ERIC ASIMOV, who is the best New York Times wine correspondent in my memory, has written a wistful, attractive piece on CÔTE-RÔTIE in early February, 2012. Eric is a writer who likes to think outside the usual areas when describing wine and the issues surrounding it, and he also like to go into the wide context behind vineyards, wines and their winemakers. In this way, he resembles to some extent the Proven maestro, the Doyen, as I call him, namely Gerald Asher, for long the man at the vinous helm of the good ship Gourmet Magazine.
Eric contacted me prior to writing the piece whose link is posted below, and some of the answers I gave him are reproduced below.
The discourse is really on what one terms traditional. I can think of Levet (Neal Rosenthal imports it, as you know) and that is traditional, gamey, fungal, wild, has flaws but emerges the right side. It may have Brett for the white coat police. Barge is also more traditional. Louis Clerc`s family is also trad, also Gallet (but flaws here and there), also Domaine Bernard (good wines, but not funky). Jasmin was traditional (I drank my last personally bottled magnum of 1971 just before Christmas, made by Georges Jasmin, and it was in very good, drinkable shape, a super level, too, the fruit delicate and typical. One careful, conscientious owner, few kilometres on the clock). Nowadays the Domaine Jasmin is not traditional, but the fruit is clearer, has more cutting edge. Ah ha. The fruit is clearer. Does that mean pristine?
If you look at the fruit profile of many Côte-Rôties today, the fruit for me correctly resembles northern climes, even Pinot Noir. I expect greater liaison between Côte-Rôtie and Burgundy than I do between Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage. Maybe I have changed, but I think that link was always a feature, but was clouded by indifferent winemaking, dodgy harvesting dates and so on in the past, especially when I set out in 1973. In this clear fruit camp I would place Jamet (ie v clean trad), Duclaux, Garon, Clusel Roch (wonderful, organic, detailed, precise, terroir = trad or modern? Answer: in between, with modern meaning good vineyard and cellar practices), Billon, Joel Champet. Modern modern would be J-M Gérin, Vins de Vienne (although they have been throttling back on oak), Bonserine, Bonnefond. Stéphane Ogier is de-modernizing, as I bet him in my book in 2005, ie his wine is less extracted and less oaked up. Stéphane Pichat is modern, but his fruit is darned good, including on his vin de pays.
Note that I have left René Rostaing out: fruit precision, Burgundian = what? Modern? Rostaing is not trad but it is fruit and terroir-expressive. And of course Guigal, who makes Guigal.
For me, modern is some way towards better winemaking, and yes, it involves obvious oak, in the Burgundian vein, but the wines draw together and sparkle over time, so we come back to the word precise. They are also made from destemmed crop, of course, as opposed to the whole bunch methods of my youth.
So I see genuine Côte-Rôtie as alive and well, capable of expressing the crystal-clear Syrah fruit that is not found at most of Hermitage, the latter being rounder and plumper. This precision is helped by Côte-Rôtie`s northern placing in the Valley.
ENTERED RECENTLY a review of the glorious 2010 HERMITAGE WHITES placed under 2010 NORTHERN RHÔNE in the left-hand column - click the subtag The Leading Wines and scroll down past 2010 HERMITAGE RED.
ENTERED RECENTLY visits and talk with LOUIS BARRUOL of CHÂTEAU DE SAINT COSME at GIGONDAS, especially his vins de table and cheaper merchant wines.
Also, both at RASTEAU, GEORGES PERROT of DOMAINE LA COLLIÈRE as well as the newly entered DOMAINE GOURT DE MAUTENS.
New entries also: the respectable CHÂTEAU SAINT LOUIS PERDRIX at COSTIÈRES DE NIMES, and the above-average VENTOUX Co-operative CAVE TERRAVENTOUX which combines Villes-sur-Auzon and Mormoiron. Look at DOMAINE DE LA RENJARDE at MASSIF D`UCHAUX and DOMAINE DE L`AMAUVE at SÉGURET for the latest vintages there - both very good names in their Appellations.