Compare it against one that’s extraordinary.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone 2013 $35The idea of testing your mettle a against the very best is appealing in theory, but most of the time it just amplifies the faults of the lesser star. So it’s always impressive when wineries are happy to taste their more common bottlings against their seriously big guns (and their howitzers). Such was the case when Thomas Perrin of the famed Perrin family of the Southern Rhone rolled into town yesterday. Famille Perrin is well known for their village bottling but what really gets collectors salivating is their Chateau de Beautcastel Chateauneuf du Pape, a particular fave of Robert Parker Jr. and a magnet for scores in the mid-to-high 90s for much of recent memory—and that wasn’t even the star. That esteemed place was reserved for the Chateau de Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2012, the bottled-only-in-the-great-year, ultra-pricey bottle (as in $429). An amazing wine of ungodly power with the ability to improve in the cellar for decades, and one that you should probably buy if you’re the star of the Jason Bourne movies. But if not, then I was seriously impressed with Perrin’s Coudoulet de Beaucastel, grown just north of the other two. It likewise had some rich fruit (it’s made with Mouvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah) but an impressively tannic backbone that kept it from every drifting into cloying territory (an area that some Southern Rhones have been drifting into of late ) and some strong earthy tobacco notes that screamed old world tough guy. And to be crass, it’s a nice package and seeing the Beaucastel name on the label is more important that seeing Chateauneuf in terms of impressing people for the simple reason that there are a lot of ordinary Chateauneufs on the market but no ordinary Beaucastels.Is it as good as it’s big brother? Nope. It’s grandfather? Not even close. Is it a heck of a deal at $35? All day long it is.image_resize.php