A fresh 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel from one of the last vintage under Jacques Perrin
The oldest bottles that I have tasted of Chateauneuf du Pape date to the 1978 vintage with the oldest wine of Chateau de Beaucastel a more modest 1985. As I will be out of town during an old Beaucastel tasting to be held this summer in Washington, DC, Darryl kind opened an old bottle of 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape.
The 1976 vintage was produced by Jacques Perrin the father of Francois and Jean-Pierre who made the 1985 vintage I tried. Jacques famously started using vinification a chaud where the grapes are heated. Back then this was with wood fires. The outside of the grapes reaches a hot temperature for only a minute or two such that the inside of the grapes remains moderate. As a result of this heating, fermentation starts quickly, more color is extracted, and bacteria are killed such that no sulfur is needed. According to John Livingstone-Learmonth, this process allowed Jacques to make good wine in moderate vintages.
The 1976 vintage was variable in Chateauneuf du Pape due to rain at harvest time. Robert Parker describes it as part of a “difficult” run of years in the mid 1970s. I did not know what to think when I saw the bottle in Darryl’s hands. Nothing came to mind except that Darryl has successfully served Chateauneuf du Pape from odd vintages before. The nose of the wine did smell a bit end of life. In direct comparison to a 1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba, the Beaucastel had markedly more fruit and body in the mouth, though there was less acidity. It was better than I expected! In fact, it was a solid glass of old Chateauneuf that prepared my palate for other more vigorous, though not so mature, Rhone wines.
1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands. This wine is a blend of mostly Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, and Cinsault. Alcohol 13.5%. From a bottle that was popped and poured the nose remained very light with primarily a hint of roast suggesting advanced age. The flavors surprise with a good amount of fruit and some tang. The middle is still fresh with both old wood notes and bottle aged flavors. The structure and acidity fade by the finish leaving a soft ending. This will please any fan of mature wine. ** Now.