Last night at a Washington Athletic Club's Wine Club tasting event I had the tremendous privilege to taste some of the most famous Chateauneuf du Pape in the world. Located in the Southern Rhone region of France, Chateauneuf du Pape was first mentioned in 11th century historical records. The town of Avignon, in this region, was the previous site of the papacy, following a Roman invasion. Bertrand de Got, archbishop of Bordeaux, was elected pope in 1305, and took the name of Clement V. He transferred the papacy from Rome to Avignon in 1309. The register of pontifical letters reveals that Clement V visited Châteauneuf on several occasions, sometimes for long periods.
Wine would have existed considerably before the arrival of the papacy but there are no historical records of wine growing prior to this time. We do know that most of the wine grown in this region prior to the 18th century was drunk within a year. In 1923, the local wine producers led by the lawyer Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié started a campaign to establish legal protection for the wine from the commune. The wine classified as Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) is produced from grapes grown in the commune of Châteauneuf-du-Pape as well as in portions of the four nearby communes in the Vaucluse department. The vineyards cover an area of approximately 3,200 hectares.
Chateau de Beaucastel has a longstanding history in Chateauneuf du Pape. The winery is named after the Beaucastel family which lived in this region in the 16th century. Records show a Pierre de Beaucastel buying a barn and some associated land at Coudoulet in 1549, and this land is still part of Château de Beaucastel's holdings. In the 19th century, when the Phylloxera epidemic struck the region, the owner decided not to replant the vineyards but rather to sell the property. In 1909, it was bought by Pierre Tramier, and the vineyards were rebuilt under his ownership. After him, his son-in-law Pierre Perrin took over management and expanded Château de Beaucastel's vineyard holdings considerably. The property has stayed in the Perrin family since.
I have had been able to sample some very old bottlings of this estate, back to 1990. These wines are extremely complex, acid driven and age-worthy. Chateau de Beaucastel is one of the few wineries that uses 13 different Rhone varietals in its Châteauneuf du Pape, and typically uses a high proportion of Mourvèdre. I was very impressed with the vertical tasting, as these wines show as well as any other estate in Chateauneuf du Pape. I was hugely impressed with them all, particularly the feminine and absolutely scintillating 2007 Chateau de Beaucastel (WWB, 97), which showed incredible poise, richness and terroir. The more feminine 2009 Chateau de Beaucastel (WWB, 96), showed incredible purity of fruit and floral edges. Finally, the 2010 Chateau de Beaucastel (WWB, 97), while not quite ready to drink, showcases this incredibly rich vintage with deep, brooding flavors and incredible tension and minerality. Learn more about Chateau de Beaucastel at http://www.beaucastel.com/en/ Here are the fantastic Chateau de Beaucastel wines that I have sampled, including those last night at the WAC tasting event.
2005 Chateau de Beaucastel- This wine begins with aromatics reminiscent of smoked pork shoulder, provencale herbs, green olive, with hints of wild blackberry preserves. There are flavors reminiscent of black cherry, anise, dried sage, black raspberry, smoked brisket and hints of tar. Lively and lithe, this wine is drinking beautifully right now. This shows a surprising feminine side, considering the heat of the vintage. While this has lost some fruit, this is just gorgeous right now. Drink 2016-2028- 94
2006 Chateau de Beaucastel - This intense bottling begins with aromatics of graphite, provencale herbs and anise. This rich and layered wine has flavors of cassis, anise, red currant and red cherry. This is herbaceous and novel wine that is hugely age-worthy. Drink 2014- 2025-95
2007 Chateau de Beaucastel- 2007 was an amazing vintage and this incredible Chateauneuf showcases this rich vintage. The wine starts with deep aromatics of creosote, smoked ham, provencale herbs, and thyme crusted rack of lamb. There are rich flavors of blackberry cobbler, black olive, cloves, anise, cassis and leather. The wine is currently showing a darker fruit profile than most of the other vintages and showcasing the heat of the vintage right now There is a gorgeous range of flavors, with incredible intensity and poise. Drink 2016-2030- 97
2008 Chateau de Beaucastel- This incredible red wine begins with aromas of raspberry garrigue, provencale herbs, white truffle and tarragon. It has a lovely herbaceousness throughout, indicative of this earthier vintage. The wine has flavors of red raspberry, red cherry, red currant and vanilla cream. Lovely and viscous wine with a finish that lingers for nearly a minute. Sumptuous stuff from this estate. Drink 2016-2028- 96
2009 Chateau de Beaucastel- This impressive Chateauneuf starts with aromas of thyme, smoked pork belly, Bulls blood, wet rock and hints of blood orange. The rich aromatics continually take you back to the glass. As the wine lingers on the palate there are rich flavors reminiscent of red currant, anise, cassis, blood orange rind, allspice and tar. Very feminine considering the heat of the vintage, this wine has nearly a minute long finish. Drink 2016-2033- 96
2010 Chateau de Beaucastel- This gorgeous wine opens with aromatics of rose petals, smoked brisket, pipe tobacco, anise and spicebox. There are deep flavors of cassis, anise, black cherry seltzer, and black raspberry. The moderate tannins and bright minerality suggest this still could benefit from another year or two in the bottle. This is the masculine expression of Beaucastel. Right now this is a bit of a slumbering monster. Drink 2017-2035- 97
2012 Chateau de Beaucastel- One of the best estates in the Rhone, the wine starts with intense aromas of lavender, provencale herbs, coffee grounds, blackberry and leather with anise accents. There are deep flavors of milk chocolate, coffee grounds, anise and smoked pork shoulder with tar elements. This is a memorable bottling that has a long future ahead of it. Drink 2016-2028- 95