Beaucastel | Chateau de
There are no premier cru properties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape-or wines labeled "bon", "bourgeois", or "exceptionelle"—because the surveyors who mapped Bordeaux on the basis of flavor never saw fit to make a sensory atlas of the sunny South. When they do, Château de Beaucastel will join Lafite and Mouton in the pantheon of French shrines. Founded in 1649, Château de Beaucastel has long been Châteauneuf's most natural wine-organic farming and minimal sulfur treatments were sacred principles here long before they became fashion statements elsewhere-and if rave reviews are any indication, Beaucastel is the region's best wine as well; none of Châteauneuf's seventy-plus estates have garnered as many 90 point scores, or as much purple prose. What's more, vineyard practices unique to this 272-acre estate ensure that fine vintages of Beaucastel retain their margin of superiority, maturing gracefully long after their competitors have faded into oblivion.
François and Jean-Pierre Perrin are the only vintners in Châteauneuf to champion the Mourvèdre grape, a long distance runner that accounts for 30% of a typical Beaucastel blend; the Perrins' neighbors, disenchanted with the grape's youthful grittiness cultivate the variety little, if at all. They should regret their lack of patience. At 8-10 years Mourvèdre is the ugly duckling-become-swan, contributing mightily to the cornucopia of pleasures-plum, cassis, and thyme, to name but a few-that lift Beaucastel above the field.
Add to these virtues, Beaucastel's remarkable consistency (only four vintages in the last fifteen have been less than stellar), plus the Perrin brothers' “grass roots” sympathies (François and Jean-Pierre create bargain-priced “La Vielle Ferme” and “Perrin Reserve” for those of us with wallets too lean for the estate's flagship wine), and the question arises, What isn't there to like about Château de Beaucastel?!