Saturday, September 29, 2007

September 29 - Beaucastel Part.2

A visit to Beaucastel isn't complete without trying some so off to the tasting room....

2006 - Beaucastel Blanc.
The Roussane grape is dominant with 80% (small percentage of 60 year old vines) and another 20% comprised of Grenache Blanc (10-40 year old vines). Honey, flowers, good acidity and a minerality. Good to serve on the cool side i.e. 10-12 centrigrade.

2006 - Beaucastal Blanc Vielle Vignes
Again made of Roussane but this time 100% pure and straight up. The vines are old (I'm told 78 years). Production is absolutely miniscule at 6000 bottles per annum ( sorry now 5999 for '06). With the Roussane variety I am told you either drink it within 5 years of the vintage of 10 years later. The 5-10 year period is supposed to be a funky phase where the wine shouts down and appears oxidised. Strangely enough I have not it during this phase but have had ones over 10 years - you will be nicely surprised. The RVV belies it's age in comparison to Beaucastel Blanc - you can tell the age of the vines in the wine! If the regular version is a child then the RVV is a middle-age adult - more complex, more depth, more layers, more of everything. If you do have both and then go back to the regular version - you will find it lacking and "shallow". I would not be afraid to serve this warmer than the regular Beaucastel Blanc say 13-15 degrees.

2005 Beaucastel
Comprised of 13 grape varieties. The various grapes bring their unique characteristics to the table and balance one another out. Mourvedre for it's tannic structure and ageing potential, Grenache for the warmth and texture as well as others. The CdP true to its roots. Given the various varieties and their maturation profiles that each variety would come forward at different times during the ageing process. You can try one young (i.e. within 5 years) but it won't reach a sense of harmony without 10 years of age - this is my own personal view of course. Right now too young but good raw materials should be fantastic.

1998 Beaucastel
Here we are starting to get serious. IMHO still not quite there in terms of harmony but getting there and should do it within 5 years? Depth, breadth, fantastic stuff.

1986 Beaucastel
IMHO has reached the stage of harmony. Leather, animal, dried fruits it's all there. Not a stellar vintage but drinking well and probably at it's peak.

* Note with food - Try something hearty almost rustic. The typical cuisine is Provencal - so olive oils, thyme, basil, tomatoes. Perhaps even Tuscan food may work ....?

Monday, September 24, 2007

September 24, 2007. Beaujolais

The fresh, bubble gum like wine known as Beaujolais Nouveau released on 3rd week of November is what most people think of when this appelation is mentioned. Beaujolais rouge is made with the Gamay grape and actually encompases 3 categories.

1. Regular Beaujolais - Beaujolais Nouveau is a part of this.
2. Beaujolais Village - 38 communes claim this category. Again Nouveau can come from this.
3. Beujolais Cru - These consists of 10 vineyards :

The largest Vineyard with 1300 hectares at the foot of Mount Brouilly. Annual production : 10million bottles. Really massive production not really that interesting.

The smallest vineyard with 280 hectares. Annual production : 2.1 million bottles.
One of the better Crus.

Situated at 400 meters is the highest of the vinyards. 370 hectares. Annual production 2.7 million bottles

Cote de Brouilly
On the slopes of mount Brouilly. 320 hectares. Annual production : 2.4 million bottles

870 hectares. Annual production : 6.5 million bottles

600 hectares. Annual production: 4.5 miilion bottles

Full bodied wines. 1100 hectares. Annual production: 8.7 million bottles

Moulin a Vent
'King of Beaujolais' from the ancient windmill in a nearby town. 670 hectares. Annual production: 5 million bottles. That's alot of bottles for supposed the king - buyer beware.

Designated relatively recently (1988). 550 hectares. Annual production : 4 million bottles

Northern Beaujolais. 310 hectares. Annual production: 2.4 million bottles

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September 20th, 2007, A visit to Chateau de Beaucastel - Part 1

A visit to Chateau de Beaucastel

Chateauneuf-du-Pape. What does this word usually mean to you?
Strong, robust, rustic, wild, wooly, complex, monolithic all the above?

Several hundred years ago it was none of the above. In the 1300's, the papal court moved to the city of Avignon along with the papacy of Pope Clement V due to political reasons. So ensued several generation of French Popes called the "Avignon papacy". South from Avignon in the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the papacy made their summer homes and encouraged the growing of vines in the surrounding areas of Bedarrides, Sourgues and Corthezon. It was at this time that the wines became known as "Vin du Pape". It was not until 1923 when the first Appellation controlee rules were drafted under the leadership of Baron Le Roy thatPublish Post Chateauneuf-Du-Pape AOC was born. In fact, this probably was the first AOC and the precursor of the various regulations to come later on. Returning to Corthezon, we that we come to one of of the most famous Rhone estates in the world, that of Chateau de Beaucastel.

Front gates of Chateau de Beaucastel

On of the characteristics of the terroir of CdP is a layer of stones throughout the vineyards called "galets" which were torn from the alps and placed on the plains by the action of the rhone river in prehistoric times. The layer of stones is supposedly 1.5meters deep and lay flat and hereby constructing a matrix of stone pebbles in which vine roots alternately intertwine their way outwards and downwards towards sources of water - thus creating a robust root system.

Vines are typically grown in gobelets (bushvine). Given the scarcity of moisture and the strong drying action of the mistral winds in this area, this method actually preserves moisture where in other areas would cause the plant to retain too much and encourage rot. In the case of Beaucastel it utilizes the traditional 13 (or more) grape varieties ( Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Clairette, Roussane, Picpoul, Picardan, Bourboulenc. The philosophy being one of symphony and harmony where each variety is not able to go at it solo.

To be continued......