Crowdsourced Wine Review: 2012 Famille Perrin Vacqueyras

27 01 2015

I’m trying something new today – submitting to the will of the people:

Your wish is my command, Twitter followers!  The online community has been nice enough to read and follow this blog for over three years now, and I’ve thought off and on about ways to make Pop & Pour a little more interactive, so consider this a trial balloon for a blog responsiveness initiative.  Thanks to reader @JimSueMaddocks for the excellent review suggestion — I hope this is one of many that roll in going forward!  If you have a wine in mind that you’ve always loved, or on which you’ve always wanted a second opinion, and if it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, drop me a line or a tweet and you might see it up on here sooner rather than later.

Proof positive:  the people will not lead you astray.

Proof positive: the people will not lead you astray.

I found this wine at Highlander Wine & Spirits in town for $23.95 retail.  The review request I received was for the Perrin Gigondas or Vacqueyras, but I went for the Vacqueyras partly because it was immediately available and partly because everyone always seems to opt for the Gigondas in this situation, making Vacqueyras the perpetual ugly stepsister in the CNDP Alternative category.  I think it’s high time that changed.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.  In France’s Southern Rhone Valley, it’s pretty much established that Chateauneuf-de-Pape is wine royalty.  It’s the most famous and most critically acclaimed region in the area, and its red blends focused around Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (among others) have been copied worldwide, but all of this attention also makes it the most expensive, by a wide margin.  Consumers are slowly coming around to the fact that other Southern Rhone regions, practically adjacent to King Chateauneuf, are almost its equal in quality at vastly superior pricing; this value renaissance has been helped in part by a surge of top-end production in these overshadowed areas.

The two best known Chateauneuf-de-Pape understudy regions are probably Gigondas and Vacqueyras, both located just northeast of the heart of CNDP (Vacqueyras is just 5 kilometres away), both using the same principal grapes, both the source of a number of monstrous values.  I’ve noticed Gigondas start to get a lot of critical attention in recent years, to the point where calling it underrated is starting to ring a bit hollow.  But Vacqueyras has largely stayed in the background, despite being Gigondas’ immediate neighbour and quality equal.  The region has a great story to tell, and wines like this one will help tell it.

This particular bottle has a strong claim to being a value Chateauneuf alternative, because it’s made by one of Chateauneuf’s pinnacle producers.  The Perrin family is behind CNDP stalwart Chateau de Beaucastel, one of this glamour region’s all-time great wineries whose base Chateaneuf red retails for three and a half times the price of this Vacqueyras.  Beaucastel’s success allowed the Perrins to acquire and collect a series of mature vineyards across the Southern Rhone that exhibited CNDP-like potential, including Les Christins in Vacqueyras, a clay-heavy vineyard of old (50+ year) Grenache and Syrah vines.  Clay is highly absorbent and acts as a sponge for water and nutrients, trapping them in the soil and helping ensure growth and ripeness in the vines and grapes.  This results in fleshier, juicier, more opulent wines, even as the mature vines help imbue the character of the land in every bottle.  So to recap:  this is a single-vineyard, old-vines, hand-harvested, traditionally made Rhone blend from Chateauneuf’s top family.  All this for $23.95!  This is why it pays to know your world wine regions.

Cork Rating:  5/10 (The cork says 2014 but the wine is from 2012.  Bottling year?  Is that a thing?)

Cork Rating: 5/10 (The cork says 2014 but the wine is from 2012. Bottling year? Is that a thing?)

With that 600 word introduction, I’ll try to keep the actual review short.  The Perrin Vacqueyras is 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah, but you would never know it from the colour, which was a deep, thick, clear ruby-purple that hinted much more towards the latter than the former.  I almost need to describe the nose in two parts, the second of which contains a bunch of interesting flavour descriptors (chocolate, hoisin sauce, blackberry, Saskatoon berry, pre-chewed Bazooka Joe gum, incense) and the first of which is “crazy ripe red cherry” on endless repeat.  If any of you have had the Perrin’s Chateau Beaucastel before, you know that one of its hallmark aromas is a powerful barnyard-y funk (caused by a yeast organism called brettanomyces), but none of that shows up on this wine, which is fresh and clean throughout.

As soon as you first take a sip of this wine, the true Chateauneuf-de-Pape imitation begins.  It is rich and dense but not heavy or cloying, brambly and a bit wild, but still polished.  Dark fruit powers the palate, bright and sweet, accented by leather, cinnamon, anise, sage, Twizzlers and roses, turning slightly peppery on the finish.  There’s a point in the midpalate where you think the wine is starting to fade, but right at that moment a second gear kicks in and keeps the flavours lingering until long after you swallow.  This is one of those wines that initially seems soft and a bit loose but actually contains a surprising amount of talcum-powder-fine tannin; you barely notice it until you hold the wine in your mouth, but then its structure starts to emerge like invisible ink.

This Vacqueyras is a stunning value that could easily improve for another 3-4 years and last for close to a decade.  Side by side a Chateauneuf-de-Pape that was double the cost, you would be hard pressed to spot a difference (the difference, of course, being that you could pocket a second bottle of the Vacqueyras for later for the same price).  If all my reviews of crowdsourced wine turn out this well, I’m going to this format way more often.  Thanks @JimSueMaddocks!  I’ll be buying this again for sure.

91- points

$20 to $25 CDN

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4 responses

27 01 2015
Jim

So glad to see your review – this is one of our rock solid favourites. A stunning Rhone wine for under $25.

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27 01 2015
petervetsch

You hit the nail on the head for sure – this is a rock star wine. Definitely a revelation for me.

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6 02 2015
Darren Cooper

I’m extremely inexperienced compared to you but I have a bottle of the 2011 on the go right now, and I gotta say… if ever I thought I was barnyarding it up, it is now. This and the 83 Mouton Rothschild form Jesse’s first big tasting extravaganza are the only two I can recall sniffing and thinking YEP – that’s what they mean when they say barnyard! I have a bottle of Coudoulet open as well, which has none of the barnyard at all… so it’s just odd to me. I feel so convicted but how could it be if the 2012 has no barnyard??? Help.

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6 02 2015
petervetsch

Wow – interesting! If the barnyard is that prevalent I have no problem believing you’re experiencing brett on the ’11. Brettanomyces can show up in a variety of ways and places, in some instances on winery equipment (in which case it would make itself known vintage after vintage, like Beaucastel), but in other instances in things like wine barrels (which would be batch-specific and could infect one vintage but not others). The ’12 I had definitely had no brett that I noticed, but that doesn’t mean the Perrin Vacqueyras has always been, or will always be, free of it. If you track down a bottle of the ’12 from Highlander (and you should!), I’d love to hear how it compared. Cheers!

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