Château de Beaucastel & Perrin Wines
26 November 2005
Presented by Thomas Perrin

Beaucastel was founded in the seventeenth century as a retreat for the kings of France. The Perrin family bought Beaucastel in 1909 when the vineyard was almost entirely destroyed by phylloxera. In the 1950s and 1960s, Beaucastel was quite a small, little known producer: the estate came to prominence only around 15-20 years ago. Beaucastel has been certified organic since 1964: Thomas Perrin said it’s easy to be organic in the Rhône: “it’s easier than in Alsace!” But he stressed they’re definitely not biodynamic: “it’s too much,” he said, before ridiculing some biodynamic practices. They don’t use sulphur.

The Perrin family have two bottles of 1909 Beaucastel – their first vintage at the estate: there are very little surviving stocks of pre-WWII as the Germans found their secret stash that they’d bricked up.

Thomas Perrin said that there were differing opinions within the family on how long to leave bottles to mature and on decanting. Thomas Perrin said that he thought twenty years would be a reasonable time to wait in most vintages. He would normally open a bottle in the morning, and then two hours before dinner, he would decant the bottle. Mourvedre (which Thomas Perrin says is what lends Beaucastel its farmyard air), he believes, needs a lot of air. “My opinion,” he said, “is always to decant. Even a ’62. Maybe not a ’49.” He stressed that was his personal view, and not shared by other Perrins. On drinking windows generally, Thomas warned against drinking Beaucastel when it’s between five and ten years old: drink it young, or leave it ten years, he recommended.

Beaucastel don’t use oak for tannins, and, according to Thomas Perrin, they don’t need to use oak at all for flavour. Rather they use it for oxygenation: they have lots of 500-litre foudres, some up to 50-years old, and they use them until they start leaking.

Beaucastel has all of the thirteen grape varieties permitted in Châteauneuf du Pape, though they use both white and black grenache, making a total of fourteen varieties. They typically use a very high proportion of mourvedre in the blend; only 30% grenache, 10% counoise, 5% cinsault and 5% syrah. Though there is no syrah in the 2003 Beaucastel.

The Perrin family have numerous other interests across the Rhône and southern France. The Perrin wines tasted below are made at La Vieille Ferme, which the Perrins bought, partly for winemaking, partly as a negociant business. Wines bottled under the Perrin name are made from their own grapes; wines bottled under the Vieille Ferme name are from bought-in grapes.


2004 Côtes du Rhône Réserve White, Perrin
A blend of grenache blanc, clairette, roussanne and marsanne. Thomas Perrin regards this as a light aperitif/starter wine: “quite simple; easy to drink.”
A deep straw colour. The nose is warm, open and almondy. Fairly reserved on the attack. Fills out well into quite an austere, yet fruity style. Fairly simple, but by no means unattractive. Very good length. Very Good/Very Good Indeed. 88/100

2003 Château de Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape White
2003 was, of course, very hot: Thomas Perrin said there were ten days at over 40ºC at Beaucastel. Each variety is vinified separately, then blended around eight months after harvest.
A mid straw gold. The nose is really rather perfumed: sweet, marzipanny with a touch of spirit and a touch of honey. Pure and focussed on the attack, and then it really widens out on the palate. Very deep, fairly complex flavours. Precise, pure and deep. Extraordinary length: lingers forever. Very Good Indeed +. 94/100

2003 Château de Beaucastel, Roussanne Vieilles Vignes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The first vintage of the roussanne vieilles vignes was in 1987. Thomas Perrin believes it’s fine to drink young, but should be avoided when between four and ten years old, when it’s always closed and may feel oxidised. At over ten years of age, it comes back on form.
A mid gold. The nose is impressive - very deep, powerful and sweet: very concentrated, somewhat closed fruit with some candied grapefruit, pine honey and a perfumed talc. Quite open on the attack. Very smooth, with a nice richnesss. Very deep, but this is very much a baby. It doesn’t quite have the concentration that I expected and lacks the complexity of the multi-grape blend. Very Good Indeed. 92/100

2004 Côtes du Rhône Réserve Red, Perrin
Thomas Perrin said this blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre, made from their own grapes, is designed to be drunk young.
An even ruby appearance; the nose is very open and fruity with young, fresh red fruits. Good, clean attack: fresh and open. Nice easy drinking. Some complexity appears towards the finish with great depth to the fruit. Very good, simple and easy drinking. Very Good/Very Good Indeed. 88/100

2003 Vinsobres Les Cornuds Rouge, Perrin
“I love this wine,” Thomas Perrin told us, “because I love the history of this wine.” Vinsobres was an olive-growing area, until frosts killed many of the olive trees. The Perrins bought 25 hectares in 1991 on what they believe is perfect terroir for Syrah.
The wine has a young, vibrant purple appearance. On the nose, it’s open, very young and very ripe. It is pleasant and attractive on the palate with firmish tannins. I can’t find anything particularly special about this. Good. 81/100

2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Sinards
This wine comes from a small property bought by its owner as an investment for his retirement. The Perrins have been making the wine here for eight years. The vineyard is mainly planted with grenache, which is then blended with young vines from Beaucastel. Thomas Perrin thinks this should not be kept more than five to ten years.
A young, very dark appearance. The nose is very attractive, thought fairly simple. There are some really good fresh fruit flavours: it’s very open, and there are lots of grippy tannins that could do with some time yet. Very Good. 86/100

2001 Château de Beaucastel
A bright maturing garnet to look at. On the nose, it’s meaty and immediately obviously more animalistic and farmyardy than the previous reds, with lots of lovely black fruit. On the palate it’s full and much deeper than the Sinards, with lots of character. It’s drinking fine now, but I think really needs some time: Thomas Perrin says it will soon close down and should be left until 2011 or later. Very Good Indeed. 91/100

1998 Château de Beaucastel
Despite being three years older, the colour is almost identical to the 2001, possibly just a little bit more mature. A deep, deep nose with loads and loads of blueberry fruit. There is none of the usual Beaucastel farmyard and brett on the nose. A lovely attack. Round, full and very expressive. Lots of excellent character. Really lovely fruit with great concentration. Spicy tannins appear towards the finish. Very length. Very Good Indeed++/Excellent. 95/100

1995 Château de Beaucastel
A good, fairly mature garnet, though there’s very little difference in the appearance of the 2001, 1998 and 1995. On the nose, there is some slightly acidic farmyard and a bit of blueberry fruit, but it’s really quite closed. Quite light on the palate, and here too it seems very closed. This isn’t terribly impressive by comparison with the others. Good/Very Good. 84/100

1990 Château de Beaucastel
“A more Burgundy style,” according to Thomas Perrin. This is very stinky on the nose, and it’s not just brett: I really can’t get past the stink. Maybe there is some raspberry fruit there? Really quite fresh on the palate, with lots of tannin almost from the beginning. The tannins recede towards the finish, revealing very fine, elegant fruit. I can see what Thomas means about Burgundy: it really does have a pinot feel to it. Very elegant. Excellent. 96/100

1989 Château de Beaucastel
Just a slightly lighter colour than the preceding wines. The nose has more focussed bretty manure than the more general stink of the 1990, with red fruit behind. Quite restrained on the palate, but without the elegance of the 1990: indeed, there is much more Châteauneuf character in this. On the palate, it’s nicely integrated with very good balance and a nice concentration. Gentle, restrained tannins on the superb finish. Excellent. 96/100

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Last updated: 24 March 2006