Château Beauchêne, a wonderful Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate, is among our favourite producers. We asked Beauchêne’s Frederic Sureau about his hopes for the new vintage and the future.
1) Are you optimistic about the 2021 vintage ? This year is quite tricky, since we suffered from frost in April which, unfortunately, reduced our production potential by 30 to 50 per cent. Despite this we’ve tried to stay as optimistic as possible. We have to wait until the end of the harvest to really have an overview of the loss. What is nice though is that we are going to harvest mid-September which is later than the past few years but actually was normal a few years back (thanks to global warming!). The maturity of the grapes is progressing slowly, which tells us that we should have a ‘fresh vintage’, with good acidity.
2) What makes the wines of Château Beauchêne so special, both individually and collectively? I would say we try overall to keep our wines accessible to everyone. We avoid deep extraction to keep as much elegance and freshness (and the terroir expression), with good drinkability. I think this a style that is easily recognisable for all our wine. It is the terroir and the grape blending which makes the difference.
3) What in your opinion are the outstanding vintages in the southern Rhône over the past ten years? We often talk about 2016 being the best, but from what I have tasted, all the vintages from 2015 are quite great ones, with unique personalities. But I personally find the 2019 my favourite so far.
4) How well do your top wines age? Regularly, we do ‘vertical’ tastings from old vintages to check the evolution. I have to say that the wines age very well in general, some vintages better than others, I remember having been pleasantly surprised by the Châteauneuf du Pape red from 2006, or a Côtes du Rhône Terroir 2007. A big thumb up for a Châteauneuf du Pape white 1998, with still great freshness.
5) Does climate change pose a problem in the vineyard. And, if so, what are you doing to mitigate it? Global warming is definitely one of the biggest challenges. Fifteen years ago, the family tried to anticipate this problem by renewing 50 per cent of the vineyard with grape varieties that would suffer less such as Mourvèdre, but also Marselan (hybrid of Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon). Our work on the vineyard is also very meticulous, as it is the most important part.
6) Your viticulture is described as sustainable. Could you explain what that entails? How would you describe the philosophy/culture of Ch Beauchene? And how does it influence the styles of wine and work practices? Actually, we are certified High Environmental Value Level 3 (highest level). We are not only trying to take care of the health of our wine consumers (or clients), but also of the environment (no pesticides, mechanical weeding, development of wildlife etc). We also have an apiary which helps us to study bee behaviour. The other good part is that we have the pleasure of tasting delicious honey every year! Our philosophy has always clearly been towards environmental protection. We could say that if you have a strong and healthy vineyard you have more chances to benefit from it. It reduces chances of cryptogamic disease, hydric stress, and anything that could challenge the progress up to the harvest. As for the style, it is quite subjective and according to the work in the cellar, we personally choose a mix of stainless steal and oak to find the best balance in the wine.
7) Covid 19 has had a serious impact on business all over the world. How has it affected your business? Château Beauchêne Has been present all over the world for many decades, with strong roots everywhere. While some of our partners did have difficulties, others increased their needs quite significantly. Overall we did very well.
8) Michel Bernard is the winemaker at the moment. Have the Bernard family always made their own wine? And who will take over when Michel retires? Since 2015, his daughter Estelle, is also taking care of both the vineyard and the wine-making. It is a team effort with Jean Charles (the cellar manager) and Olivier (our wine advisor). While it stays in the family, Michel Bernard has always been keen on bringing necessary innovation in order to improve the quality. While the family roots, knowledge and experience stays, opening up to outside expertise is important.
9) Beauchêne has been owned by the Bernard family for a very long time. Is that historical continuity important to the family? How have they managed to hold on to the estate and what plans have they got for the future? As was mentioned previously, vineyard experience passed through the family is priceless; you gain so much knowledge and then time in order to adjust to different situations you can encounter. They are still here after so many years certainly because they work hard, but also they have found the right opportunities as the right moment. The future ahead would be to improve and optimise the production and wine-making. Growth becomes an issue in actual world consumption - we all tend to drink less but better these days.
10) It is a summer’s evening after a long day at work. What bottle do you open to relax and review the day? Usually, I would start by a CDR Viognier, which should, hopefully, last long enough while cooking a nice piece of beef on the barbecue (it’s quite sunny in Provence!). And then continue through a Red Châteauneuf Grande Réserve (that would come out from my cellar at 14°c), slightly chilled and warming slowly while opening.
Discover their wines HERE.