Château Beaucastel Winery of Châteauneuf-du-Pape


It has been dubbed the crown jewel of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a winery that stands neck to neck with the elite producers of the world, and in the wine business, it is one that needs no introduction: Château Beaucastel.


 

Château Beaucastel was started in 1549 by a French Noble, Pierre of Beaucastel when he purchased the plot of land to build his estate and plant grape vines. Centuries later Pierre Tramier purchased the winery in 1909, and with his son-in-law Pierre Perrin, worked to grow the wine business of Château Beaucastel. Further expansion and development of the vineyard was advanced by Jacques Perrin, and in 1978, the reigns were passed down to his two sons Jean Pierre and Francois. Today, four grandsons of Jacques Perrin are priming to step into the role of the fifth generation to manage Château Beaucastel. On the day we visted the estate, our group had the tremendous privilege of being guided around the winery by a member of the Perrin family, Thomas, who is pictured on the left side of the photo.


Our first stop was in the vineyard. Prominent on the grounds are the round stones or galets sitting atop the soil. These galets have an interesting history tied to the last Ice Age, when melting glaciers from the north cut deeply into the French Alps, shearing rock, and forming a massive river that flushed through large regions of the country. Although the riverbed has receded into the Rhone, the jagged rocks that were sheared, and moved over the centuries by the river have been deposited along its course, and today these galets remain an important gift and legacy to the vineyard.  It's significance stems from the stones' efficient ability to absorb and retain the sun's heat over the course of the day, and then distribute the warmth to the vines at night, which encourages strong growth of both roots and vines. 


Also, significant is a strong wind that rushes through the region called Le Mistral, taking with it excess moisture from the vineyard. The dry environment encourages the vines to struggle, which yields smaller clusters of grapes and more concentrated berries, which are responsible for creating beautiful, opulent and expressive wines that are the signature of this region.

Once harvested the grapes undergo a vinification process that is intriguing and somewhat controversial. The grapes are sorted, flash heated to roughly 176 F before being chilled back down to 60 F, and then dropped into tiled cement vats (pictured above) and left to macerate for twelve days. 


Each grape variety is vinified and aged seperately. Once fermented each grape varietal is carefully tasted and then blended. The Perrins call the process of blending 'painstaking,' each year mixing different portions of grape varieties in efforts to achieve high quality and consistent wines year in and year out.

 

In Chateau Beaucastel's wine cave, there are wines spanning back to 1909, the year when the winery was taken over by the Perrin family.  The collection of dusty bottles is breathtaking and makes me wish I was part of the family.

  

We were generously given the opportunity to try four vintages: 2008, 2002, 1998 and 1988. Each vintage was excellent, sharing a similiar foundation of fruit, earthiness and power, but displaying unique characteristics that reflect its age and the growing conditions of the year it was made. Of all the vintages we tasted, I enjoyed the 1998 the most for its complex flavors of blackberries, kirsch, hint of licorice and earthy truffles, and for its full-bodied richness. I should of brought back a bottle, but I was short-sighted, and at the time there was only one vintage I was interested in: 2007. Robert Parker, the world's renown wine critic, calls 2007 a classic vintage for Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

 

As it turns out, Chateau Beaucastel's supply of 2007 had been completely sold out. Ironically, if I wanted a 2007 Chateau Beaucastel, or a 2007 vintage from any other Châteauneuf winery for that matter, I would need to purchase it in America. And the price differential can egregious. To be fair, in most cases the difference between the price of a bottle bought at the estate and that same bottle sold on the America is  negligible. But one example Clos de Papes, had my eye brows raising. Each of their 2007 was purchased at the winery for less than $40, only to be turned around and sold in America for $190! A price is almost five folds over the original. I think I'll stick to Château Beaucastel.

 

Thanks to Thomas Perrin for an amazing experience at Château Beaucastel and to Sherry Page for facilitating this visit! 

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Chez Bruno - The Ultimate Truffle Dining Experience in Provence
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Châteauneuf-du-Pape - One of the World's Premier Wine Region

75 comments:

Kim said...

What interesting facts about the grapes grown in this vineyard. It sounds like there are definitely some unique growing conditions here in this beautiful countryside. What a fun and educational trip!

Kathleen said...

Wow! How is it that you get to go to all these amazing places! Let me in on your secret!! Please oh Please!

Bellini Valli said...

I enjoyed reading about this particular vineyard. Each has it's own personal history doesn't it:D

Anja said...

what a interesting post. your lovely pictures let me start dreaming about this wonderful place.

