"- Jan 2003 - An example that possessed considerable brett from its inception, as well as plenty of beefy, sweaty horse smells is the 1983. This effort, while slightly in decline, still offers impressive aromatics (if you like your reds meaty and kinky), but the tannin is beginning to poke through at the back of the mouth. Rich and medium to full-bodied, the 1983 is undoubtedly spectacular out of larger formats, but from regular bottles, it is beginning to show some fatigue, even from my cold cellar. Drink it up.
- June 2000 - The 1983, shaped by the Mourvedre grape, reveals that varietal's tell-tale tree bark, leather, mushroom, and aged beef-like aromas. Medium to full-bodied, and austere, the 1983 is approaching full maturity, but given its structure, freshness, and Mourvedre's anti-oxidative characteristics, this wine can be drunk now or aged for 5-6 more years.
- Feb 96 - Certain Beaucastel vintages possess more intense brett* aromas (aged beef, sweaty animal-like smells) than other vintages. The 1978, 1983, and 1990, and to a lesser extent, 1981, are Beaucastel's candidates for having the largest brett population. Most Europeans love this smell, which is reminiscent of well-hung game (as the English would say), but to Americans weaned on pristine, pure, red and black fruit aromas, it can be an ungodly characteristic. Since the only ways of getting rid of it are with huge doses of flavor stripping SO2, or by a sterile filtration (i.e., a wine lobotomy), it is best managed by a winery keeping as small as possible brett population. A little brett can add remarkable complexity, as demonstrated by the great red Burgundies of Domaine Roumier and Domaine Leroy, and such renowned Bordeaux as Lynch Bages and L'Evangile. However, there is no question that when brett dominates the wine's fruit, it is a flaw. That being said, the 1993 Beaucastel takes its level of brett (for my palate) to the limit, but I still love the wine for its rich, flashy display of red and black fruits, licorice, Provencal herbs, and the subtle, sweet smell of aged beef. This full-bodied, fully mature wine should be drunk over the next 5-7 years.
* Brett (the French call it Dekkera) is a wild yeast found on grapes throughout the world and in wineries. Large populations of brett (usually from dirty cooperage, sloppy cellar techniques, and minimal sulphur usage) can cause those aromas and flavors described above. Small populations actually add complexity to a wine, but where it is allowed to grow out of control, it is indeed an unpleasant component to a fine wine. Like most things in life, it is a question of balance. From my perspective, the New World is foolishly obsessed by brett, in contrast to Europeans, who negligently devote too little attention to its consequences.
- Feb 92 - Jean-Pierre Perrin still claims this is one of his favorite vintages of Beaucastel. I am also an admirer of it. But as it has evolved, I like it less than I do the more forward and opulent 1985, or the powerful, more massive 1981. Although the 1983 has thrown considerable sediment in the bottle, it is still a dark ruby color. The nose exhibits the tell-tale Beaucastel smell of damp tree bark, herbs, black fruits, and exotic, oriental scents. In the mouth, the wine is medium to full-bodied, with moderate tannins, and plenty of concentration and length. Anticipated maturity: Now-2005."