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......

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