Calgary Wine Life: Famille Perrin Tasting with Thomas Perrin @ Avec Bistro

15 02 2018

By Dan Steeves

Excited is an understatement of how I felt yesterday as I was on my way to an amazing vinous and culinary experience at Avec Bistro featuring the wines of Famille Perrin and proprietor Thomas Perrin. I have always been fond of the wines of the southern Rhone, especially after travelling through the area a few years ago an experiencing the culture, the landscape…and, of course, the wine! Being guided through a tasting by any winery owner is always a privilege. Hearing directly from them about the history of their area, small details of their wines and their actual impressions of each bottle creates a personal connection that makes it such a memorable experience. Combine this with impeccably paired cuisine and it is elevated to a new level of sublime indulgence.

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Famille Perrin is a family-owned and -operated producer (Thomas, the 5th generation, along with his siblings and cousins, all work for the family business) in the southern Rhône Valley which is most notably known for their flagship label from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Chateau de Beaucastel, although they have an extensive collection of wines from many other areas in the southern Rhone. They have been established for just shy of 110 years and are the leading organic grape grower in the area after Thomas’s grandfather, Jacques Perrin, pioneered organic farming practices in the 1950s which was followed by biodynamic practices in the 1970s. All wines produced by Famille Perrin are blends consisting of at least two grape varieties which are grown, vinified and matured separately and then blended to create a harmonious wine.  With there being 13 different grape varieties allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (all of which are used in the Chateau de Beaucastel CdP, one of the only estates to do so) and still other varieties used in other wines elsewhere in the region, you can imagine how long and busy the harvest season is for Perrin. The harvest starts in August with the early ripening Cinsault and ends two months later with Mourvedre and Counoise. Vinification is then done separately using stainless steel, concrete, or wooden tanks with very limited oak ageing done, at least in the sense that no new oak is used to avoid imparting oak characteristics in the wines.

The tasting consisted of six wines from the Famille Perrin collection – a rosé aperitif, followed by a white and four reds, each accompanied with their own food pairing. Below are details for each wine (and food pairing).

2016 La Vieille Ferme Rosé

This budget-friendly label was created in the 1970s by Thomas’ father Jean-Pierre Perrin; the Famille Perrin label acts as a negociant, where they do not themselves grow the grapes and instead purchase them. In Canada, rosé wines (particularly those from southern France) have taken off in popularity in the last few years, and for good reason. The refreshing and dry style is incredibly versatile with food, and it is no longer strictly a summer patio beverage, with people are enjoying it all times of the year, whether celebrating Canada Day or Christmas holidays. The La Vieille Ferme rosé is a light salmon colour and has armoas of fresh flowers, cranberry, red currant, and a spicy acidity. It has a persistent finish and is great as an aperitif and fully capable of handling a variety of food pairings (try with spicy Thai food, as recommended by Thomas).

87+ points

2016 Famille Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc

In general, the southern Rhone Valley is dominated by red wines and whites are often overlooked, despite there being some great values to be found. The Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc is sourced from vineyards only a few kilometres north of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Rousanne, and Viognier. The wine sees about 25% oak with the remainder in stainless steel and has a generous body and round mouthfeel to it. Sweet peach, pear, and melon come through on the wine along with lovely floral notes. Brisk acidity keeps everything balanced out into the pure, elegant finish. The wine was paired with a seared scallop and celery root parmesan puree which was a perfect match, allowing both the food and wine to compliment each other well.

89 points

Culinary masterpieces from Avec Bistro

2014 Famille Perrin Vinsobres – Les Cornuds

Vinsobres (which oddly translates to “sober wine”) is a small village located approximately 40km north of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in between the Northern and Southern Rhone districts, which was given its own AOC status in 2006.  The area is known for having a hilly terrain with steep terraced slopes, and it only produces red wines, mostly from Grenache and Syrah grapes. The Les Cornuds vineyard was previously planted to olive trees, but extreme frost damage in 1956 decimated the grove  and it was decided to replant the area to vines due to their ability to withstand cooler temperatures. The vineyard provides the best climate for growing Syrah, to the point where Thomas even likens it to the northern Rhone appellations of Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph.

