‘Brothers Jean-Pierre and Francois Perrin as well as their four sons, Thomas, Marc, Pierre and Mathieu, have quickly become the dominant wine producers of the entire southern Rhone Valley.’ Robert Parker
As the Rhone Valley runs south towards the Mediterranean, the structure of the valley changes from the steep valley of the Northern Rhone flattening out towards the south. The climate is Mediterranean, raining mostly in the winter and is milder and warmer than the Northern Rhone in the summer. This is the reason the vines are not trained along wires, instead trained low to the ground in a bush style called Gobelet. The terrain is characterised by large rounded stones called Galets which can be several inches across, they retain heat very well and reflect it up into the vine during both the day and night. The best known region is Chateauneuf-de-Pape and all the bottles carry the papal seal. This refers to the relocation of the papal court to Avignon in the 14th century. There are 13 grape varieties of red and white permitted here the most important being Grenache.
Perhaps the most famous wine from Chateauneauf du Pape (CDNP) is Beaucastel. The vineyard is situated at the north-eastern end of the appellation, a short walk from the famous town of Orange. The estate has remarkable terroir, abounded by rolling pebbles on the surface, the subsoil contains an abundance of clay, which perfectly retains the vines’ water supply during the long hot summer days.
The estate was transformed in 1903 by a young chemical engineer named Pierre Perrin, who with his father-in-law returned it to past glories after the region was atrophied by phylloxera. Jacques Perrin drove it forward in the 50s by introducing new technologies and innovations. Today the vineyard continues to be treated with wonderful care: minimal sulphur is permitted, no chemical fertilizers or weed killers are used. They vinify in large old barrels (foudres) and only the Syrah is exposed to new oak. The estate has a bright future as Jacques’ sons Jean Pierre Perrin and François Perrin continue to balance tradition with innovation.
The blend is a heady mix of the famous CDNP grapes, 30% Mouvedre, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Counise, 5% Cinsault, balanced with other varietals. Their Mouvedre is grown on almost one-third of the land and arguably the best example of this grape anywhere in the world. Their Grande Cuvee ‘Hommage a Jacques Perrin’ displays this grapes pedigree in its purest form, produced almost exclusively form Mouvedre, these are used in their flagship wine Beaucastel. They also produce one of the best white wines in the world, Beaucastel Blanc, made from 80% Roussane and 20% Grenache Blanc.
Alongside Rayas and Clos des Papes, Beacaustel is the best CDNP money can buy and although Parker has raised the profile of the Rhone valley in the US, it is surprising that this wine can be bought at sensible prices, for under £40 a bottle on release. The 2010 is one of the best vintages they have ever produced, only pipped by one point in recent years by the 2001. The similar scoring 1989 and 1990 trade at £1,500 a case, so it makes sense to buy these wines early in their lifecycle as there is real value to be had. The market continues to look for the best wines from the leading wine regions outside of Bordeaux and Beaucastel is exactly that. One does not have to follow that train of thought very far to realise that this estate is one to buy now before the global market forces the prices up steeply, as it is, Beaucastel’s leading vintages have returned 35% in the last five years.
The wines are powerful, combing extreme concentration of black and red fruits with delicate flavours of meat, smoke, truffle and high notes of lavender. It is always impressive and can be drunk alone, or combined with most meats. This wine can be consumed after 3-4 years and great vintages like the 2010 will age for 25-30 years.
Beaucastel Chateauneuf Du Pape 2010 – £230 (6×75) OWC IB
Interestingly enough, even though many of the 2010 Perrin et Fils selections from the southern Rhone were scheduled to be bottled right after my visit, the 2010 Beaucastel had already been put in bottle. This is a gorgeous wine, a classic blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise and the balance the other permitted varietals in the appellation. Deep purple, with loads of bouquet garni, beef blood, blackberry, kirsch, smoke and truffle, this wine is full-bodied, rich and showing even better than it did last year. I still think it needs 3-5 years of cellaring, and it should last for 25-30 years, as most of the top vintages of Beaucastel do. Drink: 2015 – 2045, Robert Parker 95 Points