It's been a while since my last post. Red tape has consumed me over the last few months but now I see light at the end of a very long tunnel and, all being well, wines which have been held up (even though they have been sitting in the warehouse for many months) should be available soon. In the meantime...
Yesterday, I visited the château to taste the new vintage. Before I got out of the car, I was struck by the immense noise coming from workmen who, since September, have been busy with some fairly major renovations to the buildings. Beaucastel has plans to become completely carbon neutral when the work is complete. There will be an underground water source for cooling, gravity will play a major role in the winemaking process and, in the meantime, everyone who works at the château is constantly moving offices to find a bit of quiet. It hasn't affected the wines though.
2020 was a classic vintage without a heatwave as such but with a long, drawn out summer and rain just at the right times. If that means you would expect the wines to have ripe fruit character, suave tannins and good acidity levels, you would be right. Some of the wines are so well balanced that they seem drinkable already (Coudoulet Rouge was a standout in this respect).
But first, the whites, all in the bottle already. 2020 Coudoulet Blanc is the usual blend, by which I mean it contains a good amount of Viognier (not allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, just about the only local variety that isn't) as well as Marsanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette. It is a classic Coudoulet Blanc: fresh and fruity with perky acidity and good length. I could drink this now quite happily. The 2020 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is a blend of 80% Roussanne and 20% other permitted varieties, aged in 30% oak. It is fresh but a little more restrained than the Coudoulet but the Roussanne leads the way, making the wine more ageworthy but I would give it a couple of years at least to let the wine flesh out. With its 100% Roussanne, the 2020 Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Vieilles Vignes" is superb: big and fat - just how it should be - with really good acidity. There is real intensity here with classic Roussanne character of peach/apricot and liquorice. We discussed its longevity and decided it should develop well until some time around the middle of the century. If you can't wait that long, Coudoulet Blanc really is a delightful wine.
The red wine flight started with the three cru wines, first of all the 2020 Vinsobres "Les Hauts de Julien", a particular favourite when I am reaching for something a little less Grenache heavy. There is officially 50% Syrah here (maybe more but 50% is the legal limit) and it shows: there is oak evident but it cannot mask the delicious black fruit and the superb balance of the wine. Gorgeous.
Of course, if it is Grenache you want, you can do little better than the 2020 Gigondas "Vielles Vignes L'Argnée". This is so pure and sweet but never too much so. I am thinking of some of those Grenache wines which are so sweet you think you need to stop by the dentist after tasting them. This is not like that: it is about as perfect as a wine can be. The nose follows through perfectly to a rich palate, fantastic mouthfeel and great length. I would happily drink this now but I know it will continue to develop over several years so, if I can squirrel away a case for myself, it will be one of those wines I luxuriate in charting its progress over time. After this, the 2020 Gigondas Domaine du Clos des Tourelles had a harder time convincing me but it succeeded when I gave it a few swirls. At first, more reserved than L'Argnée, it opened up to reveal a more structured wine which offers, perhaps, a wider range of flavours and, potentially, greater longevity. There's plenty going on here; it just needs time.
As mentioned, the 2020 Coudoulet Rouge is a wine I could enjoy now. I think, after two heavily Grenache-based wines, the Mourvèdre element of Coudoulet combines so well with the Grenache to bring out a new dimension. Full on the nose, rounded and very smooth. Lovely. Then onto the 2020 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge. If you don't like Mouvèdre, stop reading now. The heady perfume dominates the nose and then the palate of this dark, seriously lovely wine. Black, gamey fruit and liquorice. A "wow" wine which has every chance of being one of the most beautiful Beaucastels I have tasted.
Until... if tasting these eight wines isn't privilege enough, our host pulled out a cracker: 2012 "Homage à Jacques Perrin", the wine made from the oldest vines, mostly Mourvèdre, selected for their complexity, longevity and, above all, deliciousness. I may have been driving afterwards but it just wasn't possible to spit this one out. I'm glad I didn't: I could still taste this fifteen minutes later. Powerful and sweet and wonderfully intense with fruit quite secondary but far too young really. Still, I wasn't going to refuse!