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2013 NORTHERN RHÔNE CLOSE-UP

EMMANUEL DARNAUD: A CRACKING 2013 SAINT-JOSEPH, THE FRUIT OF THE OLD VINEYARDS OF HIS FATHER-IN-LAW BERNARD FAURIE

INDEX

1. SAINT-PÉRAY 

2. SAINT-JOSEPH RED

3. SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

4. CORNAS

5. CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE 

6. CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

7. CÔTE-RÔTIE

8. HERMITAGE WHITE

9. CONDRIEU

10. HERMITAGE RED

11. CÔTES DU RHÔNE RED & WHITE

12. VIN DE PAYS/VIN DE FRANCE RED

13. VIN DE PAYS/VIN DE FRANCE WHITE

1. 2013 SAINT-PÉRAY

The quality of the Marsanne was such in 2013 that it is no surprise that this is a very good vintage here. I have already written that Saint-Péray is undergoing a welcome revival, with new plantings from old scrubland by the likes of CHAPOUTIER and his other enterprise FERRATON. He has planted one hectare in two plots on the route des Pins. This follows his planting of 0.6 hectare in a cold and windy location near the Auberge du Pin.

I am told that such land costs around €6 a square metre; it is thickly covered with pines, and it is a lot of work to clear the soils, which have a high acid content. Hence the work should be carefully done, over time, and that may not always be the case from what I have seen at Cornas.

Two newcomers, both good sources, feature this year, as well. The brothers DURAND actually made their first SAINT-PÉRAY in 2012, but did not serve it for my tasting then. It took them four years to plant on LE HAUT CHATAIGNIER, which is on the southern slopes of Crussol (the ruined château on the hill where Napoléon climbed up when a cadet in Valence). The soils are white, loess, the limestone influence from Crussol present.

“It’s 1.6 hectares, half MARSANNE and half ROUSSANNE on small terraces”, JOËL DURAND told me. “There are no other growers there. It’s at 280 metres, and is a site that ripens very well, since it is mainly south facing, just a little south-west facing. It gets good protection from La Bise, the North Wind. The ROUSSANNE gives lychee, citrus, exotic aromas and the palate is silky, which is atypical for a Saint-Péray.”

The DURANDS start the fermentation in vat, then place 40% in new 228-litre casks, the rest in steel vat, the varieties co-fermented. Raising is until April, with some lees stirring, and the malolactic fermentation is allowed to happen. There are 3,000 bottles.

LAURENT FAYOLLE and his sister CÉLINE have moved into buying in crop for a small merchant business, copying people such as FRANCK BALTHAZAR at CORNAS and other more established operations such as CHRISTOPHE PICHON at CONDRIEU.

“We started in 2013, taking the crop from a Co-operateur from the CAVE DE TAIN. It’s just a half hectare of MARSANNE that dates from around the 1950s. We fermented it in 2 year 228-litre oak casks at 18°C-20°C, and allowed the malolactic fermentation to occur, with bottling at the end of August 2014. The 2013 was actually from only 0.2 hectare, and with the low yields that year we ended up with 600 bottles. In 2014, there are 3,000 bottles.

“It is quite rich, has attractive volume, with the fresh line of Saint-Péray – it is more fat than the vat and limestone wines of the appellation.” This wine, called MONTIS, is sold under their négociant title of LAURENT & CÉCILE FAYOLLE.

2013 Saint-Péray was well noted by the growers, with STÉPHANE ROBERT of the top grade DOMAINE DU TUNNEL telling me: “it is an attractive year, rather in the style of 2012. There is pretty content, and beau fruit. The Marsanne yield was low, but the Roussanne was good.”

The young PIERRE-ANTOINE GAILLARD was also enthusiastic, stating: “it’s a very attractive year, one of good quality.”

Another pillar of the appellation, FABRICE GRIPA, had this to say: “the wines are lively, close in style to 2012. They are more cutting than 2012 – they are not wines of alcohol and acidity such as the ones you get in the hot years. They are a good product of a cool year, and are complete.”

My one reservation with GRIPA was their classic cuvée in 2013, which I felt lacked the body that it could be capable of; the trend towards lightening whites from the Rhône, perhaps a combination of earlier harvesting, and reduced lees contact, is a pity, and places the wines apart from their natural inclination of accompanying dishes à table.

These neo Rhônes tend to end quietly, as if growers are scared of late tannin and the carry that gives the wine. My view is that with food, they marry extremely well. There are already any amount of aperitif wines in circulation from all over the world, as well. So there.

A top characteristic of the SAINT-PÉRAYs this year is how accurate the wines are – they hold pinpoint detail, and I find comments on the precision of their acidity occurring in my notes. The MARSANNE comes with good, clear quality, and allows very true, good access to its tangy nature, with the added bonus of excellent ripeness.

I would have no hesitation in buying and cellaring the 2013s; the enhanced pleasure from pouring a bottle with some secondary influences is always present with white Rhônes, and the bottle of LES FIGUIERS 2009 from DOMAINE GRIPA that I drank in London in July 2015 was a good example, a wine served by MARCEL ORFORD WILLIAMS of The Wine Society. For such a sunny, solar year, the wine bore remarkable freshness.

LEADING SAINT-PÉRAY 2013s

****(*)  Pierre Gaillard   2019-20  01/15  seductive, complete, balanced  
****(*)  Domaine du Tunnel Roussanne   2020-21  02/15  stylish deep, subtle   
****  Domaine du Biguet, J-L Thiers   2018-19  01/15  stylish, refreshing, w.o.w.  
****  Cave de Tain Fleur de Roc   2019-20  01/15  STGT; lucid, good gras 
****  Yves Cuilleron Les Cerfs   2020-21  01/15  crisp, nice depth  
****  Rémy Nodin La Beylesse   2020-21  01/15  enjoyable gras, fresh, long  
****  Domaine du Tunnel Cuvée Prestige  2022-24  01/15  STGT; gd content/acidity  
****  Domaine Voge Fleur de Crussol   2023-24  01/15  fluid gras, punchy, oak  
**** Domaine Voge Les Terres Boisées 2023-25 10/15 stylish, deep, concentration
***(*)  Domaine du Biguet Terres Rouilles   2019-20  01/15  graceful, true, supple  
***(*)  M Chapoutier Les Tanneurs   2019  01/15  fine fruit, precise acidity  
***(*)  J-L Colombo La Belle de Mai   2020-21  01/15 stylish, sound gras  
***(*)  Domaine Clape   2021-23  06/15 

quite fat, also fresh 

***(*)  Yves Cuilleron Les Potiers   2019  01/15  gras, round, spiced  
***(*)  Laurent & Cécile Fayolle Montis   2020-21  01/15  joli finesse, depth, fresh  
***(*)  Ferraton Père & Fils Le Mialan   2018  01/15  stylish, quiet grip  
***(*)  Anne-Sophie Pic & M Chapoutier   2017  01/15  en finesse, delicate  
***(*)  Domaine Gripa Les Figuiers   2019-21  01/15  stylish, good length   
***(*)  Julien Pilon les maisons de victor   2020-21  01/15  aromatic, fine, oaky  
***(*)  Vins de Vienne Amphore d’Argent   2020-21  01/15  trad, glycerol, grace  
*** Mikaël Bourg 2017-18 12/15 natural, tidy gras, la table
***  Cave de Tain   2018-19  01/15  trad, med weight  
***  Domaine Durand   2017  01/15  elegant richness, cosy  
***  Guy Farge grain de silex   2018  01/15  fruit syrup style  
***  François Villard Version   2018  01/15  nice weight, spiced  
**(*)  Domaine Gripa Les Pins    2018  01/15  new light school, brief  
         

2. 2013 SAINT-JOSEPH RED

The granite-Syrah combination worked extremely well in 2013, and it is a very good vintage for SAINT-JOSEPH’s red wines as a result. These are wines of spark, life and character. There are also genuine touches such as the presence of violets to lift them.

It is also a year for the best hillside sites; I suspect the plateau wines with more clay in the soils saw a lowered density of content than those vines growing on the rock face, and these wines can be low on mid-palate body.

The southern sector, which of course formed the area for the appellation when it was created in 1956, has produced the best and most complete wines, which also enjoy commendable freshness. This brings in MAUVES, TOURNON and to some extent ST JEAN DE MUZOLS.

From further north, around CHAVANAY, there can be jammy, rather confected wines, while some are just plain dilute. You will see that there are 16 wines at **(*) or lower, which indicates that this wasn’t a uniformly good vintage.

I am also not sure how easy 2013 was for the merchant trade trying to buy crop or finished wine. There is increased interest in SAINT-JOSEPH from négociants such as CAVES SAINT-PIERRE (part of SKALLI), and from OGIER, both at CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, but their 2013s were modest.

Sourcing in an appellation where the top domaines are small is not straightforward, although there were this year some encouraging signs from the CAVE DE SAINT-DÉSIRAT, which accounts for just about half of all the wine made in SAINT-JOSEPH. The impression there was the crop was being harvested more ripely than before, , allowing the wines to have more depth and content, and to be less stringy. They are also less pumped up by the fatal mix of extraction and new, raw oak than they used to be.

Across the board, however, there is no doubt that the standard of winemaking is rising. SAINT-JOSEPH is a little more of a country bumpkin than CROZES-HERMITAGE, where the vineyards can largely be worked mechanically, and where the mentality is more commercial: no surprise is one compares the old fruit plain and the jazzed up dormitory villages to the hidden corners of the more rugged ARDÈCHE across the river.

Growers in the southern sector are certainly pretty happy, although yields were down. FABRICE GRIPA of DOMAINE BERNARD GRIPA gave this view: “the malolactic fermentations took some time, around nine months this year. The reds resemble 2012 with a bit less elegance and finesse but more depth. They are quite concentrated, the acidity not bad. The vintage is a bit Nordic, with a good balance between acidity and alcohol.”

Also based at MAUVES, JEAN GONON implied similarities with 2005 when he told me: "the reds are rich, concentrated, have black fruit associations [similar to 2005]. Our yield was a measly 20 hl/ha, against 32 hl/ha in 2014, and the SYRAH averaged 12.4°, a tiny bit more than 2014."

Another Malvoisien, JÉRÔME COURSODON, had the following appraisal: “after a run of hot decades, we were back to 1985, for instance. Those recent years had borne crop that was close to over-ripeness. Take 2009 – the sugars advanced ahead of the tannins.

2013 was very, very complicated, with our late harvest all done in October. After the bad flowering, we were also hit by hail across MAUVES and the south of TOURNON on 9 July – that lost me half our white crop and 40% of the Syrah in those zones – that was why we waited so long to harvest, to allow the maximum time for the vineyards to recover.” His yield for his SAINT-JOSEPH L’OLIVAIE, an STGT wine this year, was just 24 hl/ha.

Further north at MALLEVAL, in the northern sector, the GAILLARD family found life more tricky. PIERRE’S son PIERRE-ANTOINE told me: “the weather hit us this year; the tannins are quite soft. Bouquets can be superior to the palate; we harvested in the rain for two to three days. My favourite 2013 from our range is the Saint-Joseph. The late ripening season in 2014 was much better than 2013’s.” In truth, their classic red is disappointing this year: tasted twice, and below par each time.

With some wines showing dilution, others have fallen prey to stemmy or vegetal notes; it is as if whole crop had been used with underripe stems, whereas in fact it is a question of the ripeness of the core crop, perhaps from more north-facing or less well exposed venues. A wine just on the good side of this equation, for instance, is the CAVE DE TAIN ESPRIT DE GRANIT – it has just enough depth to be quite supple, rather than overtly wired.

I also applaud the work of growers who like to let their crop do the talking, their unforced winemaking a definite benefit in 2013. Two such are STÉPHANE ROBERT from the DOMAINE DU TUNNEL, and JEAN-PIERRE MUCYN from DOMAINE MUCYN. The former’s ST JO is stylish and unfussy, a lovely w.o.w. wine; the latter’s wine, newly called LES SALAMANDRES, is a tasty meatball, to recall an advertising line from years back. It, too , is stylish, genuine and w.o.w. Both are well worth seeking out.

Also a man who seeks wines that drink well, without complications, is FABRICE GRIPA, BERNARD’s son. His achievement this year is to be awarded w.o.w. status on both his cuvées – the classic, and the older vine LE BERCEAU. These are from TOURNON, and demonstrate the quality of the crop there in full measure.

Here and there clumsy use of oak, or excessive use of oak, can appear – I think of the DOMAINE DES REMIZIÈRES, which is for now an international wine, and also the DOMAINE RICHARD’s LES NUELLES VIEILLES VIGNES, which is based on 1968 SYRAH, and where the oak blocks some of the access to such high quality juice.

To conclude, there are lots of very good wines to enjoy this year; any of the **** or ****(*) wines are definitely worth buying, and I hope that many of these will be tucked away in readers’ cellars. The deepest will live for up to 15 years, while the open, accessible, w.o.w. wines are more set to be drunk by around 2020 or so.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH RED 2013s

