Wine Advocate #163 (Feb 2006) Robert Parker 92 points Drink 2009-2029. The 2003 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape turned out as well as I could have hoped and is certainly an outstanding wine, deep ruby/purple with a tight but promising nose of black fruits, loamy, earthy notes intermixed with pepper, smoke, licorice, and dried herbs. The wine is somewhat closed in the mouth (but it had been bottled 30 days prior to my visit), has full bodied, moderately high, slightly rustic tannins, but big-impact flavors with plenty of texture, density, and purity. Give this wine 3-5 years of bottle age, and drink it over the following 20 years.
Wine Advocate #156 (Dec 2004) Robert Parker (91-93) points Drink 2009-2022. Much like it was in 1998, the blend for Beaucastel’s 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape includes more Grenache (50%) since that varietal was both consistent and of high quality. The balance is 20% Mourvedre, and 30% such varietals as Syrah and Counoise. Its deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by an earthy style, moderately high levels of tannin, and neither the suppleness nor forward flamboyance of the 2000 or 2001. Dense, full-bodied, and structured, the 2003 is clearly a vin de garde. It will require 5-6 years of bottle age, and should drink well for 15-18.
P.S. Of considerable interest during my September, 2004 visit was Francois Perrin’s decision to open a 1980 Chateauneuf du Pape blanc (rated 94). He did this because I have been visiting Beaucastel for nearly 26 years, and in its youth, I remember this wine was quite impressive. At about age 6-7, it seemed to be completely dead and oxidized, and had taken on an old gold color. However, according to Perrin, about five years ago it came alive, and this bottle was spectacular. The aging of not only white Hermitage (which is primarily Marsanne) but also these special cuvees of Roussanne (particularly Beaucastel’s, but I suspect also other Roussane-based white Chateauneuf du Papes such as Grand Veneur’s La Fontaine and La Nerthe’s Clos de Beauvenir) is bizarre, and defies any rational explanation. They are compelling when first released, then become nearly undrinkable only to re-emerge in the future, but one is never quite sure at what age that will happen. It is one of the mysteries of wine, but it is reassuring to know there are still things the so-called experts cannot explain.