction. It’s a technique that has been used at Beaucastel since 1964, and when they built the Perrin & Fils winery they decided to use it there also.

Vieille Ferme Blanc 2002 Côtes de Luberon
Fresh, crisp, fruity and quite nice in a light sort of style. Very good 83

Perrin Reserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2002
This blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 20% Viognier and 10% each of Roussanne and Marsanne is an estate wine from Château de Grand Prebois. Nice gently herby nose is quite pretty, with some floral notes. Expressive fruity palate with some gently floral, grapey character. Very good+ 87

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc 2002 Côtes du Rhône
Quite a pretty, floral fresh nose that’s delicate and crisp. Lovely fruit quality on the palate which is quite crisp and delicate. Nicely floral. Very good+ 89

Ch de Beaucastel Blanc 2002 Châteauneuf du Pape
Lovely open, complex nose which is herby and fresh with a nice nuttiness. Fresh, complex palate is herby and nutty with good acidity. Very good/excellent 90

Vieille Ferme (VF) 2002 Costières de Nîmes
Screwcapped and beautifully presented. Lovely sweetly fruited nose is approachable and nicely spicy. Soft, ripe sweet fruit on the palate, which is gently spicy and approachable. Impressive and showing good concentration. Very good+ 87

Vieille Ferme 2001 Côtes de Ventoux
Lovely nose: slightly spicy and a bit meaty, with a deliciously spicy edge. Nice savoury peppery fruit on the palate with a deliciously savoury twist. Quite delicious. Very good+ 88

Perrin & Fils Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2001
From Château de Grand Prebois, where the Perrins built a winery in 1994. Nice savoury spicy nose with ripe berry fruit. Lovely structured, savoury palate is quite full and satisfying with good concentration. Very good+ 87

Perrin & Fils Vinsobres ‘Les Cornuds’ 2001 Côtes du Rhône Villages
The Perrins bought grapes from two vineyards in Vinsobres in 2000 and 2001; in 2002 they purchased these estates. This has a lovely spicy, slightly meaty, herby nose. The ripe, elegant palate is midweight and shows expressive berry fruit with smooth, spicy tannins. Appealing. Very good+ 88

Perrin & Fils Cairanne 2001 Côtes du Rhône Villages
Very ripe, open sweet berry fruit nose with a touch of caramel. Expressive palate is quite sweetly fruited. Very good+ 88

Perrin & Fils Rasteau ‘L’Andéol’ 2001 Côtes du Rhône Villages
From 1.5 ha vineyard that’s almost entirely Grenache. Lovely minerally, spicy nose with some sweet fruit. Lovely structure to the fruit which is quite sweet with a nice peppery, spicy edge. Lovely terroir wine. Very good/excellent 90

Perrin & Fils Vacqueyras ‘Les Christins’ 2001 Côtes du Rhône Villages
85% Grenache from an 8 ha vineyard that is owned by a cousin. Lovely spicy, slightly meaty berry fruit nose—expressive, with a chocolatey edge. Palate is ripe, full and chocolatey with nice spicy structure. Open and sweetly fruited with good balance. Very good+ 89

Perrin & Fils ‘Les Sinards’ 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape
There are two sources for Les Sinards: young vines at Beaucastel and a little vineyard 2 km east of the estate. It is 70% Grenache with 10% each of Counoise, Syrah and Mourvèdre. In 2002, Beaucastel was declassified and will be bottled under this label. The 2001 has a subtle, sweetly fruited, spicy nose. The nicely weighted palate is quite elegant with some minerality. Not a big wine but an expressive one. Very good+ 89

Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2001 Côtes de Rhône
Not bottled yet. Sweet, ripe, spicy, caramelly nose is very forward and herby. Almost exotic. The palate shows nice, ripe, chocolatey fruit with good concentration and structure. Very forward and approachable. Very good+ 89

Château de Beaucastel 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape
Not bottled yet. Lovely sweet, ripe, herby, chocolatey nose with exotic black fruits. The palate is rich, full, soft and chocolatey with lots of spicy complexity (apparently the Grenache is dominant at the moment, but after bottling there will be less oxygen and the wine will show more of a Mourvèdre character). I think it’s all there for future development. Very good/excellent 94

Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape
Made from the oldest part of Mourvèdre at Beaucastel, which forms 70% of the blend, together with Syrah, Counoise and Grenache. Produced only in good vintages and only 5000 bottles are made, since the Perrins don’t want to decrease the quality of Beaucastel. Lovely sweet complex nose with some savoury animal-like notes hiding under the very sweet fruit. The palate is hugely concentrated with a savoury, firm structure underneath ripe opulent fruit. There’s a slight animal streak here (brett?), together with lovely herbal complexity. Excellent 95

wines tasted summer 2003

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