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Wines from Beauchêne International

by Tom Cannavan, 01/05

Amandine Bernard is a regular visitor to wine-pages UK Wine Forum, and she recently sent me this selection of wines from Beauchêne International, a French wine company who's office she runs in London. But Amandine is more than just an employee, as her father and mother, Dominique and Michel Bernard, are owners of the Château Beauchêne and Château Souffles de Costerelle in the Rhône Valley, who's wines form the bedrock of the company's distribution.

There are also wines in this selection which are distributed by Amandine, from Château Carignan, a 150 hectare estate on Bordeaux's Right Bank, and from Viña von Siebenthal, a Swiss-owned estate in Chile's Aconcagua Valley.

A couple of the wines are not listed in the UK at time of writing, but where known, stockists are given, with prices in pounds sterling
 

rosé

Saisons de Beauchêne (France) Tavel Rosé 2003
This has a deep, cherry pink colour, and a very attractive nose of intense fruit: raspberries and cherries, with an earthy, soft quality. The wine has very good fruit on the palate: quite a robust, cherry and crisp, tart berry fruit that is dry and quite savoury, with good weight and a well-balanced acidity imposing itself on the finish. This is quite a food-friendly, grown-up style of rosé. Very good. Easy-wine.co.uk, £6.87

red

L'Orangerie de Carignan (France) Premières Côtes de Bordeaux 2000
Despite the name, this is a Bordeaux wine from the right bank, composed of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, with not a drop of Carignan in sight. This is the third wine of this estate, and the colour is a very deep, solid ruby. It has a lovely nose, with a bloody, slightly animal quality adding complexity to sweet, ripe blackcurrant and juicy cherry fruit with a smooth and creamy character. In the mouth this is a fruit-driven wine, with hints of briar and dry, fine leathery qualities, but mostly ripe, sweet black fruit suggesting cherry and plum with a nice bittersweet tang of acidity. Tannins are very ripe and refined, and they balance this wine very elegantly. Lovely stuff and very good indeed/excellent. Corney & Barrow, Adnams, £7.76

Château Carignan (France) Premières Côtes de Bordeaux 2000
The Grand Vin of the estate is 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, aged in oak for a year. Yields are lower, and the vines are older for this bottling. The colour is a dense, deep ruby/crimson. It has a similarly creamy, lusciously-fruited nose to the second wine, with an added depth of tobacco and woodsmoke. On the palate the fruit is more concentrated and decisive, with lots of keen-edged plum and red cherry fruit and grippy acidity. The oak adds a powerful, slightly raw and liquoricy edge in the finish, where tight tannins add to a slightly austere feel. I rather preferred L'Orangerie on this tasting, but could see that the concentration and savoury quality of this wine would come into its own with the right food. Very good indeed.
   

Château Souffles de Costerelle (France) Côtes du Rhône 2001
This is the second estate of the Bernard family. A blend of Grenache 60%, Cinsault 14%, Carignan 14% and Syrah 12%, the vines are up to 70-years-old. It has a medium-density, soft ruby colour. On the nose it is quite earthy, with notes of damp undergrowth and some spice, with subdued autumnal berry fruits. There is a lovely sweetness and roundness to the fruit on the palate, with a chewy mouthful of berry and raspberry fruit, and again that earthy, smoky softness. The tannins are soft but noticeable, adding a dry, briary note in the finish, with orangy acidity keeping the wine savoury and fresh. Very good/very good indeed. Adnams, £6.29

Château Beauchêne (France) Les Sens de Syrah Côtes du Rhône 2003
From 100% Syrah, and 20-year-old vines planted on stony soils, this cuvée has an intense crimson/purple colour and a nose of very solid, sleek black fruit wrapped in a peppery, spicy layer. There's a little note of minerality too. On the palate it offers a flood of bittersweet blackcurrant and dark, alcohol-soaked cherry fruit. It is medium- to full-bodied, with a grippy, lean and supple tannin and acid framework. Good length here, in a meaty, but fruit-filled wine that is very good indeed. Corney & Barrow, £8.64

Château Beauchêne (France) Côtes du Rhône "Premier Terroir" 2001

In an impressively heavyweight, embossed bottle, this cuvée comes from vineyards adjoining the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The soil is composed of galets (the large rounded pebbles typical of Châteauneuf) mixed with sandy red clay. 70% of the wine is Grenache from 40- to 90-year-old vines, with 30-year-old Syrah and Mourvèdre making up the balance (25% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre). It spends one year in barrique. It has a medium ruby/crimson colour and a really, sweet, jammy, pure fruit nose of blackcurrant. There is some subtle vanilla and spice, but this is all about creamy black fruit. On the palate that ripeness and purity follows through, with lots of cassis and plum, and only a gentle underlay of spicy oak tannins and solid acidity into a long finish. A refined yet voluptuous wine, with quite a lot of subtle layering of flavours and textures, this is very good indeed. Easy-wine.co.uk, £8.95
   


