1926 Château Beychevelle St. Julien Bordeaux France Wine Tasting Note
Chateau Beychevelle Vineyards, Terroir, Grapes, Winemaking
The Left Bank vineyard of Chateau Beychevelle is planted to 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. However, it is the goal of the estate to slowly replace a portion of their Merlot vines with more Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines are planted to a density that ranges from 8,300 to 10,000 vines per hectare. Newer plantings are at the higher levels of vine density. On average, the vines are close to 30 years of age. Starting in 2008, Chateau Beychevelle began moving closer to organic farming techniques. Progress is always slow and steady in Bordeaux, especially in the Medoc.
The Chateau Beychevelle vineyard is dispersed in the Saint Julien appellation. They have vines close to the river, next to Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou and Chateau Leoville Barton. They have vines in the southern tip of the St. Julien appellation and parcels located further inland, not far from Chateau Gruaud Larose. In all they have 14 different blocks of vines, that can be divided into almost 60 different parcels of vines.
That being said, their best vines, which number about 20 hectares are planted next to the chateau on the Beychevelle plateau, next to Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, with a view of the Gironde. At its peak, the plateau rises 18 meters. However, it is also important to note that the estate also owns 22 hectares of vines that are actually located in the neighboring Haut Medoc appellation that are considered part of the Saint Julien appellation. The vines in the Haut Medoc are situated in the commune of Cussac, not far from Chateau Beaumont. There, you find a very different and much cooler terror than their vineyards in the St. Julien appellation. Due to the fact that those vines were part of Chateau Beychevelle at the time of the original classification, even though they are located in the neighboring appellation of Haut Medoc, the estate has the right to include those vines in either their Grand Vin, the second wine, or use them to produce an Haut Medoc wine. Those parcels are planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon, although many of those vines are being replaced with Merlot. Chateau Beychevelle also owns an additional 14 hectares of vines in the Haut Medoc, that are not allowed for use in St. Julien.
Today, close to 15% of their vineyards are farmed using organic vineyard management techniques. Previously, the percentage was higher, but that has recently changed. It is the definitive direction of Beychevelle to continue increasing the amount of hectares in their vineyards that are farmed organically. However, while the estate continues to expand their organic farming, they also believe in being green, sustainable and energy efficient. All the waste created by the estate are not placed back into the environment. In fact, newly planted bushes, plants and assorted greenery were recently added to the grounds to help promote biodiversity. This, coupled with their sustainable farming practices, earned them the ISO 14001 certification.
Making the Wine of Chateau Beychevelle
The wine of Chateau Beychevelle is vinified in 59, gleaming new, stainless steel vats that range in size from 73 hectares, to 105, 120 and up to 160 hectoliters. Malolactic fermentation takes place in tank. However, depending on the vintage, a portion of the malolactic can take place in barrel. The wine of Chateau Beychevelle is aged in an average of 50% new, French oak barrels for about 18 months before bottling. There is a second wine, Amiral de Beychevelle which made its debut in the 1950's. However in those days, perhaps only 4% of the wine was placed into the second wine. It was the decision of Philippe Blanc to vastly increase the percentage of the harvest placed into the second wine, in 1996. There is also a third wine, which is sold as a supermarket brand.
Chateau Beychevelle invested more than 15 million Euros to completely renovate their wine making facilities with a major remodeling of their cellars, vat rooms, tanks and visitor center. Designed by the noted architect Arnaud Boulain and Atelier BPM, the most striking feature of the new winery is its glass walls. The glass walls that enclose the cellars are unique in Bordeaux, allowing visitors to instantly peer directly into the winery and view the wine making taking place. The construction was finished in 2016. Now that it's completed, visitors can see the estate from Route de Medoc.
Clearly, the biggest improvement in the quality of the wine being produced at Chateau Beychevelle is due to the massive reduction in the effective yields at the property. Vintages like 1982 were produced with almost no selection. In fact, close to 95% of the harvest was placed into the Grand Vin in 1982. Today, the average amount of the harvest going into Beychevelle is closer to 50%! Today, on average, the production of Chateau Beychevelle is about 25,000 cases per year.
The best vintages of Chateau Beychevelle are: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2000, 1989, 1982 and 1961. However, other older vintages of Chateau Beychevelle, dating back to 1906 have been fabulous wines! If you see these wines at auction, they are worth considering, especially if they have good provenance.
As we mentioned earlier, the estate also owns vines in the Haut Medoc appellation which are used to produced a wine sold under name of Les Brulieres de Beychevelle. Chateau Beychevelle also produces a negociant wine in partnership with their negociant owner, Barriere called Secret de Grand Bateaux. Secret de Grand Bateaux also displays the estate's famed Dragon boat logo in their label design for brand continuity. The wine is available as a red wine and white Bordeaux wine.
Due to the high demand of their wine, known as the Dragon Boat wine, coupled with the rampant counterfeiting that takes place in China, Chateau Beychevelle has added anti counterfeiting measures to their bottles using the Tesa PrioSpot system. The Tesa PrioSpot method adds a unique code to each bottle that is stored in a database that allows purchasers and sellers to check for the authenticity of each bottle along with the name of the original, authorized distributor.
Chateau Beychevelle, The Style and Character of the Wine
Chateau Beychevelle used to be a traditionally made and traditionally styled Bordeaux wine full of cassis, earth, spice and tobacco notes that age's well. But today, while everything is still in many ways traditional, the estate has really upped their game, and is now making some of the top wines in the appellation. The wine today, shows purity and elegance, along with richness and concentration. The wine is concentrated, fresh and complex, needing time to show at its best. But the wine in some previous vintages lacked excitement. However, they took on a new wine maker to assist with Philippe Blanc, Romain Ducolomb who was previously working at Chateau Clinet in Pomerol. The first vintage for the young Romain Ducolomb is the 2012, which showed softer tannins and more ripeness. It will be interesting to see what the new team continues to add to the wine of Chateau Beychevelle, especially with the new, state of the art cellars that were completed in 2016.
When to Drink Chateau Beychevelle, Anticipated Maturity, Decanting Time
Chateau Beychevelle can be enjoyed on the young side with at least a few hours of air. However, the wine is usually better with 8-12 years of bottle age. Of course that can vary slightly, depending on the vintage character. In the best vintages, the wine will be at its best between 10-35 years of age after the vintage. Young vintages can be decanted for an average of 2-4 hours give or take. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment.
Serving Chateau Beychevelle with the Best Wine, Food, Pairing Tips
Chateau Beychevelle is best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Chateau Beychevelle is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised, stewed and grilled dishes. Chateau Beychevelle is also good when served with Asian dishes, Chinese food, hearty seafood or fish like tuna, salmon, mushrooms, pasta and cheese.