During my recent visit to Châteauneuf du Pape where I tasted well over 200 2006s I was particularly impressed by the huge strides that have been made in white winemaking in this small region traditionally associated with full bodied red wines. This Friday 4 Jan 2008 I'll be publishing my tasting notes on about 60 white Châteauneufs, with even more exciting assessments of 160 red 2006 Chateauneufs to follow.
This fine offering from the Perrins of Ch de Beaucastel is made just outside the official Châteauneuf zone so qualifies only as a Côtes du Rhône but it is better than many of the less enlightened white Chateauneufs still being produced, yet is much less expensive. Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc 2006 Côtes du Rhône is chock full of personality – so aromatic and complex that it smells like a particularly delicious tincture for soothing throats. The texture is beautifully soothing too, wonderfully caressing, and then there's the merest hint of bracing quinine on the finish – something I found on quite a number of white Châteauneufs. This is a seriously interesting white wine – one that would provide a welcome change from barrel fermented Chardonnay.
The Perrins' 100 ha, 30 of them devoted to Coudoulet, have been farmed organically since the 1960s and certified by Ecocert since 1997. The varietal mix in Coudoulet Blanc is typically Marsanne 30%, Viognier 30%, Bourboulenc 30% and Clairette 10%. (Note that the Tanners website cites the Roussanne-dominated blend for Ch de Beaucastel Blanc in its description of the Coudoulet Blanc 2006 it is selling for £14.70 a bottle.) They vinify and age these varieties separately until blending and bottling in May. Clairette for example is not aged in oak – it oxidises easily as it ages - although its fierce acidity is generally softened by malolactive fermentation, which is suppressed for varieties as rich as Marsanne and Viognier.
The slightly heavier 2005 vintage of this wine is currently much easier to find internationally than the 2006 which for the moment is available only in France and the UK according to winesearcher, but do look out for the nervy and thoroughly intriguing 2006 – and for my forthcoming tasting notes on Châteauneuf 2006s of both colours.