6 March 2017
Today, I joined a vertical tasting hosted by Mr. Frédéric Coulon, owner and winemaker of Domaine de Beaurenard, which has been a family-run estate for seven generations in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The pebbles, the 13 grape varieties*, the sun and the Mistral have been joining forces for centuries to give birth to each vintage of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, which is one of the earliest AOCs in France with its status awarded in
1936. In this event, we had Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2013. Frédéric explained that all the vintages were made from almost the same proportion of grape varieties (70% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 6% Cinsault and 4% other AOC varieties – basically the constituent varieties in their sites) and using the same winemaking techniques – wild yeast fermentation, minimal human intervention, gentle pressing and long vatting; and therefore the changes in the wines from one vintage to the other are primarily due to the particular weather of the respective vintages and development over time.
2005 has been well regarded as the best year since 1990 in the Rhône giving wines with concentration and real longevity. Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005, the oldest vintage in the flight, expresses very good complexities as evidenced by prunes, dried red cherries, dried blueberries, pepper and liquorice with mineral notes. It is developed but still very powerful.
In 2007, the Southern Rhône had a wet spring, but then high winds helped keep a generally fresh impression to the warm year. The 2007 wine gives an open, easy and round palate with an elegant profile. I would expect more fruit in it.
It was a little too warm in general in the Southern Rhône in 2009 giving solid and robust wines with more tannin. Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 is quite well-made showing a firm style of Châteauneuf but not too severe. The mouth feel is not too alcoholic. I would say the alcohol is the best integrated among all in the flight (in fact, all are 14.5% abv).
In 2013, the Southern Rhône was hit by a problem with flowering of Grenache, so reduced quantities mean wines lighter in style (but more refreshing) than usual. The wine is heady and interesting, with lively red fruits and silky tannin.
Apart from the above, we also had Domaine de Beaurenard "Boisrenard" Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2013. The premium cuvée “Boisrenard”, christened with the ancient name of the estate, is produced from the oldest parcels of the estate, including old vines 60-100 years in age, with all the 13 allowed varieties* planted together, though Grenache predominates. Old vines with 13 varieties really make a difference – the wine shows profound complexity and concentration. However, we need to plan and act now so that the next and the next next generations can also enjoy old vine wines. To this, Frédéric hinted that they have already identified new sites since five years ago planting with the 13 varieties! For comparison, we then had Domaine de Beaurenard Rasteau 2014 which is made from 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah from vineyards located 25 km from Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Rasteau, a village just classified as AOC since 2010 (one the latest AOCs in France contrasting with the oldest Châteauneuf above). The clayey-calcareous and stony slopes and terraces are superbly displayed benefiting from ideal hours of sunshine. The wine shows ripe fruits with a suggestion of tropical flowers.
For me, the idea of vertical tasting is always very educational and fun! It helps me learn about a particular wine producer, their wines and their style, in depth.
Note: * The 13 allowed grapes varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape are Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Cinsault, Syrah, Marsanne, Muscardin, Roussanne, Counoise, Vaccarèse, Picardan and Bourboulenc.