****(*) Emmanuel Darnaud 2025-27 01/15 expressive, long, polished
****(*) Delas François de Tournon 2022-24  01/15 graceful, great charm, V 
****(*) Domaine Pierre Gonon   2030-31 04/16 intricate, stimulating, cool
****(*) E Guigal Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph 2031-33 12/15 uptempo, classy; clean fruit
****(*) Dom du Monteillet Cuvée du Papy 2029-31 10/15 tasty, serious, promising
**** M Chapoutier Le Clos   2025-27  01/15 granite ping, tenacity  
**** M Chapoutier Les Granits   2026-28  01/15 stylish, open gras, la table 
**** Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2031-33 12/15 saline, tight, slow gainer
**** Domaine Courbis Les Royes 2024-26 10/15 mineral, serious, interesting
**** Dom Coursodon Le Paradis St Pierre 2026-28  01/15 shapely, good richness  
**** Yves Cuilleron Les Serines   2025-26  01/15 dark fruit, has impact  
**** Delas Sainte-Epine   2023-25  01/15 stylish, calm, en finesse 
**** Guy Farge Terroir de Granit   2023-25  01/15 STGT; supple, unforced   
**** Domaine Bernard Gripa   2022-23  01/15 tasty, enjoyable, w.o.w.  
**** Domaine Bernard Gripa Le Berceau   2022-24  01/15 live fruit, fresh, w.o.w. 
**** Domaine Habrard Bio   2020-21  01/15 genuine, harmony, STGT  
**** Paul Jaboulet Aîné Dom Croix des Vignes 2026-28 05/16 dark fruit, iron, true granite
**** Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne 2026-27 12/15 true, slow gain, very long
**** François Merlin 2023-25 10/15 long, character, nuance
**** Dom Michelas St Jemms Ste Epine  2022-23  01/15 dashing fruit, modern  
**** Domaine Mucyn Les Salamandres   2020  01/15 brilliantly drinkable, w.o.w.  
**** Domaine Alain Paret 420 Nuits 2026-27 10/15 cool fruit, oak, beau
**** André Perret Les Grisières 2026-27 10/15 beau fruit, stylish
**** Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2029-30 07/16 abundant, rocky, thinkers vin
**** François Villard Mairlant   2022-23  01/15 cool fruit, lively w.o.w. 
**** Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques  2021-22  01/15 good depth, tasty, fun 
**** Vins de Vienne L’Arzelle   2024-25  01/15 fresh, tasty, good depth  
***(*) Alléno & Chapoutier Croix Chabot  2023-25 01/15 charming, cool, aromatic 
***(*) Dom Blachon Hommage Roger Blachon 2020-21 12/15 authentic, plump, supple
***(*) Cave Saint-Désirat Dom Rochevine 2021-22  01/15 wavy fruit, good flow  
***(*) Cave de Tain Esprit de Granit   2023-24  01/15 liquid gras, fresh, oak  
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2020-21  01/15 shapely, good clarity  
***(*) M Chapoutier Deschants   2025-26  01/15 trad, good drive, depth 
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Granilites   2027-28  01/15 stylish, marked oak  
***(*) Jean-Louis Chave Séléction Offerus 2023-25 12/15 trim fruit, chunky, long
***(*) Domaine Courbis 2022-24 10/15 vibrant, crisp, clear
***(*) Domaine Coursodon L’Olivaie   2026-28  01/15 STGT; natural, free  
***(*) Domaine Coursodon Silice   2022-24  01/15 supple, tidy, immediate  
***(*) Delas Les Challeys   2025-26  01/15 trad, inner punch  
***(*) Olivier Dumaine   2022-23  01/15 genuine, chunky  
***(*) Domaine Durand Les Coteaux   2024-25  01/15 intense fruit, lingers  
***(*) equis, Maxime Graillot  2022-23  02/15 nuggety, iron tannins  
***(*) Guy Farge Gourmandises   2023-24  01/15 springy fruit, typical 2013  
***(*) Lionel Faury La Gloriette   2019-20  01/15 supple fruit, cool, clear  
***(*) Ferraton Lieu-dit Paradis 2024-25 01/15 cool fruit, oak, gd life  
***(*) Ferraton Lieu-dit St-Joseph 2019-20 01/15 mature fruit, supple tannins
***(*) Gilles Flacher Terra Louis   2022-23  01/15 sleek fruit, juicy, oaked  
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille   2023-25  11/14 stylish, clear, Burgundian  
***(*) Xavier Gérard Le Blanchard 2022-23 10/15 cool content, tasty pockets
***(*) Domaine Alain Graillot   2023-25  01/15 raw strength, Wild Child  
***(*) E.Guigal 2023-24 06/17 free, sparky, true
***(*) Pascal Marthouret   2023-24 04/16 genuine, cool, STGT  
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2023-24  01/15 tasty future, oaked  
***(*) Stéphane Ogier Le Passage 2025-26 04/16 dense, peppery
***(*) Maison Nicolas Perrin 2020-21 10/15 crisp fruit, pacy tannins
***(*) Domaine Richard Prémices 2026 05/18 clear, cool, spiced, fine boned
***(*) Gilles Robin André Péleat 2025-26 12/15 fresh, child of rocks
***(*) Saint Cosme   2022-23  01/15 will run well, character  
***(*) Domaine du Tunnel   2020-21  01/15 savoury, stylish, w.o.w.  
***(*) Dom Georges Vernay La Dame Brune 2021-22 12/15 serene, elegant, skimming
***(*) Dom Georges Vernay Terres d'Encre 2024-26 04/15 crystalline, graceful
***(*) Vidal-Fleury   2023-24  01/15 fleshy + cool, has gusto  
***(*) François Villard Reflet    2022-24  01/15 wavy fruit, joli, easy  
***(*) Vins de Vienne Amphore d’Argent  2021-22  01/15 dashing fruit, bright wine  
*** Aléofane  2020-21  01/15 decisive, direct, clear  
*** Dom Les Alexandrins L'Arène Coeur  2019  01/15 cool, very clear  
*** Dom Emmanuel Barou terra Nostra 2019-20 04/16 liqueur fruit, toffee-oak
*** Domaine Boissonnet Belive   2021-22  01/15 med weight, calm  
*** Dom Les Bruyères, D Reynaud 350 m  2019  01/15 stewed berries, sound depth  
*** Cave Saint-Désirat Septentrio  2021-22 01/15 juicy fruit, oak, modern  
***  Cave Saint-Désirat Tradition   2018  01/15 easy fruit, here + now 
*** Stéphan Chaboud 2018 12/15 natural style, v correct
***  Aurélien Chatagnier La Sybarite  2019  01/15  calm, genuine, quiet charm 
*** Dom du Château Vieux Les Hauts 2017-18 12/15 measured fruit, fresh
*** Dom du Château Vieux V Vignes 2017 12/15 spiced; natural detail
***  Vignobles Chirat   2019  01/15  mulled fruits, neat, trim  
***  Jean-Luc Colombo Les Lauves   2023-24  02/15  elegance; oak, peppery  
***  Domne de la Côte Ste Epine V Vignes   2021-22  01/15  truthful, bit stemmy  
***  Yves Cuilleron L’Amarybelle   2024-26  02/15  accessible, open, bit spare  
***  Dauvergne Ranvier Vin Rare   2020-21  01/15  direct, solid, quite full  
***  Domaine Durand Lautaret   2020-21  01/15  supple, rolling, juicy 
***  Gilles Flacher Les Reines   2019-20  01/15  mature fruit, supple tannin 
***  Cath & Pascal Jamet Tour d’Arras  2020  01/15  supple, juicy, trim, neat  
***  Jeanne Gaillard La Relève   2019-20  11/14  smooth fruit, oaking  
*** André Perret 2024-25 10/15 direct fruit, fresh end
***  Domaine Christophe Pichon   2019  01/15  OK, safe; mild fruit  
***  Domaine des Pierres Sèches   2019-20  01/15  imposing, some power  
***  Domaine des Remizières   2022-23  01/15  much oak, fair palate  
***  Domaine Richard Les Nuelles   2022-23  01/15  crisp all round, oak  
***  Eric Rocher Terroir de Champal  2018-19  01/15  mild fruit, grainy tannin  
***  Domaine Rousset   2022-23  01/15  orderly, can gain depth  
***  Domaine Anthony Vallet Méribets  2019-20  01/15  gentle fruit, light clarity  
***  François Villard Poivre et Sol   2020-22  11/14  dentelle, true granite vin  
*** Domaine Alain Voge Les Vinsonnes 2021-22 10/15 compact, crunchy, straight
**(*)  Pierre Amadieu Les Capelets   2019-20  01/15  mild, reasonable 
**(*) Domaine Blachon Prestige 2019 12/15 direct, linear; dry end
**(*)  Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2018-19  01/15  skimming wine  
**(*)  Caves Saint-Pierre   2020  01/15  med depth but forced  
**(*)  Alléno & Chapoutier Couronne Chabot  2019-20  01/15  steady, more body plse  
**(*)  Pierre Finon Les Rocailles   2019-20  01/15  soft, supple bit short  
**(*)  Jean-Michel Gérin   2018-19  03/15  easy, light  
**(*)  Ogier Héritages   2019  01/15  plump bits, low horizon  
**  Dom E Barou un Autre monde   2018  01/15  soft fruit but stemmy  
** Domaine Blachon Tradition 2019 12/15 disparate, rather dry
**  Boissey & Delaygue Prince de Gray   2018-19  01/15  plain, muddled  
**  Maison Bouachon Roquebrussane   2018  01/15  very grainy, lack roundness  
**  Lionel Faury Hedonism   2018-19  01/15  disappointing, confected  
** Pierre Gaillard   2018 01/15 dilute, disappointing
**  Domaine Pradelle   2019  01/15  limp fruit, too vegetal  
**  Martine Rouchier luc    2020  01/15  pine influence, stretched  
**  Martine Roucher la chave   2019  01/15   angular, spare
         

 

THE COURSODON CELLARS UNDERNEATH MAUVES, IN THE SOUTHERN, ORIGINAL SECTOR OF SAINT-JOSEPH. THEIR WHITE SAINT-JOSEPH LIVES AND DEVELOPS VERY WELL, AS WITNESSED BY A LOVELY, FRESH AND ALERT 2001 DRUNK IN 2015. THE COURSODON PARADIS ST PIERRE BLANC 2013, WHOSE HEART IS FORMED BY 1947 MARSANNE, IS A SERENE WINE THAT WILL EVOLVE WELL

3. 2013 SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

In keeping with its neighbouring appellations, SAINT-JOSEPH has produced marvellous whites in 2013, the role of the MARSANNE integral to the success of the vintage. As opposed to the CROZES-HERMITAGE whites, many of which come from the alluvial lands of the southern part of the appellation, the SAINT-JOSEPH whites are mainly sourced from granite-influenced soils, and as a result have that much more structure and mystery attached to them.

Hence 2013 is a classic vintage, which will live pretty well, and which has good grip and tight lines in with the measured depth of gras richness. There is nothing flashy about the wines this year – they are solid and set up for la table, their freshness a prime attribute.

VINTAGE FRESHNESS PRAISED

As JÉROME COURSODON from the southern sector at MAUVES, one of the original communes to form the appellation in 1956, stated: “the whites are fresh, more so than usual. Our pH this year was 3.30 versus 3.40 or 3.45 usually [lower the pH = more freshness]. We were a historic low yield of 18 hl/ha on the PARADIS ST-PIERRE plot.”

Therein lay the problem of the vintage: lack of crop, but the bonus was well-ripened grapes, aided by cool nights and temperate daytime weather. This was confirmed by LOUIS CHÈZE, whose vineyards lie further north, on sanded granite at and above LIMONY: “it wasn’t an easy year because of the weather, but the whites have good freshness and balance. We lost 30% of the crop from bad budding and flowering.”

JEAN GONON of the top grade, organic DOMAINE PIERRE GONON also referred to the pattern of the ripening this year being a main contributor to the vintage's quality: "2013 reds were 12.4°, but the whites were 13.9° to 14° - the whites are very concentrated, especially after only 15 hl/ha cropping – that is half the 2014 level. During flowering, when the weather was cold and grey, you had bunches without grapes, as well as hail on Mauves and Les Oliviers in July. We started harvesting on 1 October, and ended on 10 October. The whites show the advantage of a later year which has eventually ripened well, leading to rich wines with nerve in them.”

THE MARCH OF THE ROUSSANNE

A theme that is emerging with time is also the propensity of growers to plant more ROUSSANNE than hitherto. This denotes a quest to obtain more freshness in the wines from the grape variety rather than the climate; ROUSSANNE is also more stylish than MARSANNE, and can add a salty note to the late palate. It is also able to handle new oak vinification perhaps better than the MARSANNE, which naturally has a little more tannin on  offer.

Some examples of this increase come in the form of the DOMAINE VALLET, in the hands of the son ANTHONY, whose MÉRIBETS is 80% ROUSSANNE - a very elegant wine. One of the region's benchmark pure ROUSSANNEs is the SAINT-PIERRE from YVES CUILLERON - the vines dating back to the early 1990s. PIERRE-JEAN VILLA's SAUT DE L'ANGE is also pure ROUSSANNE, planted in 2009 and topped up by crop from mature 1988 ROUSSANNE. Meanwhile, the LES OLIVIERS of FERRATON PÈRE & FILS, from that wonderful south facing slope between MAUVES and TOURNON, is 50% each ROUSSANNE and MARSANNE.

I note also that ERIC ROCHER of DOMAINE DE CHAMPAL, located in the middle of this long, straggly appellation at SARRAS, is working with up to 75% ROUSSANNE for his MAYANE white. More recently, the CHIRAT family at SAINT-MICHEL-SUR-RHÔNE (a commune also allowed to produce CONDRIEU), where GILBERT has been joined by his son AURÉLIEN, planted 80% ROUSSANNE and only 20% MARSANNE when establishing this new vineyard in the mid-2000s.

Other recent plantings with this higher percentage of ROUSSANNE include the Brothers DURAND - their white SAINT-JOSEPH is made from 50% ROUSSANNE, planted with the MARSANNE in 2009. Another recent issue of white ST JO is that of the committed organic grower OLIVIER DUMAINE, who is based at LARNAGE in CROZES-HERMITAGE. His white ST JO is 50% ROUSSANNE dating from 2005.

LONGEVITY OF THE WINES

I would certainly be keen to buy, to drink and to cellar 2013 SAINT-JOSEPH WHITEs. Many will show well over five to six years, while the most structured, such as the CHAPOUTIER LES GRANILITES, and the most naturally rich, such as the DOMAINE GONON LES OLIVIERS, can live for a dozen to 15 years. Their natural accompaniments as they evolve will be delicious fish in sauce, and butter-based dishes, the essence of VIEILLE FRANCE cuisine.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE 2013s

*****  Domaine Gonon Les Oliviers  2031-33  06/15  rich, fresh, stylish, STGT 
****  M Chapoutier Les Granilites   2026-28  01/15  smooth gras, bonny depth 
****  Yves Cuilleron Lyseras   2018-19  10/14  balance, elegant, jaunty  
****  Yves Cuilleron Saint-Pierre   2020-21  01/15  stylish, interesting Roussanne  
****  Gilles Flacher Loess   2019-20  01/15  rich, fresh, lovely  
****  Ferraton Les Oliviers   2023-25  01/15  properly full, persistent  
****  Bernard Gripa Le Berceau   2022-23  01/15  shapely richness, jolie finesse 
**** Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne 2025-26 04/16 tight content, take your time
****  Pascal Marthouret   2019-20  01/15  solid, genuine, trad St Jo  
****  Julien Pilon dimanche à lima  2020-21  01/15  gd oak-fruit ensemble, fresh 
****  Olivier Dumaine   2020  01/15  fresh, charming, suave  
***(*)  Alléno & Chapoutier Croix de Chabot 2022-23  01/15  trim freshness, polished  
***(*)  M Chapoutier Les Granits   2023-25  01/15  manly, compact, la table  
***(*)  Aurélien Chatagnier   2020-21  01/15  genuine depth, glycerol  
***(*)  Louis Chèze Ro-Rée   2020  03/15  joli fruit, easy length  
***(*)  Dom Coursodon Le Paradis St Pierre   2022-24  01/15  shapely gras, oak infusing  
***(*)  Guy Farge vania   2020-21  01/15  rich; fine grain texture 
***(*)  Lionel Faury   2018  11/14  instant flavour, enjoyable  
***(*)  Ferraton Père & Fils La Source  2022-23  01/15  curvy nose, fine flavour  
***(*)  Bernard Gripa   2020-21  01/15  supple, suave, trim gras  
***(*)  E.Guigal   2024-26  01/15  precise, genuine, well crafted  
***(*)  E.Guigal Lieu-dit St Joseph  2026-28  01/15  weighty, much oak, time  
***(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Saine-Epine 2021-22 10/15 interest, fine grain, STGT
***(*) André Perret 2021 07/17 nice concentration, salty end
***(*)  Domaine Anthony Vallet Méribets   2020  01/15  balance, elegance, w.o.w. 
***(*)  Vidal-Fleury   2018-19  10/14  elegant, persistent, authentic  
***(*)  Pierre-Jean Villa Saut de l’Ange  2019-20  01/15  supple, on the go, Roussanne 
***(*) Domaine de la Ville Rouge Lenny 2021 11/18 savoury, rolling, tasty, genuine
***  Alléno & Chapoutier Couronne Chabot  2020-21  01/15  streamlined, fluid fruit  
***  Emmanuel Barou le Sud   2019  01/15  shapely, with neat gras  
***  Domaine Boissonnet   2019-20  01/15  approachable elegance  
***  Cave de Tain Terre d’Ivoire   2018  01/15  fine, tidy, fresh  
***  M Chapoutier Deschants   2022-23  01/15 

decisive, chewy 

***  Yves Cuilleron Le Lombard   2020  01/15  trim, modern, easy flavour  
***  Domaine Durand   2018  01/15  neat, suave, harmony  
*** Domaine du Monteillet Grand Duc 2020 10/15 high fruit, table wine
***  Eric Rocher Mayane   2021-22  01/15  savoury full, Roussanne-led  
***  Christophe Pichon   2019-20  01/15  exotic, soft fruit, tame end 
***  François Villard Fruit d’Avilleran  2019  01/15  fine, juicy, clean  
***  Les Vins de Vienne L’Elouède  2020-21  01/15  fleshy richness, sound length 
**(*)  Vignobles Chirat Les Côtes   2019  01/15  subdued, has cut  
         

  

ACTION AT THE MARCHÉ AUX VINS DE CORNAS – ALWAYS A LOT OF WINE SOLD TO THE LOCALS, AND THE CHANCE TO CATCH UP FOR THE GROWERS. HERE ERIC DURAND [R] OF DOMAINE DURAND HAS A CHAT WITH GILBERT SERRETTE

4. 2013 CORNAS

2013 rates as a very good Cornas vintage, one to place in your cellar. There are wines to suit lovers of traditional, robust Cornas, and also wines for those who favour easier drinking, more accessible wines. In that sense, 2013 is a modern vintage at Cornas, with many of the wines carrying elegant fruit and mild tannins. Balance is often good, too.