The Blonde Duck said...

What an adventure!

A Year on the Grill said...

I love these slice of your life posts!

Wonderful photos... and such a great opportunity!

Simply Life said...

oh what a gorgeous place to visit!

La Table De Nana said...

I had never seen the galets in vineyards..how interesting..They must retain warmth also.What a fun tour..I love visiting wineries..

TKW said...

That place looks amazing! Thanks for taking us with you!

Emily said...

the winery is absolutely beautiful! I'm sure the wine tasted amazing, too. what an amazing experience!

Cathy said...

What a lovely wine tour. I live in the heart of Oregon wine country, so different from the conditions in this winery. Our specialty is pinot noir.

Pam said...

Wineries are so cool! Hubby and I really like them! Beautiful!

xoxo

Mom on the Run said...

Simply amazing! What fabulous pictures and info.

lisaiscooking said...

What a great experience! The rocks are so interesting, and the tasting must have been fantastic.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What an interesting background on the galets! How lucky you were to have such a wonderful tour of that amazing winery.

Stella said...

Le mistral-how romantic! What a wine tasting. I wish you got to try the 1997, but I bet the 1998 was very similar. Those two years were good for many wine regions around the world it seems.
May I ask why their method is controversial? Is it the heating of the grapes/juice?

kat said...

Sounds like a really interesting tour

Joanne said...

Your trip just gets better and better! Truffles, wine...what more could a foodie ask for?

Bob said...

Words can't express my jealousy. ;)

Pam said...

It looks like an amazing place to visit... lucky girl.

MaryMoh said...

Beautiful place and beautiful pictures!

Angie's Recipes said...

Lucky you! The place looks fascinating!

Chef E said...

I am drooling over all those dusty bottles! I am about to pour myself a *virtual* glass to toast to wonderful vineyards and the passionate people who spent their life to build their empires!

Gulmohar said...

Wonderful place...You are so lucky, Christine

Trix said...

Mmm, that 1998 you describe sounds a-ma-zing. How on earth did you drag yourself back to the States after all that? I think I would have run away and hidden in a vineyard somewhere.

Sara said...

I love those dusty bottles. And those barrels! Yummm...wine.

Diana Bauman said...

What a fun post to read. The images of the vines on the stones is breathtaking. I'm really thinking about taking a wine tasting class. So interesting to me.

Pam said...

This must have been a fantastic wine tour! Cheers to the dusty bottles and all!

Joie de vivre said...

Sigh, like a vacation sitting at my computer. :)

Mimi said...

Five generations strong...Nothing like a little family tradition to make good wines.
Mimi

Juliana said...

Christine, your post is very informative and love the pictures :-)
What a great tour!

Cinnamon-Girl said...

The place looks gorgeous! I loved seeing the process and history. What a great experience.

sweetlife said...

what a gorgeous place, glad you got to visit!

sweetlife

Apples and Butter said...

The thing I envy most about Europe, and even the East Coast in comparison to California, is the sense of history. This post is a great example of that history. Thanks for sharing!

Bren said...

Great time at a fabulous vineyard. I took my parents to a local one this weekend and enjoyed lunch and a private tour and tasting by the owner. There's nothing like learning first hand how it all works, and ultimately end up with an extraordinary bottle of vino.

thanks for sharing and nice finding your blog via a mutual blogger friend.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

If it is that much in the US I am sure it is closer to a grand here. We are at least 3X more expensive for liquor in Ontario.

What an experience! Love those dusty bottles.

5 Star Foodie said...

Thanks for taking us along on the wonderful Château Beaucastel Winery tour! We visited there for our honeymoon and brought back a few bottles back with us, but recently had finished our last one. Time to go back soon, I think :)

Claudia said...

Each vineyard takes you to a specific place in time. Such history - so many stories and such beauty.

And congratulations - I have an ABC Italiano book to send you as soon as you send me your address!

tasteofbeirut said...

I was wondering if Jacques Perrin was one and the same as Jacques Perrin the famous actor and film director who starred in "Les demoiselles d'avignon?"
I am familiar with the "mistral" having lived in Aix-en-Provence!
What was amazing to me was seeing those "galets" on the ground and the story behind them. Incredible!

A Canadian Foodie said...

Chateau de Neuf de Pape has always been my favourite French red. what a wonderful opportunity for you to tour it. Nice to know 2007 is a vintage year. You are living my dream!
XO
Valerie

Stephanie Savors the Moment said...

