Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château de Beaucastel 1993
Even before reaching for the corkscrew, you appreciate the fill level and visual condition of these wines they really are perfect: still in their original wooden cases since their shipment from the estate, theyve been in climate-controlled bonded storage ever since.
This sleeping giant has rested undisturbed in the bottle for almost 3 decades, so removing the foil and pulling the cork warrants care.
Poured gently yet generously, the wine exhibits an elegant, pale garnet core with a paling brick-red rim; there's real purity and clarity in the glass a true time-capsule-of-a-wine.
Stretching and rubbing its eyes, it flows genie like from the bottle into my eagerly awaiting glass, and I afford it the gentlest of swirls to awaken it from its slumber.
Silence prevails; eyes are shut so as to limit distraction and savour the experience, I take in the aromas. It's an aromatic score, and time must be taken to complete the movement. First to emerge is ripe, sweet mulberry moving to vintage leather and polish, earthy, gamey notes, a hint of warmth and feint notes of liquorice. It reminds me of the leather music satchel with polished brass buckle I used to take to music class as a young schoolboy; the polished grand piano you just know the scent. I can't say Ive thought of such items since, but much like the memory forged of music, a fine wine has the ability to take you through time.
There's also a woody element on the nose, to just say 'oak' would be too clumsy. This is far more of an elegant; more walnut shell delicate, charming.
I can't tell you how many times I returned to the glass to uncover more. That's to be expected with a wine of this age: it must be treated as a living entity that is constantly evolving in the glass as you experience it.
And that was just the nose! Upon tasting, you are greeted with elegant raspberry notes and a granular texture on the palate; again, I pick up mulberry which subsides just as a leather, game, and bitter cherry character emerge. The tannins grip the palate so gently and are in perfect harmony with the acidity. It's a beautifully structured wine with such elegance.
The finish is a real treat, and often where such wines earn their stripes. Here, a gently warming woody character is interwoven with sweet fruit, which hangs effortlessly on the palate. Exhale, and your nose and palate are again treated to a complex medley of delicate, mature fruit and warmth.
Serve with anything you fancy, from well hung game to lighter white meats, or simply settle into you favourite arm chair and enjoy the wine as it evolves in the glass.
Fully mature wines are very much down to personal taste. Completely subjective, these are my thoughts and mine alone, so do with them as you will. But what is certain is that they describe sensations I believe every fine wine-lover should experience.
By James Russell-Grant 15.02.2023