The year emphasizes progress in winemaking standards, and Cornas is now a leading source for top grade northern Rhône Syrah. For those drinkers who like the dark, rumbustious style of Cornas - wines that live extremely well, as exemplified by 2009 and 2010 - the key is to go for the wines from the top name domaines – CLAPE and ALLEMAND – whose owners are extremely happy with their quality.

The wines from more recent participants – PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET or YVES CUILLERON, for example – are modern, and hold swish, swell fruit and kind tannins. Those from growers who debuted this year - FRANÇOIS VILLARD and AURÉLIEN CHATAGNIER - play it safe, bringing on the slightly questionable descriptor of being "correct" (ie uninspiring). They are some way removed from the more intense, complex wines of CLAPE and ALLEMAND, but will offer ready pleasure to those who buy them.

Of course, the crop was very much reduced as per the profile of the year across the northern Rhône, but the key to the year’s quality came in the form of the steady, if anything slow, ripening season. A final twist was mid-September rain: those who harvested before the rain worked with better, more concentrated crop than those who harvested after it.

Ripening got off to an unsteady start thanks to cold weather in the spring. Flowering was delayed by two to three weeks, and then came and went very quickly in hot weather at the end of June. Coulure occurred on the Syrah – the flowers failing to convert into fruit. As VINCENT PARIS told me: “the weather was simply too hot for the flowers.”

During the summer season, the vineyards never lacked for moisture; two storms of 40-50 mm (1.6 in – 1.8 in) each time, on 20 July and  3-4 August left growers feeling that the ground didn’t need any more rainfall. The moisture encouraged vegetation, and plenty of work in the vineyards to control that.

Meanwhile, the sugars were slow to respond. At the end of August, PIERRE CLAPE told me: “on 26 August we did checks across the vineyard. "in the best parts of CORNAS, on the full slopes, we were at 7.7°. In comparison, HERMITAGE SYRAH was at 7.3° with 12 gm of acidity, while CROZES-HERMITAGE SYRAH was 6.9° and NORTHERN SAINT-JOSEPH SYRAH at 6.5°.”

“We are still in the game,” he continued; “the hillside grapes had turned red [the VERAISON] by around 21 August. We need one month of fine weather - if the weather degrades, we have problems. According to the archives of the Chamber of Agriculture, this situation at this time resembles three vintages - 1987, 1983 and 1978. I would prefer it to be either of the last two, not the first! All we can do now is cut out all new shoots, but we don't need or want any more rain. Our CORNAS crop will be harvested in early October at this rate."

Due to its sheltered position, tucked in from the full force of the North wind called in these parts LA BISE (the Kiss), CORNAS often enjoys fuller ripening than its neigbouring vineyards.

The top sites such as REYNARDS, LA SABAROTTE and LES CÔTES also benefit from a full south exposure; allied to the presence of mature vines, it is no surprise that these form the dense heart to leading Cornas wines.

The first two weeks of September were the key period for the vintage’s success, as the degree on the SYRAH rose significantly. On 18 September, VINCENT PARIS reported: “it’s very late this year, but is presenting itself well. Our best Cornas Syrah is around 13°, the acidity is good, and the grapes are healthy. The later plots such as those at altitude will only get to 12° to 12.5° at most. We had 20 mm (0.8 in) of rain in the first week of September – it was interesting rain, since it fed the bunches after a long spell of dry weather.

Since I started I haven’t had such a late year, nor had such high acidity on my later zones, which is a challenge. I will start to harvest my Cornas on 25-26 September. This year Saint-Joseph for me is closer in date to Cornas than usual, but is only at 10° to 11° at present. The weather is fine now, at 20°C, rising to 23-24°C for the third weekend of September. For the time of year nights have been fresh, around 10°C. I have to admit that it is years like this when I am very happy to have a south-facing vineyard like LA GENALE [source for his LA GEYNALE].”

The rainfall on 19-20 September amounted to 30-40 mm (1.2in-1.6 in). It was another blow to those with vineyards high up on sites such as SAINT-PIERREPAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ, CHAPOUTIER, JACQUES LEMENICIER, for instance. Beyond SAINT-PIERRE up at CHABAN, lie what I have known fro most of my career following Cornas as meadow lands – grazing pastures.

These soils have been converted into vineyards in the past ten years or so by a few different names: CHAPOUTIER is one, while TAIN Co-operateurs have also been busy. This site is absolutely another world from the south-facing splendour and nobility of the main sites at the heart of the slope above the village; it is windy, cooler than further down, and people are not bothered to create terraced walls as the slopes are gentle. Hence it is a very different provenance, but the wine is still sold as CORNAS.

Up here in the heights of Cornas, the growers with vines include BENOÎT NODIN and RÉMY NODIN, JEAN-MARIE TEYSSEIRE, who sells his crop to the merchant trade, but also makes a little wine under the very apt title DOMAINE DE CHABAN, HIROTAKE OOKA of DOMAINE DE LA GRANDE COLLINE, PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ, CHAPOUTIER, ALAIN VOGE, JACQUES LEMENICIER, PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET, and FRANÇOIS MICHELAS who sells his crop to CHAPOUTIER.                     

YVES CUILLERON has planted above REYNARD – he obtained two hectares and a house through the state agency SAFER, and cleared 1.5 hectares of the land of scrub, the rest being a vineyard already. There are 130 hectares planted now, but that could rise to 300 hectares. In 2013 it was very complicated to achieve full ripeness in these high zones.

“Maturity was OK there in 2007, 2009 and 2010 when the harvest finished its ripening well. But ripening there is about two weeks behind our central vineyards, and never reaches the same levels,” states PIERRE CLAPE. This land rises to 360 metres, with the chapel of SAINT-PIERRE at around 340 metres. Irrigation is allowed on the young vines until their fourth leaf – that is, their first year of production.

From personal inspection, I can recount that the GRANDE COLLINE vineyards are seriously under-worked, with the VIN NATURE philosophy extended to VIGNE NATURE as well by Monsieur OOKA. The CHAPOUTIER planting looks fast and loose, as well, cleared ground with young vines stubbed into what look like pretty poor soils. Teams of South Americans come in and do the work very rapidly. I feel unease about all this.

A vintage such as 2013, when ripeness was quite hard to achieve unless you worked a good quality site, served full well to demonstrate the quality gulf between this zone and the long-time vineyards nearer the village. Wines from this high site lacked the intensity of the best this year, end of story.

PIERRE CLAPE referred to this when discussing 2013 against 2014; “in 2013 the high areas such as SAINT-PIERRE – late harvest zones – were under pressure. Some of the growers up there consider 2014 to be superior to 2013. For us, 2014 is inferior – there were large grapes and consequent dilution, although the old Syrah vines did well in 2014, and gave depth to the wine.”

With a dodgy weather forecast posted in mid-September, speed of harvesting became essential for those who wanted to press ahead – those with prime sites being naturally favoured. The CLAPES harvested from 15 to 19 September – “really quickly as we feared rain,” related PIERRE. “Before the rain, the grapes were very small, with quite a good ripeness. After the rain there was dilution as the grapes expanded a lot; we harvested for a lady Co-operatrice from the Cave de Tain four days after the rain, and by then their condition had declined, with spots of oïdium as well.”

"Our cuvée RENAISSANCE still has hard, tight, demanding tannin after nearly two years," PIERRE CLAPE told me in June 2015. "Our Cornas is elegant and quite rounded. There were small bunches and small grapes this year. Our yield was 33 hl/ha due to the coulure. It is classic Cornas with tannin present; we harvested in four to five days from 18 September, a classic Cornas date as well."

Other harvesters before the rain included GUILLAUME GILLES, THIÉRRY ALLEMAND and STÉPHANE ROBERT of the high quality DOMAINE DU TUNNEL.

As someone who harvested later, VINCENT PARIS had this resumé of his late season: “I started harvesting on 26 September, and ended on 15 October. All the crop at the lower levels was magnificent, but the higher zones around SAINT-PIERRE had started to rot, and weren’t full ripe. There was a lot of fruit, a bit like 2011, with a normal volume on the young vines this year. My yield for GRANIT 60 and LA GEYNALE was 20 hl/ha, very low – in 2011 it was 32 hl/ha, for instance.”

Another domaine to hravest after the rain was ALAIN VOGE. From there LIONEL FRAISSE told me: “the first ten days in October were the only time to harvest this year, after the rain came: before that the crop wasn’t ripe. The aromas were very ripe, but not the tannins, so you had to extract very carefully.”

Another grower hit hard by low yields was GUILLAUME GILLES, with only 22 hl/ha against 35 hl/ha normally. Other examples of the loss of crop this year are YVES CUILLERON LES VIRES - 2,500 bottles against 3,500 normally, PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET - 3,000 bottles, against a maximum of 7,000 bottles, and ALAIN VERSET - 4,400 bottles, down from over 6,000 bottles.

FRANCK BALTHAZAR was also well down in yield this year. He told me: "well, I harvested 68 hl from my 3.7 hectares, against 98 hl in 2014, for instance. In mid-June we were three weeks behind, and never recaptured that lag. I started my harvest on 2 October. The wines are concentrated. 2010 remains the top vintage; personally I don’t like summers that are too hot, such as 2009.”

Growers speak warmly of the vintage. THIÉRRY ALLEMAND sees the year thus: “2013 is beau, and richer than 2012. It is more dense, more austere, more Cornas than 2014, as well – the crop was riper, the wine more complex. It is a true Cornas vintage, with good matter from the old vines. It is tightly packed but good and full. The crop was very small – only 18 hl/ha due to coulure (flowers not converting into fruit) during flowering. In 2011 and 2012 we were at 28/29 hl/ha. The thing about the bunches this year was that there was a good number of grapes, but the grapes were small and concentrated.”

GUILLAUME GILLES, the most promising young grower at Cornas, was also very happy, if a little surprised when he spoke to me in December 2013: “the crop was very ripe, and the wine is very fine for now and very primeur in style. There is sound gras richness in it. The surprise is that there is a lot of finesse given the maturity of the crop.”

The distaff side of the COLOMBO operation are also enthusiastic. JEAN-LUC’S daughter LAURE expressed her view as follows: “I am happy – the vintage pleases me a lot; it is a true Cornas year – each pf our wines has its own personality,” while his wife ANNE stated: “the wines at the same time have fruit, and a spiced side.”

PIERRE CLAPE sees 2013 as a major vintage, too. His take in the spring of 2015 was this: “I rate 2013 as a classic Cornas vintage, the best since 2010. The crop was small – 32 hl/ha, against our normal of 38 hl/ha, with coulure a factor. Given the weather conditions, it is very good, structured, fresh, the fruit good. It is less easy than 2012, is quite powerful in matter, and the degree ranges from 13.2° to 13.8° - for a late harvested year, that was just OK. We weren’t obliged to sort and discard, given the quality of the crop.

The wine this year is a bit square; it holds fruit but is solid enough. It is a bit like 1998; we are working on the blend now – it is concentrated and less gourmand than 2012 and 2014. Acetate notes are disappearing. I call it a pretty serious vintage.”

CORNAS COMPARISONS 2010-2011-2012-2013

  2010 2011 2012 2013
6 STAR 02      
5 STAR 11 04 02 03
4.5 STAR 11 05 11 10
4 STAR 09 10 12 18
3.5 STAR 09 17 09 12
3 STAR 01 06 05 08
2.5 STAR   01 01 01
2 STAR   01    
TOTAL 42 44 38 52
4*+ % 76 43 63 61
STGT 03 04 01 06

Among the broad mass of wines, there are those that portray the new school of easy charm Cornas: I would cite the CORNAS MICHELAS ST-JEMMS LES MURETTES, the DOMAINE DURAND PREMICES and the ALAIN VOGE LES CHAILLÉS as examples of this. They are all ***(*) wines. Their tannins are medium weight and ripe, and the wines are open and running even in their first youth.

2013 is also a vintage that displays the fruit quality that has been evident in recent years. Hence some wines are ready to go based on their first, lively fruit, after three years or so. In no cases are the wines overburdened by their degree, and the absence of high heat this year, with cool nights as well, has led to an enjoyable drinkability – buvabilité is the French word - triggered by freshness along the palates.

Some of the tannins are a little powdery, perhaps due to incomplete ripeness; I would expect these wines to loosen and pass their best before the properly structured wines. As always, the best terroir has given the best wines, so that should be a rule for buyers and drinkers.

LEADING CORNAS 2013s

***** Thiérry Allemand Reynard 2035-38 10/16 violet, rocky, savoury, stylish
***** Domaine Courbis La Sabarotte 2030-33 10/15 close-knit, pretty mighty
***** Alain Voge Les Vieilles Vignes 2032-35 10/15 robust, grounded, STGT
****(*) Thiérry Allemand Chaillot 2031-34 10/16 intense, muscular, STGT
****(*) Matthieu Barret/Coulet Billes Noires 2029-31 10/15 precise, direct, refined
****(*) Domaine Clape 2039-43 12/15 upright, strength, STGT
****(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Les Ruchets 2031-33 10/15 harmony, balance, improver
****(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Vallon de l’Aigle 2032-34 10/15 balance, depth, slow burn  
****(*)  Ferraton Père & Fils Patou   2029-31  01/15  STGT; vitality, juicy breadth 
****(*)  Pierre Gaillard   2028-29  01/15  poise, style, STGT   
****(*) Guillaume Gilles Chaillot 2039-41 11/18 expressive, nice crunch
****(*)  Pic & Chapoutier Bio 2029-31  01/15  solid Cornas, character  
****(*)  Domaine du Tunnel   2028-30  01/15  plump, fat, also finesse 
**** Franck Balthazar Chaillot  2027-29 06/15 aromatic, wholesome
**** Matthieu Barret/Coulet Brise cailloux 2027-28 04/16 pure fruit, savoury glide
****  Cave de Tain Arènes Sauvages 2023-24  01/15  scented, supple, detailed 
****  M Chapoutier Les Arènes   2026-28  01/15  fine, balanced, promising 
**** Jean-Luc Colombo La Louvée 2031-33 10/15 wholesome, bite, STGT
**** Domaine Courbis Champelrose 2029-32 10/15 coayted, solid, unshowy
**** Domaine Courbis Les Eygats 2029-31 10/15 plenty, character, raw now
****  Yves Cuilleron Les Vires   2027-29  01/15  vineyard depth, modern   
****  Delas Chante Perdrix   2027-29  01/15  chunky, robust length  
****  Dumien Serrette Henri   2028-30  12/15  balance, deep fruit, oak   
**** Dumien Serrette Patou 2028-29 12/15 pure fruit, scope, promise
****  Domaine Durand Empreintes  2026-28  01/15  dark fruit, cleanly struck 
****  Ferraton Père & Fils Les Eygats  2028-30  01/15  muscled, grounded  
**** Guillaume Gilles La Combe de Chaillot  2025-28 06/15 genuine, naked, STGT
**** Domaine Lionnet Terre Brûlée 2032-34 12/15 tight, dark, upright, long
**** Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d'Arce 2028-30 10/15 stylish, supple, solid length
****  Vincent Paris La Geynale   2028-30  02/15  compact, plenty, long  
****  Vincent Paris Granit 60   2025-27 01/15  joli fruit, nice length  
**** Alain Voge Les Chaillés 2030-32 10/15 compact juice, gd potential
***(*) Franck Balthazar Cuvée Casimir Balthazar 2025-27 06/15 joli, supple fruit; freshness
***(*) Mikaël Bourg 2022-23 12/15 genuine, expressive
***(*)  Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2020-21  01/15  mild, authentic, early  
***(*)  Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2026-28  01/15  mulled fruit with tang  
***(*) Domaine Clape Renaissance 2030-32 12/15 swell, southern, fresh
***(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Terres Brûlées 2028-30 10/15 fluid fruit, fine tannin
***(*)  Domaine Durand Prémices  2024-26  01/15  modern, stylish, tidy  
***(*)  Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet   2028-30  01/15  swish fruit, tight oak  
***(*)  Dom Michelas St Jemms Les Murettes  2025-27  01/15  modern, stylish, fruited 
***(*)  Maison Nicolas Perrin   2024-25  10/15  neat, vigorous, linear  
***(*)  Les Vins de Vienne Les Barcillants  2024-26  01/15  sound weight, peppery  
*** Bernard Blachon 2021-22 12/15 authentic, steely, springy
***  Aurélien Chatagnier   2022-23  01/15  scented, supple, correct  
***  Guy Farge harmonie   2021-22  01/15  free fruit, modern, early 
*** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Grands Mûriers 2022-23 10/15 spice, pepper, OK, but ..
***  Vincent Paris Granit 30   2025-26  01/15  lucid fruit, bit taut  
*** Louis Sozet 2020-21 12/15 fine freshness, sound wine
***  Alain Verset   2026-27  12/15  gentle, fine; bright fruit 
***  François Villard   2023-25  01/15  correct, tasty, some fun   
**(*)  Jacques Lemenicier   2021-22  01/15  cool fruit, bit vegetal  
         

 

DOMAINE MELODY: TWO GOOD 2013 CROZES-HERMITAGE REDS, BOTH CAPTURE THE VINTAGE WELL

5. 2013 CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

2013 is memorable for the quality of the crop from the MARSANNE, a variety that can suffer when harvested at less than optimum ripeness, its leaning towards tannin and a little abrasive side encouraged. What we have this year is a most enjoyable level of gras richness and all-important freshness. The characteristic notes of tang – called “bitter” by those who disapprove of the variety – are well infused, the finishes bear good grip, and an orderly sign-off is provided.