Wow - what an AMAZING experience! I am such a fan of Rhone wines - I look forward to making the trip one day. ***sigh***
Thanks so much for sharing the details as well as your fabulous photos. Looking forward to your next installment:)
Stephanie

OysterCulture said...

What a great tour and it must have been fun to compare the differences to what you are used to having lived in California.

As to those prices - Wow thats some arbitrage - makes me want to fly to France to stock up and come back to the states and pay for my trip with the mark up

Debinhawaii said...

Interesting post and your pictures are just incredible--truly breathtaking!

zurin said...

a beautiful place indeed. U are lucky to be visiting places as lovely as these! tq for the visit ^.^

Chow and Chatter said...

wow what a place oh you can't beat France

momgateway said...

lucky you...visiting places we just dream about....thanks for sharing your experiences...

The Diva on a Diet said...

What a wonderful post - the info. and the pics, all fantastic! I've greatly enjoyed sharing your trip with you here on your blog. :)

The Blonde Duck said...

Happy Tuesday!

krissy @ the food addicts said...

gosh i am so jealous that you are in france!!! it's awesome that you are sharing your journey with your readers, and it's a great way to remember your travels when you look back later on. i love going to vineyards... there's a great tranquility about it. and it doesn't hurt that you can sip on wine and get a little tipsy :)

Table Talk said...

I have never been to France, but now I know who I will contact when I'm ready to plan my trip! You have included everything I would want to experience.

Lori said...

Those blue shutters on that building are so awesome. I love how they stand out in the photo. Thanks for taking us on the wine tour! Everything is just gorgeous!

Danielle said...

what an amazing experience! such depth in history.

nancy at goodfoodmatters said...

Fascinating experience, and so educational. I really appreciate being able to vicariously come on your tour.

Beautiful picture of the vineyard and the galets.

Michelle said...

I love the smell in wineries and with your pictures I can also smell the aroma of fermented fruit!

theUngourmet said...

Oh such gorgeous photos! I would love to be a part of the family as well!

Bridgett said...

I definitely want to start traveling with you! You find such amazing places and give such interesting lessons in your posts. I look forward to each one

Janice said...

Reading your post takes me there, thanks for sharing...I hope to one day to there

Núria said...

That was a wonderful lesson, darling!!! I never visited a French vineyard and Winery, but I did visit a Rioja one. I think I enjoyed it as much as you did :D

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

Thank you for the wonderful tour! You're one lucky gal!!!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Fascinating - such beautiful photos of the vineyard, and I love reading the family history - it's something you rarely get a glimpse of.

3 hungry tummies said...

It is amazing how old some of the "old world" vineyards are! Thanks for a very interesting post! :)

Barbara said...

What a wonderful experience, Christine! Thank you so much for giving us a virtual tour of the Château Beaucastel Winery! The history was fascinating and I had never heard the story about galets and found the photo amazing.
This must have been so exciting for you. Thank you for sharing...and can't wait for more!

Mama Freemans' cafe' said...

Wow! You have an amazing life. Thanks again for sharing it with us.I really like the history of the stones.

Fimère said...

c'est toujours instructif de te lire merci pour ce partage
bonne journée

Tara said...

As always, beautiful pics! I would love to go here!

Tara said...

As always, beautiful pics! I would love to go here!

Art and Appetite said...

Christine, this sure is a wonderful place to visit. I've been wanting to go to these type of places, it just feels so refreshing and calm. Ah, please take me to your next trip! Hehe.

Gera @ SweetsFoodsBlog said...

I need a good quality red wine from France right now!! Excellent description of a gorgeous winery :)

Cheers,

Gera

John Dryzga said...

Another place to put on my todo list.

What are you going to do to top this?

Velva said...

Christine, I am so glad that you have been sharing your journey with us-I am really enjoying it. Oh the wine, I would have been heaven. French wine is so good.

We are headed to the Loire Valley this Summer for biking. I am trying to figure out how I am going to hold a loaf of bread under my one arm, and a bottle of wine under the other :-)

sophia said...

I'm not gonna lie and say I know my wine....far from it!
But...I have to say this: why are all French men so damn good-looking? Even when they are old? Dang. I've got a French exchange student in my art class, and he's hot too! >.<

Sophie said...

What a great adventure!! Lovely pictures too!

Katy ~ said...

How could one not feel the connection of heaven and earth in such a place!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Thank you so much for taking us to this famous winery. It's gorgeous although I just as soon miss Le Mistral. Burr.
sam

Tiny Urban Kitchen said...

What a lovely vineyard. I think I've had that wine before! Can't remember which year, though. :) Your trip really looks amazing!