A beautiful goodbye

Beaucastel 1988 is a wine I have drank more times than I can possibly remember. It was a regular at blind tasting team meetups in the early 90s at Oxford. I loved it back then, I hope this ullaged bottle will be good at the age of 31.

One thing before I start my note. Look at its cork!

The cork of Beaucastel 1988

That is a fabulous, long cork – just the cork to take a bottle through three decades! The bottle may be ullaged, as you can see in the bottle picture below, but my money is on it being in fine condition.

Many thanks to Keith Prothero for giving us this bottle. Keith is a very kind chap.

Beaucastel 1988Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1988, Chateau de Beaucastel

My, what a beautiful nose! Wonderfully scented with soft, mature plummy fruit and a hint of something floral. Violets, I think (I was not that kind of biologist).

There are hints of grilled meat and is very earthy, but there is no real hint of any of the sheep shit some of us associate with Beaucastel. It is deliciously, delicately scented – quite, quite beautiful and I’m utterly smitten with the nose as it is when I’ve just poured it. I’ll have a taste.

Wow, is very delicate. There is some prune fruit, lovely acidity keeping it lively and is far from being too dry, but I suspect on a 31 year old wine that will change soon.

Meanwhile, it has so much dimension, but it’s so soft and delicate I have to set my palate to ‘Extreme’ to tease them all apart. There is such refinement, such delicacy. Beaucastel was the last Chateauneuf producer to have reasonable levels of alcohol (they don’t anymore) and I think this has helped it not instantly turn into dusty firewater.

In burning through my half of the bottle like a bat out of hell (I’ll be gone by the morning light…) because as this has been open for a few minutes the nose is losing its floral character and its fruit, and the palate is becoming drier and losing its delicious charm. With a bottle of this age and such a degree of ullaged this is to be expected, but I had hoped I might have got a longer glimpse of what was mature Chateauneuf perfection.

Ah dear… After about five minutes it is totally dried out and dead, with none of those wonderful aromas and flavours left. Pity, it was, briefly, so very good. But not for long, alas.

Thank you, Keith, whilst that was alive it was glorious! We got a lot of pleasure of that before it shuffled off its mortal coil. Given my innumerable experiences with this wine, I am very happy to have got to say goodbye to this wonderful wine.