The ROUSSANNE has also performed well, so there are wines that have lots of interest about them, the number of dishes to which they are suited multiplying as a consequence. 2004 was a break-through year forNorthern Rhônewhites, the quality in that vintage lying on a higher level than previously encountered. That progress stemmed from closer vineyard care, more attention on the white crop in its own right and not as an underling to the SYRAH, and better cellar methods, notable on early handling of the crop at the cellar reception, gentler pressing, and cooler cellar temperatures.

What the MARSANNE does not require is a go-go modernista vinification at 14°C or 15°C. Its virtues come forward if it is allowed to centre on glycerol rather than acidity. Hence a higher fermentation temperature is perfectly in order, with 20°C absolutely sound, and ideally linked to the use of used oak casks, or, if they are new, the 600-litre demi-muid size rather than the Burgundian 228-litre pièce.  

This year some of the best examples of what I call proper traditional CROZES blancs come from those growers working with mature vines – over 40 years old – and vinifying in this way, their raising lasting well over six months, the malolactic fermentation completed. I point to the exceptional, mini-Hermitage wines of DOMAINE DU COLOMBIER CUVÉE GABY, made from the glorious slope of LES PENDS, MARC SORREL and LAURENT HABRARD, their vineyards situated respectively in MERCUROL, LARNAGE and GERVANS.

It is almost impossible to make such wines from the “deep south” – LES CHASSIS, PONT DE L’ISÈRE, LA ROCHE DE GLUN, BEAUMONT-MONTEUX. Why were these fruit lands before wine became the best way to earn a living from them? Voilà – I rest my case. Their alluvial, partly sandy soils can be interesting for the SYRAH – LES SAVIAUX at ROCHE DE GLUN, for example, but for the most deeply entrenched, classic whites at CROZES, go north is my advice.

2013 represents another step up the ladder from 2004. Now the quality is spreading more widely, and the wines have more polish, less rusticity than was the case nine years ago. Growers sell out of their whites quickly now, which didn’t used to be the case, so are happy to try to produce more, and pay the whole process greater respect.

The 2013 hallmark of loss of crop meant that yields were well down on 2012. An organic grower at LARNAGE, and always hovering in the STGT (Soil to Glass Transfer) category is OLIVIER DUMAINE. He viewed 2013 as follows: “our yield was 35 hl/ha, against a bumper crop of 47 hl/ha in 2012. It is a very, very good year – it has degree, a perfect ripeness, and could be ahead of 2012. The ROUSSANNE produced a bit more than the MARSANNE, which is unusual, and was the effect of the spring weather. I started to pick the white crop on 2 October – the only time I have harvested in October since I started in 1987.”

YANN CHAVE suffered badly from loss of his white crop, telling me: “it was catastrophic – I lost 30-40% from the cold weather. There is higher acidity than in 2012, and also more degree – 13° to 13.5°. It is better than 2012 in the whites.”

The differences between sectors this year were pointed out by the accomplished LAURENT FAYOLLE of FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE. His base is the northern, hilly granite village of GERVANS: “it took time for the MARSANNE and ROUSSANNE to lose acidity this year – not before around mid-September – it was certainly needed. I also noticed terroir differences this year – for instance, crop growing in heavy soils has been difficult, has large berries and ripening spread out unevenly – the quite constant bouts of rain for these was a problem. In the lighter, drier soils, the white crop did better and ripening was more even.”

LAURENT still took a hit on his MARSANNE, though. “We lost 30% of our MARSANNE due to cold at the time of flowering,” he recounted. “Ripening was successful, and the balance is good. The wines are both opulent and fresh at the same time – they are more opulent than 2014, which is also a good white wine vintage – both are better than 2012 and 2011.” His LES PONTAIX 2013 fell to 3,000 bottles in 2013 – there can be 7,000 bottles of the wine.

Other examples of the reduced production were the CHÂTEAU CURSON BLANC of ETIENNE POCHON – 4,000 bottles against 8,500 some years, and DOMAINE GAYLORD MACHON, their wine the wistfully named LA FILLE DONT J’AI RÊVÉ (the daughter of whom I have dreamed), whose quantity fell from 1,700 to 1,000 bottles, this time because of the July hail in the southern sector.

Despite the hardships on the volume of wine, growers were to a man and woman content with the outcome on a quality basis. BERNARD ANGE told me: it is a good year – the whites were full but also perfumed.” MARC SORREL is also very pleased with his 2013 CROZES-HERMITAGE blanc, made from 60% MARSANNE and 40% ROUSSANNE – the vines date from 1945, with only replacements since then on a vine by vine basis – no block planting of young vines. “The trouble is that the crop was ridiculous – 10 hl/ha – due to the very cold weather in the spring, so there was a terrible budding.,” he commented.

The 2013s deserve to be served with food that can range from steamed or grilled to sauced. Cheese is also an option, as well as mushroom dishes, and stronger, grounded flavours – the fat will soak up acidity or handle sweetness. The really true traditional wines will live for 12 to 15 years – COLOMBIER’s GABY, the MARC SORREL, the ALLÉNO & CHAPOUTIER GUER VAN, for instance. Most will provide excellent food pairing opportunities towards 2020.

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE 2013s

****(*) Domaine du Colombier Cuvée Gaby 2024-25 01/15 vineyard depth, pedigree
****(*) Marc Sorrel 2025-26 04/16 subtle, complex, fresh, deep
**** Jean-Claude & Nicolas Fayolle La Rochette 2020-21 10/15 trim, true, dense, STGT
**** Domaine Habrard Vin Bio 2022-24 01/15 STGT; v gd trad Crozes 
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2019-20 10/15 joli, stylish, supple 
**** Julien Pilon nuit blanche 2018 01/15 stylish, neat, w.o.w.
***(*) Aléofane 2019 01/15 fleshy gras, joli, fresh
***(*) Domaine Belle Roche Blanche 2021-22 01/15 en finesse, steady depth
***(*) Cave de Tain Les Hauts d’Eole 2020-21 01/15 solid content, fresh, charm
***(*) Y Alleno & M Chapoutier Guer Van 2024-26 01/15 shapely richness, la table
***(*) Delas Les Launes 2019 01/15 early, open, academic
***(*) Olivier Dumaine La Croix du Verre 2019-20 01/15 suave texture, good gras
***(*) Domaine Alain Graillot 2017-18 10/14 gras + freshness
***(*) E.Guigal 2020 10/15 lissom texture, inner body
***(*) Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet 2019-20 01/15 calm gras, stylish
***(*) Dom des Hauts Chassis L’Essentiel 2020-21 01/15 supple richness, refined
***(*) Le Domaine de Lucie Pitchounettes 2019-20 01/15 suave; vin naturel
***(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Signature 2019-20 10/15 plump heart, fresh length
***(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Charmeuses 2019 01/15 v charming, clear, precise
***(*) Dom des Remizières Particulière 2023-24 01/15 smooth gras, shapely
***(*) Gilles Robin Les Marelles 2019 12/15 rich, tasty, wide, beau
***(*) Domaine Rousset 2022 01/15 trad, soft richness
***(*) Vidal-Fleury 2017-18 11/14 fat, with freshness
*** Domaine Bernard Ange  2018-19 01/15 suave gras, foods
*** Domaine Belle Les Terres Blanches 2018-19 01/15 rolling richness, fresh
*** Cave de Clairmont Classique 2019 01/15 pliant richness, soft wine
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2018 01/15 light, tidy, clear
*** M Chapoutier La Petite Ruche 2019-20 01/15 cool fruit, smooth
*** Dom Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix 2021-23 01/15 grippy, definite depth
*** Ferraton La Matinière 2019 01/15 smooth, pleasant, but ..
*** Dom Gaylord Machon La Fille 2020-21 01/15 overtly rich, oaking
*** Maison Lombard 2019-20 04/15 steely, fresh
*** Etienne Pochon Château Curson 2020 01/15 easy, open, quiet gras
*** Domaine des Remizières Christophe 2021-22 01/15 rich and oaked
*** VHVB 2018 01/15 modernista, oaked
**(*) Domaine Pradelle Courbis 2018 01/15 mild richness
** Domaine Pradelle 2018 01/15 tame, light
** Vins de Vienne Amphore d’Argent 2019-20 01/15 lacks cohesion, short  
         

 

6. 2013 CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

2013 is a very expressive vintage, full of digestible wines, at Crozes-Hermitage. Difficulties were faced during the ripening season, notably in the form of vicious hail that struck the southern areas on 9 July, while the cold weather during flowering reduced the crop as well. The leading wines offer immediate pleasure, and merit the tag of very good.

YANN CHAVE has made an extremely good ****(*) CROZES RED in 2013. His vineyards are in the southern, non-granite area of the appellation. He summarized his year as follows: “I thought I’d never get in the clear this year. For example, we had millerandage on the SYRAH, which I have never seen before.” Millerandage hits bunches at flowering, and results in uneven grape sizes, the large berries containing pips, the smaller pip-free. Hence yields suffer. Cold weather is to blame.

COLD START TO THE YEAR

“The main feature of the early part of the year into the summer was the cold weather,” YANN continued. “Then hail hit in early July, notably the south of MERCUROL, BEAUMONT-MONTEUX – very badly hit - and PONT DE L’ISÈRE. At Pont de l’Isère I lost 35-40% of my crop there and then. The only luck was a lot of North Wind right after that; because we were one month behind, it scarred the vines well, and there were no damaged berries later on – they healed up well. I also lost 20% of my crop at LA ROCHE-DE-GLUN.

The weather improved in July and August, without being too hot. September made the wines this year – nights were very fresh, around 7°-8°C, with days at 25°C. As a result, colours were very good, and some black wines were the outcome. Vinifications went well; the pips took time, but got there. There is higher acidity than in 2012, and also more degree – 13° to 13.5°. I think there is less structure than 2012, though, but a very belle finesse. Even the young Syrah has give joli results this year.”

9 JULY: BIG, BAD HAIL

The 9 July hailstorm travelled from east to west, hitting BEAUMONT-MONTEUX, PONT DE L’ISÈRE and LA ROCHE DE GLUN in that order. Although based at GERVANS in the rocky northern area, LAURENT FAYOLLE has vineyards at LA ROCHE DE GLUN. He told me: “I lost 40% there. I had grapes that were scarred, and we had to take out damaged bunches. There was a 10 day stoppage on the hailed vineyards, so our earlier vineyards leapt ahead. The hail hurt yields more than quality, and the result was that the surviving grapes became richer – that was thanks to a loss of up to 50% on any one vine, for instance.”

Over 13 of EMMANUEL DARNAUD’s 14.71 hectares stand in LA ROCHE DE GLUN and PONT DE L’ISÈRE. He pointed out that yields may have been low, but quality was high: “2013 is very concentrated, with the yield low; ripening was successful due to the low yield. I achieved 33-34 hl/ha. I started on 6 October; just to make a contrast, I finished harvesting on 29 August in 2003.”

BERNARD ANGE, whose wine helped to launch my second book at WILLI’S WINE BAR in PARIS in 1983, also saw the low yields as directly contributing to the depth of the SYRAH wines: “It is a good year, the small crop meaning the wines were concentrated, full and structured. For me, 2013 has more finesse than 2012 – a palette that is more broad.”

THE BENEFIT OF GRADUAL RIPENING

However, PHILIPPE JABOULET, the vineyard manager at PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ before the family sold out, and now running DOMAINE PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET, pointed to a different reason for the good weight in the 2013s, a view with which I concur: “it’s not a rule this year that low yields meant concentration – some domaines had decent yields, and others not. It was a more the fact of gradual ripening that led to the depth.”

That gradual ripening, as I know from my plums here in Sussex, leads to a pick up in intensity, and allows harmony between the sugars and the tannins. Such was the case in the southern zone of the appellation. I am not surprised that the wines are open and booming at an early age as a result. A hotter, more extreme year would have disrupted this profile, while one can never discount the importance of fresh nights that permit the vines some repose.

GRANITE WINES DID WELL

2013 in the northern, granite reaches of CROZES-HERMITAGE has delivered wines of excellent local typicity, the fruit most agreeably clear and precise. Here ripening really did take its time – it is a cooler, higher area than the plain of LES CHASSIS and the alluvial lands near the River Isère.

On 18 September, LAURENT FAYOLLE of FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE explained how things stood at GERVANS: “we have had good weather in early September, but in the third week progress has slowed because it’s been cooler. The Syrah skins are very firm, but the balance in the grapes is improving. Our Syrah is at 10° to 11° now. We had 20 mm (0.8 in) of rain in the first week of September. It’s been cloudy with dribbles of rain here and there. Quantity will actually be OK, helped by two storms of 40 mm (1.6 in) each in the first half of August, rain at the same time as the veraison (grapes change colour to dark red) that served to expand the grapes.”

As it turned out, LAURENT started the harvest on 24 September, and finished on 10 October – his latest vintage since he started in 2002. “This year the tannic ripening got ahead of the sugars,” he explained. “The best natural degree was 12.6°, so we did a bit of chaptalisation. The fact that we waited for the sugars to ripen meant that the pH rose, and the total acidity dropped late on. There are some wines across CROZES this year which have ripe tannins but low acidity, rendering those wines rather fragile.

“As for my reds,” he continued, “they are very rich, have very good acidities, and the elements are in place for a good, keeping vintage. Because it was late to ripen, the tannins are ripe, and the wines are quite powerful – they are a lot better than 2011 and 2012, also 2014.”

The northern zone’s lag behind the southern zone was considerable, with XAVIER GOMART of the CAVE DE TAIN telling me: “we started with our SYRAH on 26 September, and the main harvest was on Monday 30 September onwards. We ended in the north of the appellation on 23 October.”

OLIVIER DUMAINE is an accomplished, longtime organic grower based at LARNAGE, where the local feature is the white clay, or kaolin, on the hillsides. Vineyards are often mature as well there. He told me: “our yield was 35 hl/ha, against a bumper crop of 47 hl/ha in 2012. It is a very, very good year – it has degree, a perfect ripeness, and could be ahead of 2012.”

