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Chateauneuf wineries taking 'easy way out', says Beaucastel winemaker

Chateau de Beaucastel’s Marc Perrin believes many Chateauneuf-du-Pape wineries are sacrificing their life expectancy for a shorter-term commercial agenda.

Perrin Beaucastel

Marc Perrin spoke during a sell-out tasting at Roberson Wine in London, which covered five vintages of Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape: 2009, 2008, 2006, 2001 and 1994.

Between flights, he explained that Châteauneuf’s success, like that of Bordeaux, has traditionally been due to its age-worthiness and the fact that, as a blend, the mix of grapes can balance out any unevenness in the wine.

But, things have changed, he said, and the wines are not as reliable as they once were.

‘We’re still one of the few estates – maybe the only – in Châteauneuf to use all 13 grapes permitted in the appellation in our wines,’ he said. The Beaucastel reds mix 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 13% of the other red grapes and 7% of the white grapes.

‘After phylloxera and the wars, most people replanted only with Grenache as it was easier. So its dominance in Châteauneuf is a fairly recent thing, when you consider our history is blending and that a variety of grapes has been planted here since the Romans 2,000 years ago.’

He said it is unfortunate that many Châteauneuf producers are ‘taking the easy way out’ and making blockbuster-style, Grenache-based reds ‘that are overoaked, high in alcohol and one-dimensional that disintegrate with age. They’re just there to be massive and impressive early on, and to score points.’

Not that it’s only a problem facing Châteauneuf, however. ‘98% of the wine produced in the world today will be dead in
five years because wine is being made for now, for immediate satisfaction, not for the long term,’ Perrin said.

He recalled a trip to Japan where he was chatting to a well-respected mixologist. ‘He was telling me how similar our jobs were – that we were both playing with lots of ingredients and components to come up with the perfect blend. I laughed and told him that the difference was that he was making something that would be appreciated in the next five minutes and I was making something that would be appreciated in the next 40 years.’

Even the 1994 Beaucastel, tawny in colour and totally tertiary in its flavour profile – all earthy, leathery and undergrowth – Perrin still felt would ‘remain at this level’ for at least a decade, if not longer. ‘It would be sad if we cannot leave a legacy in our wine,’ he said.

‘It’s something more winemakers should think about. I’m the fifth generation of my family at Beaucastel and that history really influences me in the wines I make.’

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