GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

A Beaucastel vertical

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Nov 20, 2008.

Wines tasted:

1959 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 84pts
1967 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 82pts
1972 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 92pts
1978 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 89pts
1981 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 96pts
1983 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 91pts
1985 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 89pts
1988 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 91pts
1989 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 93pts
1990 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 88pts
1991 Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 89pts

It was great to have the chances to revisit so many pre-1990 vintages of Beaucastel again. It has been about 5 years since we last took a look at these vintages in such a comprehensive manner. And these wines have stood the test of time. It’s always with a bit of trepidation that one approaches a tasting that includes so many older bottles. Beaucastel, like many wines, can be very trying in these situations. Not only is there the brett issue to deal with, and the extreme variation that storage vagaries can yield, but the cepage of Beaucastel can augment the barnyard character of these wines in ways that are off-putting to some.

A very traditional blended wine, Beaucastel takes advantage of all 13 varieties of grapes that are allowed in Chateauneuf du Pape. While most of the region’s wine consist predominantly of, and dominated are by Grenache, Beaucastel has always used very high percentages of Mourvedre, with it’s leathery, earthy tones, and spicy Syrah in the blend. Typically a full third Mourvedre with a corresponding percent of Grenache, 10% or so of Syrah and the remainder consisting of the additional allowable varieties, which for the sake of completeness are: Counoise, Cinsault, Muscardin, Vaccares, Terret Noir, then the whites; Roussane, Bourbelenc, Picpoul, Clairette and Picardin. And yes I had to look that up in order to complete the list!

The current owners at Beaucastel, the Perrin Family, have had a family hand on the tiller for a century continuously improving the property whether through expanding vineyard holdings, or diligently working among the vines and in the cellar until Beaucastel emerged at the very pinnacle of Chateauneuf producers.

While a somewhat atypical style, influenced as it is by the impact of the Mourvedre, Beaucastel is none-the-less a benchmark producer for the region. Production at the domaine adheres to a rather natural viewpoint, eschewing as they do chemical fertilizers and pesticide treatments preferring instead to return to the soil what it has given up by composting the waste from both wine production and the farm’s animals.

This natural philosophy is also applied in the cellars where the hand picked fruit is sorted and selected before being vinified separately. The grapes are allowed to macerate for up to two weeks in enamel-lined vats before being drawn off the skins. Once each varietal wine has completed its traditional fermentation, the wines are blended and then aged in large, neutral wood barrels to allow for each element of the wine to integrate into the harmonious whole.

While the southern Rhone can be a searingly hot place to grow grapes, Beaucastel manages to retain admirable freshness in most vintages. The adept blending of varieties certainly helps in this regard, but the poor soils at the domaine certainly add an element of stress to the fruit.

These rocky soils, rich in limestone are covered with alluvial debris, yield a nutrient poor growing medium with exceptional drainage. While this no-doubt helps the vines in wet years, it forces the roots to dig deep in search of water. This paucity of freely available water can help slow the growth of grapes keeping the resultant wine full flavored with bright acidity and fine mineral notes. With vines averaging 50 years of age here it is no wonder that they have adapted so well to their circumstances, yielding a series of profound wines that is matched by few other bottling in the region, much less the world.

While Beaucastel is certainly coming off a remarkable string of recent vintages they will have to wait for a future tasting. It would simply be too much of a distraction to try and attempt a 20 or 25 wine vertical tasting with these rich deep wines. The range of vintages we focused on last night, 1959-1991, provided great exposure not only to the evolutionary path of these fine wines but also to the distinct character of each year. Truth be told some of the younger wines, while delicious, really deserve a few more years in the cellar and if we had proceeded with younger wines still we would have quickly come to a point where all nuance and detail of the wines was still obscured by baby fat fruit and structure.

So without further ado - the wines in the order tasted.

We actually began the evening with a white

2000 Trimbach Vendage Tardives Gewurtztraminer Opening with sweet apricot, almond, honey and pollen notes on the nose this gained an underlay of blue slate with a touch of graphite like spice. In the mouth this was fairly sweet and very close to not having enough acidity to support that sugar but in the end it pulled it off with precarious balance. Rich notes of orange marmalade and tropical candy on the palate that yield to a tangerine flush of lychee on the moderately long finish. Drinking well now I see no reason to hold this. Drink 2008-2011 89pts

1959 Beaucastel - Opening with a very evolved nose this smells deeply sweet with fairly maderized tones and notes of hickory smoke, dried mushroom and damp cigar butt. With time turning maltier and perhaps a touch cleaner this gains a bit of a cooked tomato/ketchup tone. Sweet and full on entry with still a distinct note of cherry fruit this is soft but volatile in the mouth giving an impression of heat on the palate. The nose ebbs and flows but the palate merely fades, drying out and turning more medicinal while retaining the candied sweetness edge to the earthy flavors and faint tone of flat root beer. An interesting wine, not quite dead but very evolved 84pts