2013: THE BEST SITES PREVAIL, THEREFORE THE REVERSE IS ALSO TRUE

2013 is a vintage when the best exposed sites performed well. As a logical rule, that means the older, longer established vineyards, which have stood the test of time – planted when the wine was not as popular and easy to sell as it is today. One can detect this in the glass: some wines were probably around 12° naturally, then chaptalised to 12.5°+. Hence there is a looseness in these wines.

Another problem is the desire – such a change from the pumped up “glory years” of ROBERT PARKER, years that often coincided with hot summers – to make “northern”, immediate, stand at the bar wines: these have an acidified style and lack mid-palate depth.

ALAIN GRAILLOT, THE PERUVIAN CONDOR OF CROZES

However, the best wines are really birds of flight, proper birds such as the CONDOR: they combine weight with a taking freedom, and provide wonderfully buzzy drinking. A great example of this is the ****(*) 2013 ALAIN GRAILLOT RED, which after one or two “quiet” years is back on top form – vigorous, stimulating, and backed by an abundant bouquet.

The granite sector also is bang on form, and very true to the profile of tender red fruits, with tannins that add a toothsome, lifted, slightly cool and chiselled interest – the result of that gradual ripening. There are nudges of florality as well, a genuine granite-inspired accompaniment. DOMAINE ROUSSET, in both its wines, the classic, which is STGT, and the PICAUDIÈRES, the latter a prized south-facing hillside with the oldest SYRAH dating from the 1930s, is an excellent example of this.

BUY THE ****(*) & **** WINES, YES, SIR

I have bought six bottles of DOMAINE DU COLOMBIER CUVÉE GABY, just to reveal my stance on 2013 CROZES-HERMITAGE. In my cellar I would be happy to have wines from other domaines who have achieved ****(*) wines – four of them – or **** - 13 of them – if there were enough days and friends to be called in to drink them all. The clear advice, therefore, is to buy 2013. They will provide entertainment and interest in the glass.

DOMAINE MELODY AN IMPROVER

I also suggest readers take note of DOMAINE MELODY, whose two wines perfectly captured the drinkability of CROZES in 2013: the **** PREMIER REGARD, a complete wine that is bang on suited to grilled foods, the price fair, and the ***(*) ÉTOILE NOIRE, made from 1976 and 1982 SYRAH at MERCUROL, a wine of long, clear fruit and enough depth to run for around eight years. It is showing reduction, so decanting is essential.

As for longevity, 10 to 12 years would be a common lifespan for the deepest and best.

NATACHA'S WOES AND HER COLLECTIVE RECOVERY

There was a sting in the tail for NATACHA CHAVE, YANN’s sister, whose domaine at MERCUROL is called ALÉOFANE. Her yield this year was not only hit by the cool spring, but also by a cellar flood in October after torrential rain – the small vats were overturned, and the press was a write-off, with a loss of 15% of the wine. It is to her credit, and to the collaborative nature of French winegrowers, that she has produced both a ***(*) RED and a ***(*) WHITE CROZES this year. CHAPEAU, NATACHA.  

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE RED 2013s

****(*) Domaine Belle Roche Pierre 2029-31 04/16 mineral, STGT, fascinating
****(*) Yann Chave 2023-24 01/15 flair, lift, serious wine
****(*) Domaine du Colombier Cuvée Gaby 2023-24 01/15 joli fruit, fine tannins, class
****(*) Ferraton Le Grand Courtil 2024-25 01/15 deep, close to Hermitage
****(*) Domaine Alain Graillot 2024-26 01/15 energy, expression, fab 
**** Y Alléno & M Chapoutier Guer Van 2022-23 01/15 STGT; fine, shapely
**** Domaine Les Bruyères Les Croix 2019-20 01/15 style, polish, w.o.w.
**** Cave de Tain GN Gervans 2024-26 10/15 cool, rocky, perfumed
**** M Chapoutier Les Varonniers 2026-27 01/15 upscale old vines style
**** Domaine Combier Clos des Grives 2024-26 02/15 joli gras, airborne, stylish
**** René-Jean Dard & François Ribo 2019-20 12/15 rockabilly, fresh, w.o.w.
**** Emmanuel Darnaud Les Trois Chênes 2023-24 01/15 suave, consecutive
**** Delas Domaine des Grands Chemins 2023-24 01/15 depth, weight, length
**** Delas Le Clos 2024-26 01/15 fine pedigree fruit, wide
**** Domaine Alain Graillot La Guiraude 2029-31 11/17 packed, mineral, high interest
**** Domaine P & V Jaboulet 2021-22 01/15 sleek, nice gras, oak
**** Paul Jaboulet Aîné Domaine de Roure 2027-29 11/16 red fruits, STGT, interest
**** Domaine Melody Premier Regard 2020-21 01/15 gourmand, full, complete
**** Gilles Robin Albéric Bouvet 2021-22 12/15 plump, good life, typical
**** Domaine Rousset 2022-23 01/15 STGT; pedigree, fine 
**** Domaine Rousset Les Picaudières 2024-25 01/15 great interest, chunky
**** Pierre-Jean Villa Accroche Coeur 2021-22 01/15 fleshy, pleasing, tidy
**** Les Vins de Vienne Les Palignons 2021-22 01/15 fleshy, carefree, w.o.w.
***(*) Aléofane  2020  01/15  supple, soft, enjoyable  
***(*) Domaine Les Alexandrins Séduction   2019-20  01/15  good fruit, nice length  
***(*) Domaine Bernard Ange   2020-21  01/15  supple, gourmand  
***(*) Domaine Belle Louis Belle   2022-23  01/15  crisp, cool, peppered 
***(*) Cave de Tain LA 2023-24 10/15 cool, rocky lands wine
***(*) Cave de Tain La Grace 2020-21 10/15 red fruits, sound depth
***(*) Cave de Tain Les Hauts du Fief  2020-21  01/15  joli weight, enjoyable  
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2020-21  01/15  soft fruit, good weight  
***(*) Yann Chave Rouvre   2022-23  01/15  open drinking, life + lift  
***(*) Domaine du Colombier   2022-23  01/15  peppery; free fruit  
***(*) Laurent Combier Cap Nord 2023-24 03/15 soft gras, nice and clear
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Les Deux Terrasses   2022-23  01/15  modern, swish, juicy  
***(*) Emmanuel Darnaud Mise en Bouche  2022-24  01/15  grounded, some power  
***(*) Olivier Dumaine La Croix du Verre  2022-24  01/15  smooth, juicy, oaked  
***(*) Dom des Entrefaux Les Machonnières 2021-22 12/15 suave gras, aromatic
***(*) equis equinoxe   2018  11/14  airborne, fun  
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Clos Cornirets  2023-24  01/15  fine content, natural   
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix   2022-24  01/15  good fruit, crisp, stylish  
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Sens 2019-20 10/14 STGT; clear, fresh, fluid
***(*) Ferraton Les Pichères   2020-21  01/15 fleshy fruit, some flair  
***(*) Domaine Habrard Vin Bio   2019-20  01/15  calm, precise, succulent  
***(*) Dom des Hauts Chassis Les Châssis   2021-22  01/15  wholesome, promising 
***(*) Dom des Hauts Chassis Les Galets   2019  01/15  tasty, fun, w.o.w.  
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Dom de Thalabert 2025-27 11/16 sleek, fine tannin, red fruit
***(*) Dom de Lucie Les Pitchounettes   2019  01/15  character, stewed fruit  
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Saint-Pierre   2021-22  01/15  tasty, sound body, oak  
***(*) Domaine Melody Étoile Noire   2020-21  01/15  fruit with length  
***(*)  Dom Michelas St Jemms La Chasselière  2019-20  01/15  juicy, true, w.o.w. 
***(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Entrecoeurs 2022-23 04/16 ripe fruit, dense, salted
***(*)  E Pochon Château Curson   2021-22  01/15  neat; lively fruit  
***(*)  Domaine des Remizières Christophe   2023-24  01/15  dark fruit, gras, oak  
***(*)  Domaine des Remizières Particulière   2022-23  01/15  peppery, clear  
***(*) Gilles Robin Papillon 2019 12/15 bonny fruit, clear, w.o.w.
***(*)  François Villard Comme une Evidence  2021-22  01/15  fluid fruit, la table 
***(*)  Dom de la Ville Rouge Terre d’Eclat  2019-20  01/15  exuberant, long, fun  
***  Domaine Les Alexandrins Attirance   2018  01/15  live fruit, bit wiry  
***  Pierre Amadieu Les Caladières   2021-22  01/15  tight fruit, oak  
***  Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles   2021-22  01/15  spiced, peppery  
***  Domaine Les Bruyères Beaumont   2019  01/15  scented, mulled fruit  
***  Dom Les Bruyères Georges Reynaud   2020-21  01/15  fleshy fruit  
*** Cave de Clairmont Classique   2019-20 01/15 supple, immediate
***  Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2019  01/15  live; mild fruit 
***  Caves Saint-Pierre   2019-20  01/15  mainstream, early 
*** Stéphan Chaboud 2018 12/15 cool fruit, springy appeal
***  M Chapoutier Les Meysonniers   2020-21  01/15  free fruit, grainy tannin  
***  Domaine Combier   2021-23  02/15  squeezy, solid  
***  Delas Les Launes   2020  01/15  mulled fruit, easy wine
*** Domaine des Entrefaux 2020-21 12/15 supple, unforced, true
***  Domaine Jeanne Gaillard   2018  01/15  soft, easy access 
***  Domaine Gaylord Machon Ghany   2018  01/15  fresh, immediate  
***  Domaine P & V Jaboulet Nouvelère   2021-22  01/15  wavy fruit, much oak  
***  Domaine des Lises   2020-21  01/15 

peppery, live

*** Maison Lombard 2018 04/15

fluid fruit, and fresh 

***  Domaine de Lucie Saint James   2018  01/15  sweet, supple, easy  
***  Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d'Arce  2020-21  01/15  direct, some oak  
***  Domaine Rémy Nodin Le Mazel   2018  01/15  squeezy fruit, floral, grainy 
*** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2020-21 10/15 crisp, mild, rocky
***  Domaine Pradelle Courbis   2019  01/15  nutted fruit, decent  
***  Domaine des 7 Chemins   2019  01/15  sound, mainstream  
***  Marc Sorrel   2019  01/15  tight and clear  
***  VHVB  2020-21  01/15  gummy, earthen, laden  
***  Vidal-Fleury   2018  11/14  light, fluid, simple  
***  Les Vins de Vienne Amphore d’Argent  2019-20  01/15  sweet, fleshy, obvious  
***  Dom de la Ville Rouge Inspiration   2018  01/15  clear fruit, foods 
***  Domaine de la Ville Rouge Paul   2018  01/15  brisk, clinical, open  
**(*)  Maison Bouachon La Maurelle   2018  01/15  plain, laden  
**(*) Cave de Tain Sélection Sud 2020-21 10/15 wiry, bit lean, lacks an HQ
**(*)  Domaine Champal Rocher Chaubayou   2018  01/15  trad wine, mature fruit  
**(*) Laurent Combier Cuvée L 2017 03/15 peppery, direct, solo
**(*) JC & Nicolas Fayolle La Rochette 2019-20 12/15 crisp fruit, dry tannins
**(*)  Pierre Gaillard   2018  11/14  light wine, fresh  
**(*)  Le Domaine de Lucie Les Saviaux 2018  01/15  sweet fruit, low horizon  
**(*)  Ogier Héritages   2019  01/15  round, fat, only fair  
**(*)  Etienne Pochon   2019  01/15  nervous, bit green  
**(*)  Domaine Pradelle Les Hirondelles   2019-20  01/15  stretched, disparate  
**(*)  Saint Cosme   2019-20  01/15  red fruits, clipped tannin  
**  Cave Julien Cecillon Les Marguerites   2018  01/15  not a true ensemble  
**  Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin   2018  01/15  med weight, bit hollow  
         

 

 

MAXIME GOURDAIN OF DOMAINE DE ROSIERS: NOTE THE NAME

7. 2013 CÔTE-RÔTIE

What was a tricky and much delayed year at Côte-Rôtie actually worked out well in the end. The wines are often very good, and for now, they have a little more body than the more streamlined, overtly Nordic 2012s. The ripening profile of the year has also contributed to a welcome clarity in the wines, which happily spills over into making some of them good examples of their sites, therefore STGT or Soil to Glass Transfer wines.

Older growers spoke of a year that took them back to the 1980s; rather than play fast and loose with history and rely on vague recollection, let me reproduce the official vintage start announcement dates from the 1980s, termed the ban des vendanges, for Côte-Rôtie. Note that growers would often start to harvest anything up to a week later.

CÔTE-RÔTIE OFFICIAL START OF HARVEST ANNOUNCEMENT DATES FOR THE 1980S

1980 8 OCTOBER – a modest vintage, quite good

1981 6 OCTOBER – I termed this average at the time, rain during harvesting

1982 15 SEPTEMBER – perhaps one of the first of the new wave “hot” vintages, with a very dry, hot summer and intense heat at harvest time, provoking volatile acidity in some wines. It was much better than 1981 and 1980, though, and was a year that encouraged a few wise growers to invest in cooling systems, however rudimentary

1983 17 SEPTEMBER – a year of very dry weather, heat at harvest time again, and chewy tannins, the result of thick, dry skins. A very good vintage of deeper wines than the 1982s

1984 8 OCTOBER – oh oh – late flowering, and a lack of consistently sunny weather. Lean wines were the result. This was really a prototype vintage of my youth, the sort that occurred frequently in the 1970s. Even in the nineteenth centuryBordeaux would not have wanted Rhône Syrahs to “provide medicine” for their wines this year

1985 12 SEPTEMBER – another vintage in the new vein of 1982 and 1983. Lovely balance in this vintage, a particular favourite of mine. STÉPHANE MONTEZ of DOMAINE DU MONTEILLET served me his dad’s 1985 SAINT-JOSEPH RED blind a couple of years back, and, yes, it is rare, but I got the vintage in one. The perfect paradigm for balanced wines. In fact the year started a month behind after a very hard winter, only to catch up three of those four weeks. MARIUS GENTAZ-DERVIEUX’s 1985 was superb, but I was fiddled out of my five case order by someone called Nigel

1986 2 OCTOBER – back to tricky times, with rot, and a large crop. No or poor sorting = bad news. Low degree, astringent tannins here and there. The best growers came to the fore this year

1987 8 OCTOBER – below average temperatures, more rain than desirable, rot, and a light vintage, inferior to 1986. These days it would have been better, since vineyard management and phenolic mastery have improved

1988 18 SEPTEMBER – smaller crop than 1987 after a very dry summer, but good intensity in the wines. A very good year. The BERNARD BURGAUD 1988, bought to celebrate my son’s birth, was still in good shape last year

1989 15 SEPTEMBER – very hot, dry weather, the drought – the second year – being broken by rain on 10 September, just in time. The year was a little behind 1989, but was good at the very least

1990 15 SEPTEMBER – the 100 day rule between flowering and harvesting was broken, as ripening occurred only slowly; a parallel with 2013, thus. It was another dry year, but colours were good, and the wines emerged very successfully

CONCLUSION: HOW CLOSE TO THE 1980S WAS 2013?

So if we are to be precise, 2013’s harvesting date resembles those of poor vintages during the 1980s, namely 1981, 1984, 1987; 1980 and 1986 were fair, not more. And yet this year the wines are often full-bodied, long, and bear ripe tannins. From a weather standpoint, the fine weather of the late summer was the main reason for this: those 1980s vintages had not enjoyed similar Indian summers. 

THE RHÔNE IS A GROWN UP REGION THESE DAYS

However, longer-term influences are at work, and the 2013s are true testament to the progress the Rhône has made, at least during my 40-plus years of covering it, in crop handling, allied to more sophisticated cellar equipment. Lob in the fact that all growers are now technically trained, and possess open horizons from having friends in Burgundy or have travelled and worked in the New World, and you have a region that has grown up in extremely pleasing fashion. The old Bordeaux-Burgundy hegemony inFrancereally is a thing of the past now.

