Chateau Beauchene is one of the oldest estates in the Southern Rhone, with vineyards owned by the Bernard family since 1794. The current owners, Michel and Dominique Bernard, are not averse to using some modern techniques such as use of new oak and small barriques, particularly for some of their upper end wines such as Chateauneuf du Pape. This 100 percent Syrah cuvee, from 20-year-old vines just north and just south of Orange, has not seen new oak but the fruit has been de-stemmed--a common practice in most wine regions but not among traditionalists in the Southern Rhone. I am a strong traditionalist; nevertheless, I like this wine a lot and feel that those with more modern and international tastes would like it even more.
The color is a beautiful deep ruby, with lustrous and lively tones. Aromas are of fresh, ripe red raspberries with just the right amount of spice to identify it clearly as Syrah. On the palate, it has the full, rich feel of a good Australian Shiraz but without the oak and the thick, chewy tannins. It's actually smooth as silk in the mouth with fruity ripeness but also substance and depth. The wine could easily pass for a Crozes Hermitage. There is none of the minty quality I dislike in the 2003 Southern Rhones, and the alcohol content is only 13%. The only thing I don't like is that I bought only one bottle, and it's all gone.