Saturday, March 20, 2010

In Pursuit of McNamara's Wines of the Decade: 1989 Beaucastel CDP

A journey begins with but a single step.  A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.  Those were some of the over-the-top thoughts that were reverberating through my mind yesterday as I made my first foray in pursuit of McNamarra's Wines of the Decade (  The journey began at approximately 12:30 pm when I went to my computer and launched my wine cellar management program (The Uncorked Cellar) in order to locate the 1989 Beaucastel CDP in my cellar.  The program showed two bottles of the '89 resting comfortably beneath three bottles of the '90 in the Argentinian section of the cellar (don't ask).  I deleted the lower of the two bottles from the graphical representation of the cellar then stepped into the actual cellar to retrieve the wine.  There it was.  I carefully extracted it from the slot and took it out of the cellar to prepare it for its final act.

My plan was to take the bottle to our weekly Antonio's tasting in order to begin this journey with the right amount of ceremony.  I wanted to decant the bottle prior to going to the site in order to remove any sediment.  The cork broke just below the midpoint during extraction but I was able to remove the offending portion without any difficulty.  The wine was decanted at 12:45 pm and rebottled at 2:15 pm.  Let us take a look back at the 1989 Beaucastel CDP.

The 1989 Beaucastel CDP was named Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 1991 and had received a 98 rating at that time.  Chateau de Beaucastel, a Southern Rhone winery, is one of only three wineries in the region to plant and vinify all of the appellation-permitted varietals.  The Perrin brothers run a winery which consistently produces some of the best wine in the appellation. The varietals are harvested and vinified separately with the Syrah being the only one exposed to new oak.  The wine is blended in the spring following the harvest.  The varietal distribution in the 1989 vintage is as follows:  Mourvedre (30%), Grenache (30%), Miscellaneous (15%), Syrah (10%), Vaccarese (5%), Cinsault (5%), and Muscardin (5%).

In a re-tasting of the wine in 2007, James Molesworth, senior editor for Wine Spectator, raved "Gorgeous truffle, bacon fat, cedar, shaved vanilla bean and saucisson notes, but the fruit is still fresh, with currant, date and fig flavors followed by a long clove- and sandalwood-infused finish."  He upped the rating of the wine to 98 at that time.

We began to taste the wine at 3:10 pm.   It was a blind tasting and Hlyterroir and Dr. Jeff id'd it as a Southern Rhone.  Hlyterroir said that it had the softness of a Grenache or Pinot Noir but not their lightness.  Keith M. thought that it had a short finish and was light.  On the palate, the acidity and fruit were strongly in evidence with that initial tasting.  From the opening onwards, the wine continued to evolve in the glass.  After about 10 minutes, we began to identify graphite (lower intensity than the 1991 Dominus), pomegranate, and red apple.  Fine-grained tannins were apparent on the mid-tongue.

This was a well-balanced wine which, unlike many of today's wines, is very well suited to accompanying a meal.  It was refined, submissive and understated, qualities which were re-inforced with the passage of time.  Not an aha! wine for any of the group (see some members of the kill team, with trophy in hand, below) but we recognized that we were in the presence of a very good wine.


  1. I've had varied experiences with this wine as well, though the "great" bottles I've had are truly great and I've had others (including corked bottles) that were undrinkable or just plain "good", but nothing special. That's my favorite part about wine - that each person's view on the same bottle can be completely different! Cheers and enjoy - I'd love to join you at some point for a taste.

  2. I will seek to ensure that we have a chance to taste together.