Chateâu Beychevelle 1995
I've started pairing wines with paintings at the National Gallery, sounds interesting? See how I got to pair a glass of 1995 Chateâu Beychevelle with Hans Holbein the Younger's The Ambassadors here. But if you're here to learn a bit more about the wine itself carry on reading...
First off this wine is from Bordeaux, South West France, in the appellation of Saint Julien AOC. This commune is on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, so like most vineyards here, the dominant grape grown is Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, some Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère.
Now Chateâu Beychevelle isn't the top wine from this appellation. In fact there are no First Growths here at all, a few Second Crus, two Third Growths and Chateâu Beychevelle is actually a Fourth Growth, but please don't let that deter you. First Growths are considered the cream of the crop, as decided in the Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855. This was where the best wines of Bordeaux were put to a tasting panel, who ranked the wines according to the reputation of the chateâu and current trading price.
Today the 16th century Chateâu is a true example of how grand, luxurious and impressive Bordeaux really is. Alongside their beautiful gardens, it's often considered as the areas answer to Versailles.
In terms of history, it's believed the property really started coming into existence under the Foix-Candale family. They were already pretty well established in Bordeaux in 1446 and in possession of Chateâud'Issan in Margaux (which incidentally was the wine which our very own King Henry II chose to celebrate his wedding to Eleanor of Aquitaine with.
The chateau in time passed into the hands of the very important local Duke of Epernon, which is around the time when the Chateâu picks up the name Beychevelle. The Duke was a powerful, and highly respected man, so important in fact that all ships sailing passed were ordered to lower their sails as a sign of respect. Beychevelle is believe to have been taken from Baisse Voile in the local dialect, and we somehow, somewhere along the lines get to Beychevelle, a name which stuck ever since. You can see a nod to this in the label of the winery, which is based on a statue of the boat which is in the grounds of the chateau today. I'm realising that I've barely mentioned the wine in question, so instead of going into any more history of the estate, let's move quickly onto the wine itself.
I've only really given away that the Left Bank is generally Cabernet dominated, but this Chateâu doesn't really prove my point. Cabernet Sauvignon is around 52%, with Merlot not to far behind at 40%, along with small plantings of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Fermentation takes place in stainless steel vats, and the wine is then aged in around 50% new French oak barrels for about 18 months before bottling.
Now the 1995 vintage isn't a world record breaking vintage, but prices for the best vintages can be a little extreme. For this vintage, expect to pay up to £150 in shops, but if you're after a traditional style Bordeaux wine with plenty of cassis, earthy notes, lots of spice and tobacco, some toasty oak, this could well be the wine for you. Over the years it's gained richness, and structure yet retaining it's beautifully smooth character, elegance, with just so much concentration. To be honest it would pretty much wipe out most foods in my opinion, but saying that I do prefer to drink a nice wine alone, without food to truly appreciate whats going on in the glass.