1972 Beaucastel - The nose starts out smelling old and delicate with a hint of shattered candy, gently sweet yet sharp and pointy. This builds slowly but steadily adding dried herbs that are a touch green with a faded tarragon note, then tones of old wood and spice, black pepper and beef jerky become prominent and segue into lovely notes of distant cigar smoke and balsamic candle with a coy core of candied blackberry and green cardamom gaining a gentle assertiveness. In the mouth this is lovely and pure right off the bat. The great acidity keeps the wine bright and fresh with tart red fruits dominating the palate and gently edged with black spices. A hovering sweetness crosses the palate and leads to a long, sinewy finish. Very well preserved this benefits from a touch of VA adding a bit of lift and complexity on the backend and leading to the autumnal tones on the finish that recall smoked nuts and drying leaves. A surprising success from a vintage that no one ever talks about. Delicious and fascinating bottle but drink em up, as I would guess we got lucky with this one. 92pts

1978 Beaucastel - With this bottle we definitely moved into a riper as well as younger range of wine. Richly scented with assertive notes of smoke, leather, sweet bay leaf and sour plum, this also had a fine note of classic Beaucastel barnyard. There is a subtle tone of green herb and a bit of toast under the jammy black currant fruits. With air a whiff of iron emerges and the wine takes on a darker personality with roast meat, olive brine, espresso crema and licorice tones adding complexity. This was a disappointment in the mouth after the impressive aromatics. A touch lean and muted in the mouth this had a nice balanced mouthfeel but only hint of red fruits on the mid-palate with an average finish that offered rather low intensity flavors. Mediocre, was it the bottle? 89pts based mostly on the nose.

1967 Beaucastel - Very volatile and dusty with old faded, brittle cigar wrapper, ehlmers glue, and even a touch of yogurt on the nose. This freshened up a touch revealing it’s preserved red fruits and menthol topnotes but also had a raw green element that recalled freshly cut wood and seaweed and developed a rather intense note of off-putting quinine. In the mouth this was blunt. It was lean and focused but extremely volatile with modest notes of dried herbs and autumnal leaves enhanced by a candied medicinal tone. The low point of the evening 82pts

1981 Beaucastel - Now we were talking. The huge nose bursts from the glass with a classic array of barnyard, leather, black fruit, smoky spices and smoked meat. There is a very minor note of shoe polish volatility and enough brett to add a bit of poop but it is perfectly measured and easily buffered by the intense fruit. Subtle notes of old coffee, nori, green anise seed and nutmeg add complexity and depth. This offers a big round entry with incipient sweetness. The black fruits have the subtlest candied edge and nice note of dried herbs for contrast. The fruit up front gains a bit of brightness veering off toward the red currant/pomegranate end of the spectrum and the wine gains fine spice and earth tones on the backend that lead to a long finish that plays the sweet off the savory perfectly. Simply great with good length, fine balance, and a fresh transparent character that is captivating My Wine of the Night, as it was for many and in no danger of falling off the big cliff though this was bought on release and stored very well. 2008-2016 96pts

1985 Beaucastel - With a very youthful initial pop of butter tinged graham cracker this quickly settles down revealing sweet and sour cherried fruit with medicinal and root beer tones. A bit of alcoholic heat compared to the older wines. There is a toffeed sweetness to the nose conveying a sense of ripeness though this offers up nice minerality and fine complexity with its gamey, peppery, black tea notes. In the mouth this is it’s typical round and friendly self. The acidity is on the soft side and the tannins are fine and ripe. Filled with relatively simple black fruits this is fun but lacks complexity though it does finish with nice black spice to complement the black fruits. A fine wine but lacking in this company 2008 - 2016 89pts

1983 Beaucastel - This was a bit of a bretty bottle with rubbery, band-aid notes but with many layers of red meat, red wild berry fruit, evolved mushroom notes that handled the brett well. Evolving positively in the glass this gained some fecund soil notes as the raspberry tones gained in intensity and revealed measured tones of licorice and leather with a gentle yet distinct underlay of dried flowers. Just a touch rustic in the mouth with slightly gritty, austere tannins, the fruit retains nice rich, ripeness in the red currant and lingonberry notes. Spicy and a bit rough-hewed this is a gutsy bottle with lots of sweet fruit notes balancing out he austerity of the tannins. A touch simple perhaps but fun to drink. 2008-2012 91pts

1988 Beaucastel - Jammy and spicy on the nose with rich blackberry pie filling tones backed up with powerful notes of leather and beef. This gains significant complexity in the glass going through a full register of earthy tones stretching from milk chocolate through tea, tobacco and anise with even a nuanced truffle note. Smooth, rich and suave in the mouth. This offers a rather precise feel with youthful tannins compensating for the lowish acidity Leathery and black with spice tones up front then a curious stretch of dilution across the mid-palate before finishing with a great, mineral tinged back end that offers more precise black fruits. The finish is a bit short and disappointing as well but this continued to improve in the glass offer the promise of continued positive development. 2008-2018 91pts