Château Beauchêne (France) Côtes du Rhône Villages Les Charmes 2001
The top Cuvée of the CdR Villages range, this is a blend of Grenache 55%, Syrah 30%, Cinsault 10% and Carignan 5% from 30- to 50-year-old vines. It spends six months in oak. It has a medium- to dark ruby colour, with some pink on the rim. The nose is laden with pepper and woody spices, with a ripe notes of cherry fruit and violet. There's a little nuance of schisty, mineral quality. On the palate it is medium-bodied but powerful, with a depth of warming, earthy, berry fruit and quite a big, chunky background of spicy oak and peppery tannins. The acidity is juicy, like tart black cherry skins, and this has a savoury, leathery component that is very classy. Lovely length here, in a very fine Côtes du Rhône. Very good indeed.

Château Beauchêne (France) Côtes du Rhône Grande Réserve 2003
Made from 30- to 50-year-old Grenache (70%) and Syrah, this wine is aged for six months in oak, and comes from selected vineyard sites. It is a medium density, warm ruby red with some crimson. It is quite reserved on the nose, with an elegant berry fruit quality emerging, as well as some gentle spice and a soft, herbal component. In the mouth it is medium-bodied and quite powerful, with a rich spine of extracted, juicy but savoury dark fruit running through its centre, and a firm, muscular character with woody tannins and a bitter cherry-skin acidity. This is quite aggressive on the finish at present and perhaps needs food to be fully appreciated. Certainly a concentrated and powerful mini Châteauneuf-du-Pape with considerable presence.

Viña von Siebenthal (Chile) Parcela #7 Reserva 2003
From the Swiss-owned Vina von Siebenthal in the Aconcagua Valley, this is a Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Merlot 30% and Cabernet Franc 15% that was aged for four months in mostly French oak barriques. It has a sweet, curranty nose, with violet notes and a ripe cherry and black fruit quality with a touch of vanilla and just a hint of volatility. The palate has an immediate fruit sweetness, and again that dried fruit quality comes through, with a black olive note and a slightly plasticene note that probably comes from the wood, but isn't entirely pleasant. There's good fruit here, in a wine that has a lot of quality, but leaves a little doubt in my mind over this bottle. Mayfair Cellars, £7.95

Viña von Siebenthal (Chile) Carmenère Reserva 2003
There is 10% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend here, and the wine is aged for four months in barrels, mostly French. A very deep, glossy crimson. There is plummy fruit on the nose, and an overripe quality that almost suggest Italian plum tomatoes. There's a background of marzipan and vanilla, and a touch of kirsch. This has excellent fruit sweetness on the palate, with a lot of pure, fine blackcurrant and a tight, cedary tannic quality adding backbone. Acidity is there, freshening this wine into the finish, and a spicy nutmeg note adds warmth. Very good indeed. Mayfair Cellars, £TBA

Viña von Siebenthal (Chile) Carabantes Syrah 2002
10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot join Syrah in this wine, which is aged for six months in 75% French oak, 25% American oak. It has a deep, quite dense crimson colour and a nose of silky, deep-set black fruit: blackcurrant and ripe, juicy black cherries, with a hint of chocolate and a little floral perfume. On the palate the fruit is very sweet, and very pure, with a long, well-defined core of blueberry and cassis, and a gentle undertow of warm, quite fudge-like oak. But a bittersweet liquorice and plum-skin edge of acidity and polished, grippy tannins adds an edge into a long, focused finish. Very good indeed. Mayfair Cellars, £10.95
 

Viña von Siebenthal (Chile) Montelìg 2002
This wine, from the Colchagua Valley, is the prestige wine in von Sibenthal's portfolio, with around 7,000 bottles made. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Petit Verdot and 5% Carmenère, it comes from low yielding vineyards and spends 12 months in all French oak. It has a very rich, vivid garnet colour, and a very composed, svelte and sleek nose of cassis fruit, with a little hint of briar and a slick of black chocolate. The oak is very sophisticated, adding a sheen of warmth in the aroma without any obvious woody notes. On the palate there is a ripe, succulent quality of black fruit, but this is very fresh too, with a keen raspberry edge to the fruit, and quite decisive acidity. This seems to be lacking a little flesh in the mid-palate, where that lean, savoury acidity and rather raw alcohol strips away a little of the fruit, but the warming, smoky notes bolster the finish and the purity of the fruit does win through into the long finish. A wine that might well improve with cellaring (Viña von Siebenthal suggest 10 years for this wine), but for now I'd rate it very good indeed. Mayfair Cellars, £19.95