The last visit on any trip is always tricky, especially if it’s after lunch. So it helps if the last port of call is something special.
The one thing that we had lacked so far was a proper French Château and rather wonderfully this very last visit put that right.
The fifteenth century Château Beauchêne with its sky blue shutters and beautiful gardens is so evocative of France that I was immediately energised. Better still there was a small museum of winemaking equipment including a pristine Citroën Traction Avant from the 1930s – we truly were immersed in La France profonde.
Our host was Frédéric Sureau, the sales manager, and first he led us on a stroll through a vineyard right next to the Château. This contains plantings of all the grape varieties permitted in the Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône-Villages and Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellations where the company makes wine.
The Château is the focal point, principal winery and home of the of the Vergniaud-Bernard family who have been farming grapes and making wine in the region since 1794, although they only bought this particular estate in the 1990s. Nowadays they farm 70 hectares and vines surround the Château as far as the eye can see.
After our vineyard stroll we enjoyed a tasting in a renovated twelfth century farm that sits just behind the Château showing just how long viticulture and agriculture has been a part of this landscape.
This was a much larger business than most of the places we had previously visited, so it was nice to see the trends that we had noticed being repeated here too. They use very little new oak and have an increased focus on white wines, just as we had found elsewhere.
The tasting of the wines themselves showed a good, solid well made range with some moments of real excellence.
I was especially drawn to their unoaked 2017 Château Beauchêne Côtes du Rhône Grand Réserve Blanc which is a beautifully balanced and pure blend of Clairette, Rousanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc.
The other white that we tasted was their delicately creamy and rather fine 2017 Château Beauchêne Viognier Côtes du Rhône which spends 6 months in barrel.
As for the reds, their 2016 Château Beauchêne Côtes du Rhône Grand Réserve and 2016 Château Beauchêne Côtes du Rhône Premier Terroir both showed appealing balance and concentration, while the 2015 Premier Terroir was a little fresher.
The pièce de résistance was their 2013 Château Beauchêne Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grand Réserve made from 100% Grenache, which was seductive and spicy and did not disappoint.
Visiting Château Beauchêne was a wonderfully tranquil finale to a brilliant trip and I would like to thank Frédéric for his time and generosity.