Amiral de Beychevelle, St.-Julien 2017, Château Beychevelle | Bordeaux, France

By Dirk Smits

Wine of the Week – December 21, 2020

Château Beychevelle is a winery in the Saint-Julien appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here is classified as one of 10 Quatrièmes Crus (Fourth Growths) in the historic Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. The château also makes a second label wine called Amiral de Beychevelle.

Imagine the château at the beginning of the 17th century… the first Duke of Épernon has just become the owner. The reputation of this great French admiral was such that as boats passed on the Gironde river in front of his estate, they would lower their sails and pull them up again to greet the admiral and show their allegiance. This mark of respect gave rise to the château’s emblem, a ship lowering its sails. Its name in Gascon, Bêcha Vêla, meaning “baisse voile” (lower the sails), later became Beychevelle.

The concept of a second label in Bordeaux can be traced back to the 19th century. Archives show that Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande created a second wine in 1874 that was sent to the Moscow Exhibition. In 1902, Léoville Las Cases created its “Clos du Marquis” and Château Margaux followed suit in 1908 with its “Pavillon Rouge de Margaux.” In the 1980s, second wines became more widespread as prices for top Bordeaux wines began to soar. From a marketing prospective, the idea was to produce a wine on the same land as the château that would serve as an introduction to the name, but at a more accessible price. An “Amiral de Beychevelle” is therefore a kind of lesser version of a Château Beychevelle – not quite the equal of its older brother but with similar qualities. In some ways, a second wine is like a first taste of a vineyard’s premier wine.

There are a few options for producing a second wine and sometimes these may be combined. First of all, a second wine may be produced from vineyard parcels where younger vines are growing and thus producing lesser quality fruit. Secondly, certain parcels are dedicated to the second wine, maybe because of their orientation towards the sun, exposure to cold, frost or wind, soil type or drainage. Thirdly, maybe the general conditions of that year’s crop, or part of it, were not good enough, and the winemaker declassifies some of the wines normally intended to go in the premier wine and dedicates them to the second label.

Origin: Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France
Varietals: 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc
Sustainability: Sustainable farming
Suggested retail price: $50.00
ABV: 13.5%

Although a difficult vintage in Bordeaux due to frost in early spring, Beychevelle was able to make very good wines due to the proximity of its vineyards to the Gironde estuary creating a micro-climate and better protecting the vineyards against frost. After the traditional wine making process, the wine spent 18 months in barrels of which 30% are new.

The wine shows a deep ruby color. The nose reveals aromas of ripe black fruit, a touch of spice and vanilla. Ripe tannins combined with lush fruit and good acidity assures a good balance and prolonged aftertaste. This wine can be enjoyed now after decanting and can be aged for up to 10 years.

Suggested food pairings: Grilled rib-eye with shallots, duck, game, meat stews, grilled vegetables, cheeses

> For more information, visit the Château Beychevelle official website.