Calgary Wine Life: Thomas Perrin Beaucastel Component Tasting

23 02 2016

FullSizeRender-242I’m having myself a bit of a tasting month here.  A week after sitting down to some incredible 50, 51 and 52 year old Taylor Fladgate Ports, I was treated to one of the most memorable experiences of my wine life:  a chance to taste through the individual varietal component wines of the unparalleled Chateau de Beaucastel with proprietor Thomas Perrin, the first time such a tasting had ever been held in Alberta.  Beaucastel is the legendary estate of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the top region in France’s Southern Rhone Valley and the first area declared to be an Appellation d’Origine Controllee (AOC – now Appellation d’Origine Protegee, or AOP) in 1936, known for producing rich, dense and complex reds and whites of remarkable quality and longevity.  The Perrin family has owned Beaucastel for over 100 years, having purchased it shortly after most of the vineyards were ravaged by the phylloxera louse and just before the scourge of World War I. Two wars, 100 hectares and five generations later, Thomas Perrin and his family members carry on the legacy of the Chateau and the Perrin name.

Beaucastel’s winemaking philosophy was created and entrenched largely by Thomas’ grandfather Jacques Perrin, whose name graces the estate’s top wine, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, released only in top years.  The elder Perrin converted the entire estate to organic viticulture back in 1962, when almost nobody would even have known what that meant and the prevailing wisdom pushed hard the opposite way, toward the increased use of vineyard chemicals and pesticides.  Chateauneuf-du-Pape permits the use of an astounding 13 different grape varietals, 14 if you count the white version of Grenache (reds – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Terret Noir, Muscardin, Vaccarese; whites – Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Picardin), which is way more than your standard high-end rigid French appellation; Beaucastel makes a special point of using them all, white and red, in every vintage of its CNDP release.  They plant, harvest, vinify and mature each varietal separately, as each has a different growth curve and ripeness window, but in all cases they aim to tell the harmonious story of grape, soil, climate and region, of terroir, in their wines.


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Calgary Wine Life: 6 Wines To Try Before You Die @ Vine Arts

3 12 2012

[Cross-posted at]

There are wine tastings and there are WINE TASTINGS.  And then, about 500 feet above those, there was the tasting I went to this past weekend.  It is not blog-boosting hyperbole to say that most of us who walked into Vine Arts on Friday night were stepping into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try wines that we would literally never see again.  The rarity of the event was not lost on the buying public:  the Friday tasting sold out so quickly that Vine Arts scrambled to add an encore showing on Saturday, which sold out just as fast.


What was so incredible about it, you ask?  It was the near-unheardof chance to taste six of the world’s most famous, celebrated, acclaimed and expensive wines in a single sitting.  Over a span of two hours, I crossed a number of vinous firsts off of my bucket list:  Try a 100-point rated wine.  Try the top dessert wine in the world.  Try a well-aged First Growth Bordeaux.  Try one of the all-time best wines from my favourite region.  And so on.  I have never seen ANY of the bottles in Friday night’s lineup available at another tasting in town, so having all of them together in one room for one occasion was a huge coup for owner Jesse Willis and the Vine Arts team:  it would be like a music lover arranging for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Bruce Springsteen to play at a single concert, with the Beach Boys and Queen as opening acts.  For wine geeks like me, this was almost a religious experience.  If you’re not a wine geek, hopefully the excited rambling above has gotten across that this was kind of a big deal. Read the rest of this entry »

Calgary Wine Life: Meet Jesse Willis @ Vine Arts

29 06 2012

[Cross-posted at]

Calgary, Jesse. Jesse, Calgary.

I walked into the Vine Arts retail space for the first time a couple of weeks ago and, like I do in most wine stores, I looked for the Germany section.  There wasn’t one.  No Riesling section either. Rather than sorting its vinous wares by country or by grape, the more or less universal ways of arranging a wine shop, Vine Arts had catalogued and displayed all its wines by adjective, grouping whites under headings like “Off-Dry & Aromatic” or “Light & Fresh” and reds under headings like “Bold & Structured”, “Spicy Earthy Funky” or, my favourite, “Smooth & Sexy”.  That simple but radical design choice is why I believe Jesse Willis when he tells me he’s trying to do things differently. Read the rest of this entry »

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