COLD NEW SPUDS

Snow fell in the third week of January, and the spring was very cold, with JEAN-MICHEL STÉPHAN, hard core organic grower at TUPIN in the south of the appellation relating: “It was so cold in the spring this year that I had to put double plastic on my Belle de Fontenay new potatoes, which I’ve never had to do before.”

In mid-May, PHILIPPE GUIGAL told me how he was placed: “we are 10-15 days behind, after a cold and long winter. On 2 May we had 100 mm (4 in) of rain, and before that we had a few bouts of rain adding up to another 100 mm. There is certainly no drought this year!”

FLOWERING

Flowering in precocious zones this year was poor, hit by the cool weather. Later zones did well, though. As CHRISTOPHE BONNEFOND stated: “the cherry crop was poor this year; any flowering in May this year was not super. Our yield ended up at 29 hl/ha.” These early areas were to be hit by vers de la grappe, grape bunch worms, further on in the summer.

As temperatures rose during July, so the threat of a wipeout in the vineyards receded. However, high water levels from all the rain in the first half of the year remained a threat, with any considerable rainfall likely to provoke further excess vegetation and on the young bunches, rot: fortunately, rainfall for several weeks from mid-July was limited.

PIERRE-JEAN VILLA was hurt by early July rain, most of all at his vineyards north of CÔTE-RÔTIE on the other, left bank of the river, at SEYSSUEL. “We had rain of 40-60 mm (1.8 in – 2.2 inches) in early July over five days,” he told me, “and brown rot came out after the 14 July. The schist gave mildew on the bunches, not only the leaves.”

BETTER WEATHER THE SAVING GRACE

By the last week of August, NICOLE LEVET of VIGNOBLES LEVET, where the approach is traditional, was sanguine about prospects: “it’s like the 1980s, a late year. We will probably harvest in the first week of October, like we used to in the 1980s. We have the experience for this, and we just need time – it’s a question of a lot less crop and a better quality in this situation.

We’ve had heat since July, a lot of heat, and not a lot of rain. The last rain came a little while ago, and was just enough to help the ripening to advance. I have been dropping a few grapes on LA LANDONNE – every fourth or fifth vine has too many bunches. I’d say the veraison (grapes turning colour) is about 80% completed, and there is no mildew and no oïdium. I am a bit on my own in the vineyard, since my daughter AGNÈS had a baby girl, her second child, on 6 August.” ALLEZ, AGNÈS!

NICE N'EASY RIPENING

The pattern of gradual ripening continued into September, but growers were kept busy due to the abundance of the vegetation in the vineyards. The weather was also prone to break down, with pockets of rain here and there. Just past mid-September, JEAN-PAUL JAMET of DOMAINE JAMET gave this report: “with rains returning every four to five days, rot is not yet a problem – the grapes are sufficiently hardy still to resist that.

The vineyard is very healthy – we have stripped leaves off, tidied things up, so I am confident about the potential. Now we need to finalise things, so we have the potential for concentration and complexity. Quantity will be OK, without abundance, similar to the 1980s. If I had to chose a couple of vintages like this, perhaps they would be 1996 and 1998 –  the more direct, cooler years. Our Syrah is now around 10°. The early September rain around 7 September of 35 mm (1.4 in) helped us to avoid stress from dry soils. I expect the acidity, which is higher than ideal now, will show more this year. Nights have been fresh, down to 15°C, and today it is around 23-24°C.”

WHEN TO HARVEST: THE BIG QUESTION

The decision about when to harvest became even more delicate after late September rain. BERNARD BURGAUD explained: “we had had the good weather of July and August, also September, but the rainfall of 40 mm (1.6 inches) the weekend of 28 September, a lot more than was expected, changed things. It meant we had to hasten on the harvest. The pips were small and the skins thick - rather like 2005 and 2010. After the rain, yields rose but kept quality.

If we had picked before the rain, the wine would have been undrinkable. The acidity was high this year, and I had to de-acidify, but all has gone well. Some growers had vinifications that lasted a long time, but for me, it was OK. All this after the crop didn’t ripen properly and we had a lot grape worm. It was very stressful this year, especially at the end,” he continued. “It was also difficult to sort the crop and to transport it, since the grape skins were very fragile. The skins went from tasty to feeble in eight days before and after the rain. Very few people harvested before the rains.”

“Overall it is a very good year,” is his conclusion, “in the spirit or mould of 2010 and 2005. I harvested one week after the rain of 40 mm (1.6 inches); the grapes gained in volume, lost a bit of degree, so the end result was a more accessible wine. Before the rain there wasn’t a lot of juice in the grapes, but there was a lot of concentration.”

THANK YOU, SEPTEMBER

CHRISTOPHE BONNEFOND placed the emphasis on September for forming the vintage: “a really fine September turned matters our way – we could have been facing a low crop and low quality, so overall things have worked out OK. Most growers harvested the first week of October. Speed was needed – we picked in five days instead of seven to eight usually, and out Syrah was 12° to 13°.

PATRICK JASMIN was among the first to harvest: “I harvested from 27 September until 4 October. The wines have a good colour, and my yields were OK, around 38 hl/ha. The crop was better before the rain – in the first fortnight of October the rain came on and off, some falls of 30 mm (1.2 inches). Botrytis came along as a result. My SYRAH ranged between 11.8° and 13.4°.”

JEAN-MICHEL GÉRIN was also very much in the camp of early harvesters. He gave this summary: “in 2013 we had enormous luck from not suffering from the hail that hit so many French vineyards; we harvested when it was the moment, at the end of September. Too many growers picked too late – the crop was ripe by the end of September, with very little mildew or oïdium, so the vines didn’t lose a lot of time during the growing season. Our degree was between 12.8° and 13.5°, with no chaptalisation. It has been an extraordinary vintage, equivalent to 2009 – fabulous juice, power, aromatic wines with yields very correct at 35 hl/ha.”

JEAN-PAUL JAMET, usually the last domaine to harvest, ended up content with his crop: “we worked with 85% whole bunch crop, a sign of its ripeness. We were en route for an exceptional year before the early October rain. The wines are good and fresh, have density, and perhaps not very complex aromas, but the matter and balance are in place.”

Another late harvester, CHRISTINE VERNAY of DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY, was also happy: “we had no coulure on the SYRAH this year. Ripening went very fast, for example on the CÔTE BRUNE. The first week of October was hot and humid, so bunches moved towards rot quickly. Everyone thought to harvest after 10 October, but didn’t take their time. We harvested around 33 hl/ha, with good ripeness. There was just a little rot on LANCEMENT, near the BLONDE.”

ORGANIC CHALLENGES

2013 was certainly highly testing, therefore, and all the more so for organic growers. JEAN-MICHEL STÉPHAN summed it up as follows: “2013 will be a very technical vintage, meaning vinification and what the vigneron decides to do counts for much. Balance? Either too much acidity or not enough acidity, from vineyards with a very high pH or very low pH. It will be superior to 2012 – there is more wine, more expression.

Some vines had not one grape on them. There was very little yield on the SERINE (hand grafted, non-clone vines), but the clones gave a better crop – 30-35 hl/ha againt 15 hl/ha. We had 40 mm (1.8 in) of rain one week before 2 October when I started to harvest; the rain didn’t blow up or expand the grapes which were very low weight, but they did have a super dry extract which saved the situation.”

LOW CROPS

Low yields were reported across the board. BERNARD LEVET told me: “We lost 10% compared to our usual yields. 2013 is comparable to 2010 and 2011, is better than 2012; the crop concentrated well, was very slow to ripen.”

RENÉ ROSTAING suffered a big hit on his quantity this year, telling me: “the crop ripened very slowly, and the wines are good and fresh. My harvest was 30 hl/ha , meaning I lost 100 hectolitres (10,000 litres) on my normal amount of wine.”

MAXIME GOURDAIN, the new patron at DOMAINE DE ROSIERS was in a similar position: “we were at 32 hl/ha this year, against 39 hl/ha and 40 hl/ha in 2010 and 2011. The drop was down to coulure (flowers, but no fruit) at flowering. The delay in ripening never caught up.”

With all the bad weather across central and western France during 2013, it is not far off a miracle that CÔTE-RÔTIE - with a more northerly climate than HERMITAGE and CORNAS, and frequently between 1°C and 1.5°C cooler on any given summer day - emerged with such good wines as the 2013s, let alone wines with flair and often excellent length.

PATRICK JASMIN spoke about this: I didn’t expect 2013 to turn out as well as it did,” he admitted to me. “The yield was 35 hl/ha, and as a result there wasn’t great structure. But four months after the first racking, the quality rose like an arrow.”

HIGH QUALITY FRUIT

The first notable impact of the vintage is the high quality of the fruit – it rushes around some of the top wines, and manages to get through or past a lot of the oak already, after barely 18 months, which is a very encouraging sign. The clarity of the fruit means it is a vintage that is very easy to enjoy.

ORCHESTRATION, MAESTRO

At first, some of the wines did not show obviously, and lacked integration. JEAN-PAUL JAMET explained: "the 2013s are more massive than 2014 – they were rigid at first, but now, after eighteen months, they give a lot more pleasure – they were very compact. At first you had the wine – pause – then you had the tannins – the two parts were not united. It is a year that is an intermediary between 2005 and 2010 – there is a bit of both those years in it. The wines were also very concentrated and austere at first. It is a vintage for patience – a minimum of 15 years to be rewarded by them."

Orchestration between the elements of the wines is also most encouraging. Beyond the fruit, the aromas are multiple and varied, and form the basis for pleasure even before drinking the wines. Thirdly, the tannins are ripe, a real snug fit.

Looking across at the other Syrah appellations of the northern Rhône, there is a step up in quality at Côte-Rôtie thanks to noble terroir – this is most notable on the finish of the wines, which in the best cases is more round and integrated than at Cornas and Crozes-Hermitage, for instance.

STGT COMES THROUGH

2013 is also a vintage whose relative purity serves as a platform for access to terroir, with some spot-on STGT wines. LES GRANDES PLACES from the 1935 Syrah of CLUSEL-ROCH is frequently extremely expressive of its schist origins, packing in iron and mineral influences; the 2013 achieves this faithfully.

LA GARDE from DOMAINE DE BONSERINE is composed of 65% of the CÔTE BRUNE, topped up by MOUTONNES from the BLONDE zone. In 2013 its character is more BRUNE, a muscular, sealed disposition, with STGT properties due to emerge once the oak has been absorbed. STÉPHANE CARREL, who runs BONSERINE, part of the GUIGAL empire, is a skilled winemaker, and the three years of new oaking tend to be well managed for the future balance of his wines.

For a different take on STGT, the DUCLAUX LA GERMINE speaks wonderfully of the southern zone, where the crumbly gneiss stands in contrast to the more rocky schist of the northern zone. Their 2013 is beautifully tender and stylish, set in a very different, more beguiling, register to the other two STGT wines.

NEW HAND ON THE TILLER OF DOMAINE DE ROSIERS

DOMAINE DE ROSIERS has always been a quiet and consistent performer, with LOUIS DREVON taking over from his father ANDRÉ around the late 1980s. LOUIS is most unassuming, and not often seen on the circuit. Nevertheless, it is a domaine of a healthy 7.4 hectares, and 27 plots, with the potential for 9.9 hectares in time. Almost half the crop would be sold to merchants, with houses such as CHAPOUTIER taking around 15% of the 2011 crop, for instance – a relationship that went back to the 1970s at least.

As LOUIS was nearing retirement age, it was said locally that certain grandees were eyeing the domaine with a view to purchase, but nothing ever materialised. Hence it came to pass that in 2013 LOUIS’ nephew MAXIME GOURDAIN arrived, after studying at MÂCON DAVAYÉ north of LYON. His training stints had included SAVOIE, the BEAUJOLAIS and JEAN-MICHEL GÉRIN down the road.

Boom, boom, MAXIME, I say. He is relying less on a submerged cap during fermentation, and has branched out into three cuvées in 2013, all of them very good – the new ***** BESSET from 0.8 hectare there on arzelle, loose sanded granite soils, the ****(*) CLASSIQUE taken from most of the 27 plots and the also newly introduced **** COEUR DE ROSE off the schist. This is most definitely a name to be reckoned with now.

THE SETBACKS

So far I have concentrated on the best aspects of this vintage, but if you have managed to read this far, you will appreciate that the vintage’s destiny walked a high wire for much of the year. One slip here or there, and you could be in trouble. Hence there are wines that lack body due to imperfect ripeness. They can be dilute and lean, while acidities are not always surrounded by a reassuring depth of matter. If 2013 were an excellent vintage along the lines of 2010 or even 2009, there would be fewer wines in the 2.5 stars to 3 stars category.

I would also favour buying a three star 2012 over a three star 2013; in these wines, which have certain drawbacks, the likelihood of the 2012 gaining weight and coming together is higher than it would be for a relatively discordant 2013.

HOW LONG WILL THEY LIVE

As for the drinking window, the wines are very digestible, thanks to the afore mentioned orchestration. Their quiet scale will allow most to show well for 15 to 20 years. Their freshness means they also provide evident entertainment, and merit inspection at the high table of leading world red wines.

PRICES

Pricing for Côte-Rôtie is rather all over the place, I find. There are wines such as the ****(*) BONSERINE LA GARDE that cost €33 ex cellars, the export price, whereas DELAS charge €45 for their *** SEIGNEUR DE MAUGIRON if you go to buy at their caveau, and a whopping €140 for their ***(*) LA LANDONNE. LES VINS DE VIENNE are reasonably priced: €22.80 and €29.80 are the export prices for the ***(*) LES ESSARTAILLES and the ***(*) LES ARCHEVÊQUES respectively.

MERCHANTS EXPANDING

Côte-Rôtie is also expanding in other areas – the merchant trade from the southern Rhône. I was surprised to learn that OGIER in CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE produce 20,000 bottles of CÔTE-RÔTIE HÉRITAGES, while across the river at LAUDUN, DAUVERGNE & RANVIER, also known as R & D VINS, produce 21,000 bottles of theie CÔTE-RÔTIE GRAND VIN.

Few domaines surpass those numbers: DUCLAUX’S LA GERMINE runs up to 20,000 bottles, while BERNARD BURGAUD, who makes just the one cuvée, numbers 15-20,000 bottles per annum. DOMAINE JAMET’s classic cuvée goes to 30,000 bottles, while RENÉ ROSTAING’s AMPODIUM stands at around 25,000 bottles. So these merchants have certainly muscled into the market in a pretty significant way.

As quantities are low this year, it is a vintage that will disappear off the market pretty rapidly. If you are tempted, please do not hesitate to buy. 2014 does not have the stature, and will be a charming, fruity vintage, less disposed for cellaring and offering less in the glass.

