The France Diaries
It was to be expected.
When Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie bought Château Miraval last year, curiosity levels around the world soared. Would this purchase produce more celebrity-stickered wines containing the usual flash but little quality? Or could it just possibly mean a pleasant surprise in store for discerning wine lovers?
The answer was quick in coming. The first release from Château Miraval last year, post the Jolie-Pitt acquisition saw 6,000 bottles of the wine fly off the shelves in under five hours – and an all-time record created. Barely had the dust settled on this, then the Wine Spectator released its list of 2013’s top 100 wines a short while ago. And what grabbed headlines was that the Château Miraval rosé found a place there.
This year, on my visit to the South of France, one of the must-visits on my list was Château de Beaucastel, the celebrated estate of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. For those who are wondering about the connection between Jolie-Pitt, their wine estate and Château de Beaucastel, then wonder no more. The connection between Miraval and Beaucastel is the famille Perrin. The family whose name is associated with the top-ranked Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate is also the one behind the Miraval miracle.
This and other tales were part of a fascinating sunny morning spent on the impressive estate of Beaucastel. Richard Haug-Adrion, who took us around the estate, also told of the history of their ‘movie star wine’. “After Brad Pitt bought Château Miraval, he met Marc Perrin and asked him to help make the wine for their estate.” It made perfect sense: the Perrin family had, after all, been making excellent wine for generations. Pitt (clearly more than just a pretty face) and his business savvy proved spot on with the crowning of Château Miraval’s 90-pointer 2012 rosé as the world’s best pink of 2013. It also came in at number 84 overall, and had the distinction of being the first ever rosé to appear on the list, re-establishing the credentials of Provence’s rosés. Another interesting nugget: this was not Miraval’s first brush with stardom: its previous owner has converted it into a recording studio where musicians like Sting, The Cranberries and Pink Floyd had recorded their music: most famously, The Wall by Pink Floyd was recorded here. Miraval’s 35-bedroom château also was summer home to the Jolie-Pitts.
But Beaucastel was a different story altogether. For one, it has a history that goes much beyond Hollywood. No surprise then, that Château de Beaucastel’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape is regularly found at the top of the same list of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines each year; this year it is firmly lodged right up there at Number 8.
With a pedigree like Beaucastel’s, there must also be a story or two to delight fans. Legend has it that Pierre de Beaucastel was awarded the land on which the château and its vineyards stand by King Louis XIV as a reward for converting to Catholicism. It was only in 1909 that the famille Perrin took it over. It was in poor shape having suffered extensive damage in the phylloxera crisis. Over time the vineyards, enriched by the clay and limestone from the river that once ran through it, and unique for being one of the largest single-piece vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, gained the reputation for excellence that it currently enjoys. Beaucastel is truly Châteauneuf-du-Pape royalty: one of the region’s premium producers who can boast of using all 13 permissible varieties of grapes in its wine. (more…)