Château de Beaucastel, one of the oldest and quite possibly the most famous estate in the region. Its origins trace to 1549. Like many other storied estates, Beaucastel enjoys a unique terroir in the far northeast corner of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Coudoulet. Their soils consist of sandstone that is covered by an array of multi-colored rocks, stone, and limestone. The rocks reflect sunlight, and hold heat from the sun. That heat transfers to the vine at night. In addition to soil, they benefit from natural drainage and wind from the Mistral, which keeps the air clean and dry. Additionally, Beaucastel was one of the first estates in the area to begin farming organically in 1950, then began incorporating biodynamic techniques beginning in 1974.
They're known for using all 13 grape varieties allowed within the region, and for the red they include 5% of their white varietals as well. The normal grape blend (cépage) is usually 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5% Cinsault, and 5% assorted varieties. This year was a year for Mourvèdre (theirs are grafted onto Tempier rootstock and are old vines), lending to a strong core, vibrancy, and a long life. These wines drink better 6-10 years from release, and in the best vintages are capable of 10-35 years of aging.
The Grenache and Cinsault are fermented in cement, while the Syrah and Mourvèdre are in foudre. Finely pixellated fruits of the forest aromas with a full bodied but fresh and lively palate. The Mourvèdre element is strong, bringing vibrancy and power. It’s firmly savoury, very dry and dramatic. A seriously structured Beaucastel for the long term.
A tremendous effort, might Beaucastel's 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape outshine even the 2016? I tasted a preliminary blend that Marc Perrin said represented 80% of the wine, and it showed ridiculous floral and fresh aromas of licorice, lavender and spice, all backed by tremendous fruit that went beyond black and red and into hints of exotic stone fruit. The final blend will likely contain more than 10% Counoise, the highest proportion ever utilized at the estate. It's rich and concentrated yet silky and lithe, with a fantastically long, elegant finish.
Moving to the two Châteauneuf-du-Pape releases and 35% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 8% Syrah, 12% Counoise, the rest other permitted varieties (Marc calls this a Mourvèdre vintage), the 2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape sports an inky purple color as well as a textbook Mourvèdre nose of black, black fruits, smoked meats, crushed rocks, charcoal, and pepper. It's deep and full-bodied, with beautiful purity and building structure. Production is down 40%, but this brilliant wine is certainly in the same league as the 2016.