Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 1998
I’ve been running through a host of older bottles lately. This seems to happen at the end of every first semester for some reason. I think the cold weather, first grey skies for months and the exam period brings on the urge to treat myself to something more than ordinary. Sometimes I am treated with something extraordinary. This is just such a bottle.
Beaucastel has a vaunted reputation. I have tasted some of their more recent wine and it was so intensely closed I couldn’t fully appreciate it. The 2005 got on the Wine Spectator top 100 list and seems to have sold out of the province within a few days (before I had the chance to get any). I was, however, lucky enough to obtain a 2005 hommage de jacques perrin – perhaps the most storried wine in chateauneuf du papes. Perhaps in 20 years I will be reviewing that wine as a hologram (thanks CNN). However, I had this special old bottle waiting and felt I should open it to commiserate and celebrate :).
What can I say, I have never really tasted anything like this before. This is a very special wine. A wine to savour, a wine where each sip takes 2 full minutes to appreciate. This experience reminded me what aging can accomplish.
The colour was light brownish red – almost pale. This faintness belies the complexity and power of the liquid itself with a nose of cherry, earth, licorice and pepper. Now, I know I’ve written descriptors such as those before, and I am remiss to use them to describe this experience, but it is not so much the fact that the identifiability of the flavours changed. Rather, it is their character – I feel as though I have been exposed to the essence of cherry, to the subtle dusting of earth that blows across the vines at night – as if licorice were the blood of the vines and pepper the spice of their leaves. Each component has such an outstanding quality that they come together to make the whole transcend the details.
When I first sipped this I immediately thought WOW!. This was not a wow for intensity, juicyness, tannins, or palate overload. This was a wow of elevation – more like Aristotelian wonder. Unabashedly elegant spicyness soared into very friendly fruit, with a full, round, elemental palate. Some very fascinating metalic/mineral elements like zinc came into the picture in the mid-palate and the finish remained as complex and intense as the wine for 30 seconds, while taking another 2 minutes to drift off into a profound moment of silence. This is wine for the philosopher, the poet, the man who watches the rain streak down the window pane and says nothing. A rare experience – and one that every wine lover seeks to find at least once in their life. I am glad to have done so at such a young age.
$120 at BCLDB