1989 Beaucastel - Very fresh on the nose with split leather, raspberry, herbal and wildflowers rushing up from the glass. Subtle spice, pepper, and soil tones remain a bit obscured by the intensity of the fruit but gentle iron and blood tones struggle to assert themselves. Bright and ripe on entry with red cherry fruit that have a citrus tinge to them. Fine balance with wonderfully ripe tannins, this is succulent and deep with a spicy backend that leads to fine, long finish that reveals the power that the tannins still possess. Very young with a great blend of fruit and spice and deserves some additional time in the cellar to allow the tannins to gain a bit more polish and the fruit to recede enough to reveal all the incipient complexity that the nose promises. 2011-2025 93pts

1990 Beaucastel - A veritable brett bomb. I like a bit of brett but here it verges on excessive. There are still intense notes of roasted blackberry, Szechuan peppercorn, pink peppercorn and salty, white mushroom on the nose but the slightly elevated alcohol and brett really mar the nose. Polished and round in the mouth but here too the brett obscured much of what this wine has to offer. Very ripe with abundant tannin, this is polished and soft with richly spiced and licorice toned black fruits but the finish is a bit short and then there’s more brett. A solid performance but I have had bottles much less marred by brett. 2008-2017 88pts

1991 - Another positive surprise was this wine from a forgotten vintage. Fresh if slightly lactic on the nose with sour cherry fruit, herbs, lavender, and real garrigue notes. Lovely aromatics. A very elegant Beaucastel in the mouth with tannins that are a touch rustic but that contribute such a crisp, fresh feel to the wine and enhance the game, bright red fruits. Not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination but very well balanced and delicious for near term consumption. Who knows this may turn out to be another 1972! 2008-2015 89pts


Reply by Brad Coelho, Feb 28, 2009.

I'm officially on the Snooth train my friend! Great tasting- especially the mid '80s vintages...'81, '83, '85 & '88 produced a good deal of excellent wines; then the flood gates opened for '89 and '90. Very disappointing showing for the '90...which always seems to be a much cleaner expression than the '89- but bottle variation is par for the course w/ many older Beaucastel bottles; so much so that I have completely cut off my purchasing of older vintages- no matter how tasty the deal.

Excellent detail!

Reply by ChipDWood, Mar 1, 2009.


If you were to sample and try such "shtuff"- and I would have known such "stuffage" was being sampled and tried- I would have said splitsky to my own "shtuffage" and samplage.


Screw the vintage guide GDP. THIS is beautiful.

Reply by vino83, Mar 1, 2009.

I recentyl stumbled into some 2001 Beaucastel and was pleasantly suprised. This was my first, but not last encounter with Beaucastel. I have since been hooked on some similar wines and am enjoying them all.

Reply by Brad Coelho, Mar 2, 2009.

That is quite the first vintage of Beaucastel to have! I personally think it will be one of the best (if not the best) vintage they've produced...if you can get your hands on an older vintage (to see how they evolve) then you'll officially come full circle in terms of gettin' hooked on Beau. I finally had their luxury cuvee, hommage jacuqes perrin, for the first time this year (the Mourvedre content is even higher, utilizing the oldest vines at the estate) was the 2000...and it was the most impressive wine I've had all year.

Reply by Eric Guido, Aug 21, 2009.

Wow, what a tasting. Reading through these notes really has my interest peaked to search out some older bottles of Beau CDP. Sounds like stuff that's right up my ally. Thanks Greg.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 22, 2009.

I bet they are. Let's try some this fall.

I can throw together a mini vertical though I've drunk through most of my older vintages. I probably have something as old as 1985, the 81 we drank at this tasting was my last bottle. But even older vintages are not too expensive in the market so we can always try and source some.

Maybe we can do a comparative tasting, 5 vintages of bo versus 5 of a more typical producer.

Reply by Eric Guido, Aug 22, 2009.

That sounds like a really good idea. I'm in to help make this happen and source a couple of bottles. What other producer are you thinking? And what would be the vintage range? I see that RWC has the '89 and Chambers has the '88. However, your notes on the '89 do suggest the need for more time in the cellar.

Reply by Saffredi, Feb 8, 2013.

Beaucastel is a true classic and definitely a collector's item. The unusual high percentage of Mourvedre in the blend sets it apart from the rest (of the wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape). About two weeks ago, I had the pleasure to open a bottle from 2007. Now, I know this is a vintage many critics are crazy about, and they are totally in their right! Wow, what a beautiful wine.

That being said, I would like to emphasize that the style of Beaucastel is quite different from other Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines. As a great lover of the wines from this appellation, I also admire (more?) the wines from Clos des Papes and Clos Saint-Jean. All different in style and equally lovely, but the latter two are more powerful.

Looking for excellent quality for a more decent price (up to euro 40,-)? Then the following Chateauneuf-du-Pape producers are not to be missed: Vieux Telegraph, Domaine de La Solitude (Cuvée Barberini) and Vieux Donjon (the most elegant wine of them all).

To me, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world!




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