LEADING CÔTE-RÔTIE 2013s

****** Domaine Jamet Côte Brune 2039-42 12/15 sturdy, intense, rigorous
*****  Domaine Clusel-Roch Les Gdes Places   2034-36 04/16 STGT; tight, intense, stylish 
*****  Ben & David Duclaux Maison Rouge 2029-31  01/15  masculine, fresh, long  
***** E Guigal La Landonne  2052-54 03/19 stylish gras, upright, cool truth
***** Stéphane Ogier Lancement 2037-39 04/16 sunswept, great juice, v long
*****  Domaine de Rosiers Besset  2029-31  01/15  fresh; complete all along  
***** René Rostaing Côte Blonde 2034-37 10/16 rocky, sparkle, gt freshness
***** René Rostaing Côte Brune 2036-39 10/13 excellent depth; Syrah steel
****(*)

Domaine Barge Côte Blonde

2031-33 02/15 sturdy, interesting, dashing
****(*)

Domaine Barge Côte Brune

2028-31 01/15 complex, detailed 
****(*)

Christophe & Maryline Billon La Brocarde

2032-34 04/16 stylish, serious, STGT
****(*)  Domaine de Bonserine La Garde  2029-32  01/15  STGT; quietly muscular  
****(*)  Domaine de Bonserine La Viallière   2030-32  01/15  vigour, length, gd fruit  
****(*)  Domaine Chambeyron L’Angeline   2028-30  01/15  balance, engaging, long  
****(*)  Domaine Clusel-Roch La Viaillière 2032-34 04/16 complex, spinal, concentrated
****(*)  Benjamin & David Duclaux La Germine  2027-29  01/15  tender, good style, STGT 
****(*)  Ferraton lieu-dit Montmain   2028-30  01/15  liberal gras, bounty  
****(*) Yves Gangloff La Barbarine 2026-28 02/15 charm, style, pleasure
****(*) Yves Gangloff La Sereine Noire 2029-31 02/15 concentrated depth, long
****(*) Domaine Garon Les Triotes 2029-31 04/15 full, fine, quiet complexity
****(*) E. Guigal Le Château d’Ampuis 2034-36 06/17 lithe content, charm, body
****(*) E Guigal La Mouline 2046-48 03/19 iron, grain, very 2013, time
****(*) E Guigal La Turque 2050-52 03/19 concentrated, gras depth, time
****(*) Domaine Jamet 2036-39 12/15 upright, crisp, interesting
****(*) Vignobles Levet La Péroline/Chavaroche 2034-37 04/16 traditional, highly full, class
****(*) Dom du Monteillet Les Grandes Places 2033-36 03/18 rumbling, tight, insistent
****(*) Stéphane Ogier Belle Hélène 2036-38 04/16 classy, stylish, mineral
****(*) Stephane Ogier Réserve 2029-31 04/16 plenty gras, free running
****(*)  Domaine de Rosiers Classique   2027-29  01/15  fluid, expressive, long 
****(*) René Rostaing La Landonne 2034-37 10/16 stylish gras; elegance, detail
**** Pierre Benetière Cordeloux 2028-30 03/18 soft, plump, rocky, musky
****  P & C Bonnefond Les Rochains   2029-31  01/15  swagger, broad generous 
****  Domaine de Bonserine La Sarrasine   2029-32  01/15  dark fruit, iron  
**** Bernard Burgaud 2032-34 04/16 wide, intense, authentic
****  M Chapoutier Les Bécasses   2025-28  01/15  fragrant, light touch, precise 
****  M Chapoutier La Mordorée   2028-31  01/15  solid, good rocky tang  
****  Domaine Clusel-Roch Classique   2030-32 04/16 fine, pure juice, mineral cut
****  Pierre Gaillard Esprit de Blonde   2026-28  01/15  aromatic, charming, subtle 
**** Domaine Garon La Sybarine 2028-29 04/15 local strength, intensity
**** Xavier Gérard La Landonne 2029-31 10/15 dark veins, crunchy, character
**** Jean-Michel Gérin Champin le Seigneur 2032-34 11/17 cool strength, full, character
**** Domaine Jasmin 2030-32 07/17 serious, spinal, dark, interest
**** Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Côte Rozier 2027-29 10/15 ripe, fresh, good matter
**** Vignobles Levet Améthyste 2033-35 04/16 rugged, genuine, STGT
**** Vignobles Levet Maestria 2033-35 04/16 exuberant fruit, solid, firm
****  Domaine François Merlin   2026-28 10/15 long, fresh, stylish potential 
**** Domaine du Monteillet Fortis 2029-31 10/15 dense, long, structured
**** Stéphane Ogier Village 208-302 04/16 thorough, splendid
**** Stéphane Pichat Les Grandes Places 2028-30 10/15 dense, elegant, long 
****  Domaine de Rosiers Coeur de Rose  2027-29  01/15  carefree, dashing, good flow 
**** René Rostaing Ampodium 2032-34 10/16 sturdy, fine gras, tight
**** Christophe Semaska Chât de Montlys 2028-30 04/16 firm, fresh, long
**** Christophe Semaska Fleur de Montlys 2032-33 04/16 knit, upright, juice present
**** Christophe Semaska Lancement 2030-32 04/16 intense fruit, good potential
**** Dom Georges Vernay Maison Rouge 2031-33 10/16 quiet concentration, cool
**** Pierre-Jean Villa Carmina 2034-36 12/19 rock strewn, lots to study
****  François Villard Le Gallet Blanc   2028-31  01/15  cool wine, inner strength 
***(*) Domaine Guy Bernard Côte Rozier 2027-28 04/15 country wine, good heart
***(*) Domaine Guy Bernard Les Méandres 2025-26 04/15 savoury, honest, true
***(*) Christophe & Maryline Billon Les Elotins 2029-30 04/16 fine, tight juice, crunchy
***(*)  P & C Bonnefond Côte Rozier   2027-30  01/15  solid quality, fluid fruit  
***(*) Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine 2026-28 10/15 muscular, manly, butty
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Dom des Pierrelles 2029-31 11/16 streamlined, quiet; fine tannin
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Bassenon 2028-30 02/15 nuggety, wired, Nordic
***(*) Delas La Landonne 2026-29 01/15 full, laden, long
***(*) Lionel Faury Reviniscence 2026-28 01/15 rocky, wiry, tight
***(*) Ferraton Pere & Fils L'Eglantine 2025-27 10/15 genuine content, charm
***(*) Xavier Gérard 2025-26 10/15 bright, crunchy, natural
***(*) Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy JYL 2025-26 10/15 clear juice, detail
***(*) Cédric Parpette Le Plomb 2027-28 04/16 wholesome, direct, genuine
***(*) Maison Nicolas Perrin 2022-23 10/15 enjoyable fruit, calm wine
***(*) Stéphane Pichat Champon's 2026-28 10/15 cool fruit, crisp, peppery
***(*)  Dom Christophe Pichon Promesse   2027-29  01/15  cool fruit, tight, gainer  
***(*)  Saint Cosme   2023-25  01/15  racy fruit, jazzy, w.o.w.  
***(*) Christophe Semaska l'Elixir d'Ariane 2033-35 04/16 gourmand, concentrated, oak
***(*) Dom Grges Vernay Blonde du Seigneur 2026-27 12/15 fine detail, Burgundian, clear
***(*)  Les Vins de Vienne Archvêques  2026-28  01/15  streamlined, with oak  
***(*)  Les Vins de Vienne Essartailles  2025-26  01/15  orderly; naked quality  
***  Domaine Barge Le Combard   2024-26  01/15  open, medium weight  
***  P & C Bonnefond Colinne de Couzou  2025-27  01/15  clean, modern, hands-off  
***  Domaine de Corps de Loup Paradis  2023-24  01/15  juicy, safe bet  
***  Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin   2025-27  01/15  cool fruit, solid quality 
***  Delas Seigneur de Maugiron   2027-29  01/15  backward, good matter 
***  Pierre Gaillard Rose Pourpre   2023-25  01/15  supple, oaked  
*** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Terrasses 2026-27 03/18 spartan, chewy; pesky tannins
**(*) Domaine Bernard Coteaux de Bassenon 2023-24 04/15 shapely fruit, v dry tannins
**(*)  Aurélien Chatagnier   2021-23  01/15  taut, brief gras  
**(*)  Domaine Louis Clerc   2022-23  01/15  streamlined, med weight  
**(*)  Domaine de Corps de Loup   2023-24  01/15  med weight, pine-oak  
**(*)  Yves Cuilleron Terres Sombres   2024-26  01/15  clipped fruit, dry  
**(*)  Pierre Gaillard   2022-23  01/15  subdued, more lift please  
**(*) Domaine Gallet 2025-26 10/15 bright start, bit dry
**(*)  Domaine Mouton   2026-27  01/15  suave fruit, but lean  
**(*)  Ogier Héritages   2022-23  01/15  smoky fruit, bit dilute 
**(*)  Domaine Christophe Pichon Rozier  2021-23  01/15  soft, not coherent  
*(*)  Dom de Corps de Loup Marions-Les!  2021-22  01/15  trad but fragile  
         

 

8. 2013 HERMITAGE WHITE

2013 is a dramatically good vintage at Hermitage for its fabled white wines. This year they conform to all the glorious certainty of wines that are rich, packed with abundance and able to evoke the longest lived beauties that I used to encounter in the 1970s: 1953, 1961, 1947. The MARSANNE achieved a fabulous ripeness, so growers who respect local tradition have been able to stretch their legs in making soaring wines that will present endless food possibilities as they take their time to evolve.

First of all, banish any thoughts of wanting acidity in your white Hermitage. This is always an error. What you want from your Hermitage blanc is texture, deep-seated richness, long finishes, a nibble or two of freshness, and the magic word MYSTERY. Mystery keeps us all on our toes. Mystery provokes you to re-inspect the same glass, allowing its nuances and little secrets to lead you on a mental dance of delight.

These wines are poised, balanced, full and declare only a part of what they can summon in the course of time. I place many of them as capable of living well into the 2030s, and expect them to be impressive in the best possible use of that adjective. The amount of different aromas and skips of joy here and there will mount up.

It is a crime to drink these wines young – complexity awaits them. Normally early drinking would be completely out of the question, but in 2013 can be considered by the impatient thanks to the fact that the 2013s enjoy excellent balance.

To add to the delight and prospects, the ROUSSANNE has also performed very well this year. MICHEL CHAPOUTIER remains the true standard bearer for the MARSANNE, but older readers may recall the flirtation, veering on marriage, that the JABOULET family enjoyed with the ROUSSANNE in the 1970s. Today some of those surviving vines appear on their own in the DOMAINE PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET ERMITAGE BLANC.

PHILIPPE JABOULET was the vineyard chief under the old ownership of PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ, indeed the only member of the family one ever saw in boots with vineyard loam on them. “I planted 0.4 hectare of ROUSSANNE on MAISON BLANCHE in the early 1970s,” he recalls, “while in the mid-1960s my father JEAN planted 0.3 hectare of ROUSSANNE on BEAUME beside the turn in the road up to Larnage, next to JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE.”

The Jaboulet move to ROUSSANNE stemmed from their seeking freshness and finesse in their CHEVALIER DE STÉRIMBERG. PHILIPPE’s surviving 0.7 hectare keeps the family flag flying, and he describes each plot as complementing the other: “MAISON BLANCHE gives freshness and life, while BEAUMES is hotter, richer due to more sun – the vines are sheltered, and develop power in the wine.”

“The Roussanne is oxidative, so we don’t rack it or pump it, bottling it in July or August after the harvest,” he says.

Other white Hermitages with significant amounts of Roussanne are LES VINS DE VIENNE’s LA BACHOLE **** (60%), the FERRATON LE REVERDY ****(*) -  50% Roussanne dating from the 1960s on BEAUMES – and the DOMAINE BELLE ****(*) where the Roussanne has risen from 25% to 40% since 2010. All are very successful this year, with sustained richness present.

I regard the presence of MARSANNE as vital to a white Hermitage, and its keeping powers. JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE absolutely favours the wine for la table approach, and recently has been raising his white Hermitage longer to secure greater richness. In 2013, he is especially conscious of the need for a longer élévage. “we had very little wine in 2013, mainly due to coulure (flowers not converting into fruit) on the old vines. Our final result was a tiny 13 hl/ha.

It is a year when the old style of white Hermitage doesn’t exist – it is a live year, very contemporary in style. I am keeping all my contributors except for Péléat in cask for one year longer than usual so they can absorb their acidity, and become more cremeux, more creamily textured. What I am doing is raise the wine like it used to be done in the 1950s, which goes against the current tide.”

It wasn’t only poor flowering that hit the crop this year, either. MARC SORREL reported damage for his old MARSANNE vines on LES ROCOULES from oïdium. LAURENT FAYOLLE of FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE also spoke of his woes on LES DIOGNIÈRES, where he works a treasured family heirloom of 1944-45 MARSANNE: “the crop will be small this year – the Marsanne hasn’t given a lot – its yield across plots is variable this year. It is a year where terroir influences are strong.”

Freshness, rather than acidity, is the key word in 2013. The wines hold masses of poised content, and present good ensembles to the drinker. The measured ripening season was a prime contributor to the success of the year, allied to the drop in yields, which served to intensify both the Marsanne and the Roussanne. The best wines are graceful and mysterious, and, while some take the shape of a red wine in their structure, they avoid any tannic chewiness that can stem from not quite perfect ripeness.

2013 is a vintage that demands patience, decanting, and serving in a large glass. Ideally the table fare should be of the highest order – the best sea fish, such as wild turbot, sea bass, daurade; likewise, the best chicken de Bresse, served perhaps with a sauce; wild mushrooms in their sauces, truffles also.

It is too good a vintage for cheese, however. It deserves absolutely the status of accompanying the main course of a damned good meal. You have been advised.

LEADING HERMITAGE WHITE 2013s

****** M Chapoutier Chante Alouette 2043-45 01/15 wonder child, grandiose
****** M Chapoutier L’Ermite 2040-43 01/15 class, grace, poise, the bestl 
***** Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2042-45 12/15 delicate but meaty, has plenty
***** Delas Domaine des Tourettes 2039-42 01/15 full, intricate, stylish
***** E.Guigal Ex-Voto 2038-40 06/17 full, fine, balance, nourishing
***** Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet 2033-35 01/15 STGT; muscular, copious, fresh
***** Marc Sorrel Les Rocoules 2036-40 01/15 STGT; freshness, inner strength
****(*) Domaine Belle 2035-37 01/15 rich, balanced
****(*) M Chapoutier Le Méal 2038-41 01/15 fine, stylish, fresh
****(*) M Chapoutier de l’Orée 2036-39 01/15 well-knit gras, graceful
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Le Reverdy 2034-37 01/15 fresh, well-filled, long
**** Bernard Faurie 2027-30 01/15 generous, clear, some wire
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Miaux 2033-35 01/15 long, free, harmonious
**** E.Guigal 2027-29 06/17 elegance, inner muscle, balance
**** Domaine Habrard 2025-28 12/15 genuine, stylish, en finesse
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2028-29 10/15 buttery, joli gras, oak
**** Marc Sorrel 2031-33 01/15 clear, stylish, promising
**** Les Vins de Vienne La Bachole 2033-36 01/15 fresh, finesse, sound depth
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Dionnières 2029-31 01/15 sleek fruit, fresh
***(*) Maison Lombard 2025-27 04/15 established gras, needs time
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus 2028-30 01/15 grounded, no frills
*** Cave de Tain Au Coeur des Siècles 2024-26 01/15 stifled, may gain
         

 

TWO OF MY VETERAN BOTTLES OF GEORGES VERNAY CONDRIEU

9. 2013 CONDRIEU

When I was a young man, in my twenties and writing about the Rhône, Condrieu featured prominently in my cellar. Today, it hardly has a look in, apart from my treasured bottles of GEORGES VERNAY and the CHÂTEAU DU ROZAY (its vineyard at CHÉRY now cultivated and produced by CHAPOUTIER) dating from the 1970s and 1980s, and still in marvellous shape. Indeed, I take such bottles back to Condrieu to drink and enjoy with Christine Vernay and her husband Paul Amsellem, in the knowledge that they have never tried them. We always leave a good slug for Georges the next day, too, so he can marvel at his labours all those decades ago.

The price is the big exclusion factor in my view; and if the price is often £35 or over US$50, the quality has to be on the money. A 3.5 star CONDRIEU that I “quite like”, doesn’t cut it for me, given the price. A 3.5 star SAINT-PÉRAY that costs £20 or US$35 does cut it, on the other hand.

2013 is a vintage where there are quite a lot of these decent wines, but few that really stand out for their balance, and qualities of inspiration. I would guide you to the 4 star wines or above - a total of 15 wines, about one-third of the amount tasted - as suitable for a sure-fire purchase, thus.

