I’m not going to lie – when I heard there would be a tasting with Marc Perrin from Château de Beaucastel, while I was excited to try some Châteauneuf-du-Pape from one of the most revered families in the region, I was also intrigued to meet the winemaker that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had chosen to oversee their recently purchased vineyards. For Marc Perrin, one of nine family members working at Château de Beaucastel, takes parts in many projects, which have all helped to make him in to the very skilled winemaker that he undoubtedly is.
The Perrin family purchased Château de Beaucastel in 1909. They are one of the only families who still use all 13 permitted grape varieties in their Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with the intention of making their blended wine a true reflection of the region. A pioneer of organic viticulture in the Rhône, Marc feels he gets the very best from his vines and his land. He explained how the vines perform best when they have to work – if you intervene and provide water and nutrients, then the vines become lazy, producing substandard fruit. If they have to fend for themselves, the roots dig deeper, getting the best from this distinct appellation and soils. This gives the fruit greater power and with the natural nutrients from the soil the wine tastes more balanced and reflects its terroir to a greater extent.
The vineyards are located in the Northern Rhône, where they benefit enormously from the warm climate, but also the Mistral – a prevailing wind which helps to cool the grapes, adding acidity and making the wine more balanced -‘the key to a great wine’ according to Marc.
We started with Miravel Rosé (Brad and Angelina’s wine). Presented in a beautiful curvy bottle, it was a lovely salmon subtle pink colour and was a nice, delicate wine, though I think made for the sun, rather than a London cellar.
Next we had a couple of whites. One was a blend and the other a 100% Roussanne. A rare wine from old vines, this was outstanding – full of fruit now, but Marc Perrin was insistent that it could be kept for many years to develop more toasty oxidised aromas.
We also tried the Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2011, a Côtes-du-Rhône from vines outside Châteauneuf - a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault, this was soft and quite easy drinking.
I loved the next wine we tried – Gigondas ‘Clos de Tourelles’ 2010, from the only walled plot in the appellation of Gigondas. The Perrin family only recently acquired the land, making this their first vintage. The area has unique soils of limestone, clay and compacted sand, which provide great nutrients and drainage, help the grapes develop acidity and provides the Grenache with a unique character. It was delicious and tasted almost more like a very good Pinot Noir in style, rather than something from the Southern Rhone.
The second half of the tasting was devoted to five different vintages of Châteauneuf – 2009, 2008, 2006, 2001 and 1994.
Each had their own character and it was interesting to see how the vintages varied, especially with Marc there who obviously had first-hand experience in making the wines and knew how the different weather from the years had affected the vines.
My favourite was the 2008. It was a cooler vintage than 2009 (which was a solid ‘big’ vintage, creating a wine with lots of red fruits, pepper, spice and hints of garrigue), so tasted elegant with a lovely minerality and a refreshing streak of acidity.
The 1994 was also outstanding. Considering it is nearly 20 years old, it still had incredible fruit flavour, but with slightly sweeter tannins and the all important freshness. Marc’s aim in his wines is to make ones that can be drunk now, or in 40 years time. The problem is, will there be any left by then to find out?
It was a great tasting, with votes for the favourite wine of the night going jointly to the Rousanne and the 2008 Châteauneuf.