At first smell the wine immediately gave off a blast of ripe blackberry and raspberry followed by hot wet pavement and black olives. This Vinsobres is smooth and balanced on the palate with the fruity ripeness supported by soft tannins and a medium finish. Its spicy character comes through with noticeable black pepper notes and olive tapenade. It was paired with a delicious alpine comfort food — raclette with potato and caramelized onion — which was a great match.

89 points

2015 Famille Perrin Vacqueyras – Les Christins

As the tasting trended to wines with more oomph, we moved onto Vacqueyras, which is situated between the appellations of Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise. The 8-hectare vineyard of Les Christins is farmed by the same team that manages the Beaucastel vineyards and has sandy soils which provide the heat needed to grow Grenache. This Vacqueyras is composed of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, both of which are well represented within the bottle. Relative to the Vinsobres, its neighbouring red is bolder all around, with more body, tannins, and powerful acidity. It showcases ripe cherry and raspberry fruit, black currant with dried autumn leaves, herbs de provence and a trace of white pepper. This bottle is exceedingly well balanced at this young age thanks in part to soft yet strong tannins, and it has great potential for medium-term cellaring. The wine was paired with a deconstructed Coq au Vin and it was surprising how well this light dish complemented and wasn’t overwhelmed by such a bold wine.

90 points

The Reds

2014/2015 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge

We finally arrived to the finale of the tasting, back-to-back 2014 and 2015 vintages of the Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These are special wines and there is a reason they are known and loved by so many – they are damn good!

As already mentioned, Beaucastel uses all of the region’s 13 permitted grape varieties in their Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend. The blend is not dominated by Grenache and the proportions of each grape generally stay the same each year with only minor changes. For 2014 and 2015, the blend is comprised of approximately 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvédre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5% Cinsault, and a combined 15% composed of reds Vaccarese and Terret Noir and whites Muscardin, Clairette, Picpoul, Picardin, Bourboulenc and Rousanne (and Grenache Blanc, the white mutation of Grenache). The wines are vinified separately in either closed concrete tanks or open wooden tanks depending on the varieties, and the final blend is aged in large oak foudres to soften the tannins for around 18 months. The blending of the final wine is an art that has been passed down through the Perrin family, and it is still very much a family affair, with everyone tasting and partaking in the decisions each year.  The hefty dose of Mourvedre (making Beaucastel more of a GMS blend than the standard GSM) is a nod to Thomas’ grandfather Jacques Perrin, who was a staunch supporter of the grape.

The 2014 vintage was tricky, with rain during the harvest requiring careful attention in the vineyard and hand selection of the grapes. The 2014 Chateau de Beaucastel has rich aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, white pepper, tree bark and sweat. Plush and round on the palate, with soft subtle tannins, its powerful flavours of ripe fruit and baking spices contribute to a long finish. A beautiful wine with many good years ahead!

91+ points

The 2015 vintage of Beaucastel was a spectacular vintage for the winery, with ideal grape ripening and harvest conditions. It was not a vintage made by the winemaker, as all the work was done naturally in the vineyard to produce fantastic fruit. This younger Beaucastel is bold and robust out of the gates with dark cherry, blackberry, blueberry and raspberry fruit, with spicy pepper and liquorice coming through on top of well-worn leather. The structure is noticeably bigger and fuller than the 2014, with more body, acidity and tannin, but the wine is still impeccably and harmoniously balanced with a long flowing finish. It is surprisingly clean with no noticeable animal or meaty notes (a common characteristic of Chateauneuf and especially of Beaucastel) and appears to be living up to the hype of the great vintage. Drink the 2014s while waiting for the 2015 to hit its peak in a decade or more!

94 points

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5 responses

1 04 2018
Fred

So the 2015 vintage of Chateau design Beaucastel is available now? Where can I get a hand on it?

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1 04 2018
Fred

Oops, I meant Chateau de Beaucastel

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1 04 2018
Peter Vetsch

Hi Fred, yes, the 2015 Beaucastel is currently in the market. You can go on liquorconnect.com and search for it to find out where in Alberta it’s being carried, although stocks tend to vary over time.

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1 04 2018
Fred

Yes I know LiquorConnect. But I haven’t seen any 2015’s at stores yet.

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1 04 2018
Peter Vetsch

I haven’t either, but I know it’s available – Connect says there’s a shop on Centre St that has it.

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