Ripening was a drawn out affair, and I am not sure that the skin and pip ripeness was as complete as it could have been. To illustrate this, several wines finish with burnt qualities, are a little singed, and therefore introduce a note of jarring.

Yields varied widely this year, too. CHRISTINE VERNAY, doyenne of the excellent DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY, told me: “2012’s yield was low at 25 hl/ha, but 2013 was worse, a disaster, just 15 hl/ha. The spring cold and coulure accounted for that. I had never seen anything like it, but Papa was more accustomed, with one vintage at 9 hl/ha.” In contrast, the crop was full at CHAVANAY, on sites such as LA CÔTE.

“Flowering started in the early part of the week, around 18-19 June, this year,” CHRISTINE recalled, “then rain fell at the weekend, with the vines already very fragile. We were three weeks late, and the 100 days then fell on 1 October, which is when we started the harvest, ending on 15 October: it has been my latest year. We were helped by heat and calm weather from the end of June through July and August.”

The structure of Condrieu, meanwhile, is changing. As more growers seek a range of wines to sell, like the travelling salesmen of yore, so there is Condrieu popping up in new hands. From TAVEL, the DOMAINE DE LA MORDORÉE have introduced Condrieu to their branded REINE DES BOIS range. GUY FARGE at SAINT-JOSEPH is now also producing Condrieu.

At the same time, growers who enjoy an association with Condrieu already – LIONEL FAURY, for instance - are buying in crop to supplement their quantity of home grown Condrieu. The disappearance of the word DOMAINE from the label is the telltale sign of this. LIONEL FAURY’s standard Condrieu jumped to 12,000 bottles in 2013, when the quantity harvested wasn’t large. STÉPHANE OGIER is now busy with crop purchases across the Rhône, north and south. His LA COMBE DE MALLEVAL, formerly at 3,500 bottles, has now shot up to 14,000 bottles. CHRISTOPHE PICHON is another grower who has been supplementing domaine crop with purchased crop along some of his range. His CONDRIEU is now heading for 23,000 bottles – he is of course a man with many children to keep busy!

However, both these wines have also become more standardised – they lack the real character of previous years, or decades. Their special wines, in Faury’s case LA BERNE, and in Pichon’s case, CARESSE, check in at 2,000 and 2,500 bottles respectively, and are very good, although quite a lot more expensive.

The Big Beast at Condrieu remains GUIGAL. His CONDRIEU taps into between 30 and 40 suppliers, and is made to the tune of 120,000 bottles per annum, an absolutely vast number in the local context. Guigal it was, after the early spade work of GEORGES VERNAY to defend the VIOGNIER and CONDRIEU, who took up the mantle of encouraging planting of VIOGNIER, and guaranteeing the purchase of the crop subsequently, to fair prices as well.

So CONDRIEU is an uneven appellation, with a lot of small producers – one thinks of the southern sector brigade around the village of CHARNAS, their CONDRIEU most often coming from LIMONYEMMANUEL BAROU, two MARTHOURETS, PASCAL and LAURENT, PIERRE FINON, GILLES FLACHER – who produce under 5,000 bottles each.

In between them and GUIGAL are a few who have impeccable reputations – obviously the leader for quality and finesse, at an admittedly high price, is DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY. I would add YVES GANGLOFF, with his abundant style, YVES CUILLERON, whose touch with Viognier has always been absolutely secure, derived from his family’s long association with the grape variety, FRANÇOIS MERLIN and ANDRÉ PERRET, while RENÉ ROSTAING is always a good bet for a tight, well controlled Condrieu as well.

CONDRIEU in 2013 is therefore a less good buy than the MARSANNE-ROUSSANNE whites of SAINT-PÉRAY, SAINT-JOSEPH, CROZES-HERMITAGE and, of course, HERMITAGE. 2013 is a MARSANNE vintage par excellence, with sufficient ripeness to provide real good gras richness and sustained, joyous wines ideally suited to drinking à table.

Another lurking theme behind the CONDRIEU front door is that of growers wanting to tone down their white Rhônes, and to provide what I call metropolitan audience wines that can be drunk as an aperitif, without much attention or thought: certainly not wines that demand a little prior planning as to what to eat with them. Hence they join the world mass of easy to drink whites from all sorts of varieties and all sorts of countries.

Whether this is achieved by a lighter pressing, and earlier harvesting I can’t be sure, but the most telling effect of these wines is their aversion, or outright fear, of showing anything nearly like tannin, or crunch, or real grip, as they finish. The white coats from Wine School have never liked traces of tannin in their whites, and preach that gospel morning, noon and night. It is also one taken up by young critics, whose route to success and exposure has been the tasting room rather than constant contact with food and wine when dining.

These wines drift as they finish, and disappoint me. I classify this as the new, modern school. I see it in the wines of growers such as FRANÇOIS VILLARD, who has swung prodigiously away from including noble rot harvest of anything from 5% to 20% in his wines; admittedly, the noble rot tactic was a useful one to camouflage the deficiencies of young vines, but now “Frankie” is certainly going to Hollywood at speed with both some of his CONDRIEU and his SAINT-JOSEPH blanc.

DELAS are another house now locked into this mode, as have been PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ. At Delas CLAIRE DARNAUD is more technically trained than versed in local generations of growers, while DENIS DUBORDIEU flies in from BORDEAUX and BARSAC to add his input to Jaboulet. Neither of these people is imbued with a deep-seated Rhône identity. And if the wines sell OK, then that is fine for the producer.

As drinkers and enthusiasts, however, we should be more concerned. The Rhône is a rare region that can combine ancient vineyards, attuned to white wine production – the classic example is the MARSANNE growing on the Hill of Hermitage – with an ability to ripen crop fully, and yet achieve nobility of style, and consummate longevity; the longevity naturally leads willingly into the arms of complexity.

I think of 1929 HERMITAGE from DOMAINE JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE, as well as the mighty HERMITAGE CHANTE-ALOUETTE 1953 that I bought from an ancient caviste on theVieuxPortin Marseille in the early 1970s; most of his wines were sold in bidons, glass jugs, served by his petrol pump. The Hermitage stood dusty and forgotten at the top of a shelf on the right as you walked in, out of the eye line of most Marseillais punters.

These are pantheon wines, and it would be a great shame if the new efficient school of winemaking that favours acidity over glycerol – indeed works against glycerol in a region that is naturally bestowed with it – came to be the norm. Condrieu should bear rich bounty with the delicacy provided by the sanded granite or arzelle of the best sites such as VERNON, CÔTE CHÂTILLON, or BONNETTE – all within the commune of CONDRIEU, the original vineyard for the appellation.

So, back to 2013: what to expect? The best are long, lifted, contain “sparkling” fruit that has a delightful clarity. Not many wines bring their qualities into an easy harmony. The examples that have that harmony are YVES CUILLERON's LES CHAILLETS, DOMAINE RICHARD’s VIEILLES VIGNES M DE MARTIAL, STÉPHANE OGIER’s improving duo of LA COMBE DE MALLEVAL and VEIILLES VIGNES DE JACQUES VERNAY, and the intricate wine of ANTHONY VALLET, another improving address now that the son is fully in charge, called ROUELLE-MIDI,  from the southern granite of LIMONY.

It is also a vintage where the top cuvées quite simply outperformed against the regular wines. Superior crop ripeness from older vines and better exposed sites was the key. Examples: C PICHON  CARESSE 4 stars v DOMAINE C PICHON 3 stars; DELAS CLOS BOUCHER 4 stars v DELAS GALOPINE 2.5 stars; VIGNOBLES CHIRAT CLOS PONCINS 4 stars v VIGNOBLES CHIRAT LES CHAYS 3 stars; DOMAINE RICHARD VIEILLES VIGNES 4 stars v DOMAINE RICHARD L'AMARAZE 3 STARS; LIONEL FAURY 3 stars v LIONEL FAURY LA BERNE 3.5 stars.

Various faults surfaced during the tasting. There can be some residual sugar, which is detrimental to the clean-cut features of some of the wines. There is a tendency for the default position to be an intense, grounded wine, which demands drinking with food almost by a tactic of bullying, and which explains why there aren’t many stylish, aperitif style wines this year. These wines, if taken too far in the cellar, can have firm finishes, which once more can only really be dealt with by drinking with food.

The overly tannic side this year may be due to the ripening of the crop. YVES GANGLOFF pointed this out to me: “Condrieu was 13° in 2013, but I am not sure how really ripe the crop was, despite the analyses on paper. I picked quite late, since ripening was slow. September was the saving grace, but my harvest was only a tiny 18 hl/ha. 2013 Condrieu will be more rich than me!” In that sense, 2013 was the vintage that goes to confirm what my hero AUGUSTE CLAPE has always emphasized to me, his most willing of students: "the most difficult decision we have to take every year is when to harvest."

Other concerns can be that some wines are not truly knit together – they can show dilution, and an unequal display of acidity and sugariness. Again, if you are being asked to pay £30/US55 or more for the privilege, these sorts of faults are not acceptable.

In terms of nature’s blows, there was hail on the three original communes that formed CONDRIEU’s original appellation – CONDRIEU, VÉRIN and SAINT-MICHEL-SUR-RHÔNE – the northernmost three today of the six. So yields could be down in those zones. YVES GANGLOFF, for instance, lost half his crop this year.

Balance is not a given this year, and one of the drags on that can be the high degree in some of the wines. High alcohol between 14° and 15° has been best handled in old vines cuvées - DOMAINE RICHARD M de MARTIAL (mid 1970 VIOGNIER) – for example; some other wines teeter on excess degree, and weight – the LIONEL FAURY regular wine, for instance, whereas the robust LA BERNE from FAURY, made from 1970 Viognier, handled the vintage better.  

In passing, I would also observe that the extended GUIGAL stable - taking in DOMAINE DE BONSERINE and VIDAL-FLEURY - are now making whites with an extremely sure hand. The use of oak and the judgment of the ripeness of the VIOGNIER were both successful in 2013.

Because of my prolonged illness during 2014, I have not yet been able to visit and taste the 2013s from ANDRÉ PERRET, FRANÇOIS MERLIN, LOUIS CHÊZE, YVES GANGLOFF, PIERRE BENETIÈRE and RENÉ ROSTAING, but these domaines are on my agenda for the coming months.

LEADING CONDRIEU 2013s

***** Dom Georges Vernay Coteau de Vernon 2029-31 04/15 depth by stealth; dainty
****(*)  Yves Cuilleron Les Chaillets   2019-20  01/15  harmony; shape, good fat 
****(*) Vignoble du Monteillet La Grillette 2025-27 10/15 very long, minberal, oak
****(*) André Perret 2021-22 10/15 deep, good gras, long
****(*) André Perret Clos Chanson 2024-26 10/15 stylish, very long, lovely
****(*) Christophe Semaska Florialys 2026-27 04/16 charm, freshness, interest
****(*)  Domaine Anthony Vallet Rouelle-Midi  2020-21  01/15  STGT; fresh, genuine  
****(*) Dom G Vernay Terrases de l'Empire 2023-24 04/15 great style, w.o.w.  
****  Domaine Gilles Barge Solarie   2019  01/15  en finesse, aperitif   
**** P & C Bonnefond Côte Châtillon 2020 04/16 cool, with soft gras
****  Domaine de Bonserine   2020-21  01/15  calm, deep, balanced 
**** Domaine Chambeyron Vernon 2023-24 10/15 solid, tight, true
****  Domaine du Chêne   2019-20  01/15  fat, good acidity  
****  Vignobles Chirat Clos Poncins   2018  01/15 rounded, well defined  
****  Domaine Louis Clerc   2019  01/15  shapely, fresh, long  
****  Delas Clos Boucher   2019-20  01/15  delicate, v digestible  
**** Xavier Gérard Marmouzin 2021 10/15 fresh and rich, beau
**** Jean-Michel Gérin La Loye 2019-20 03/15 fresh, stylish, v drinkable
****  E Guigal La Doriane   2024-26  01/15  big scale, sustained  
**** Pascal Marthouret 2020 04/16 enjoyable gras, gd nerve
**** Domaine du Monteillet Chanson 2021-22 10/15 clear, fleshy, mineral grip
****  Domaine Christophe Pichon Caresse  2019-20  01/15  good gras, depth  
****  M & S Ogier La Combe de Malleval  2020-21  01/15  balanced, long, stylish  
****  M & S Ogier V Vignes de J Vernay  2019-20  01/15  finesse, good detail  
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2019 10/15 beau, interest, mineral
****  Dom Richard Vieilles Vignes M de Martial  2021-22  01/15  softly rich, harmonious  
**** Christophe Semaska Lys d'Or 2024-26 04/16 beau, thorough, manly
**** Dom Grges Vernay Chaillées de l'Enfer 2023-24 04/15 comely fruit, complete end
****  François Villard De Poncins   2019-20  01/15  stylish, nice gras  
****  François Villard Le Grand Vallon   2020-21  01/15  steady gras, balance  
***(*)  Emmanuel Barou imagine   2018  01/15  honest, rich, succulent 
***(*)  M Chapoutier Coteau de Chery   2020-22  01/15  quietly solid, oak  
***(*)  M Chapoutier Invitare   2019-20  01/15  sturdy, supple gras  
***(*) Louis Chèze Pagus Luminis 2019 03/15 elegant, rounded
***(*)  Yves Cuilleron La Petite Côte   2019-20  01/15  succulent; exotic fruits  
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Vertige 2023-24 02/15 solid, sealed, sinewed
***(*)  Guy Farge Grain d’Emotion  2019  01/15  character, complete  
***(*)  Ferraton Père & Fils Les Mandouls  2018-19  01/15  smooth, consistent  
***(*)  Gilles Flacher Les Rouelles   2017-18  01/15  classic, v drinkable, VALUE 
***(*)  Lionel Faury La Berne   2020-21  01/15  robust, grounded  
***(*) Xavier Gérard Côte Châtillon 2021 10/15 rich, fat, la table
***(*)  E Guigal   2020-21  01/15  exotic fruits, spice, oak  
***(*)  Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2020-21  01/15  sturdy, oaked  
***(*) François Merlin Les Terroirs 2020 04/16 smooth gras, bit bitter
***(*) Vignoble Monteillet Grandes Chaillées 2020 10/15 graceful, stylish, elegant
***(*)  Dom de la Mordorée La Reine des Bois   2020  01/15  fleshy richness, foods  
***(*)  Domaine Mouton Côte Bonnette  2020-21  01/15  tight, solid, firm, VALUE 
***(*)  Domaine Mouton Côte Chatillon   2019-20  01/15  Wild Child, genuine  
***(*) André Perret Chéry 2021-22 10/15 structure, tight, bit of fade
***(*)  Vidal-Fleury   2020  01/15  charm, soft gras, shapely 
***(*)  Pierre-Jean Villa Jardin Suspendu  2019-20  01/15  high octane, oak, fat   
***(*)  François Villard Terrasses du Palat  2020-22  01/15  assertive, big, glows  
***(*)  Les Vins de Vienne Amphore d'Argent  2019  01/15  succulent, full, la table 
***(*)  Les Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques   2018-19  01/15  subtle, new school 
*** Domaine Boissonnet   2018  01/15  gentle, neat  
***  Aurélien Chatagnier   2017  01/15  early palate action  
***  Vignobles Chirat Les Chays   2018  01/15  low acidity, soft fruit  
***  Lionel Faury   2019-20  01/15  squeezy, pushy, weighty   
***  Domaine Christophe Pichon   2018  01/15  small gras, sensible   
***  Julien Pilon lône   2019-20  02/15  aperitif, citrus, direct  
*** Domaine Richard L’Amaraze 2018-19 01/15 wavy gras, firm end
***  Saint Cosme   2021-22  01/15  high octane, needs food  
***  Les Vins de Vienne La Chambée   2018  01/15  aperitif; fine, bit brief   
**(*)  Delas La Galopine   2018-19  01/15  reticent, tight   
**(*) Pierre Finon Symphonie 2018 01/15 OK, but plain, disjointed
** François Corompt 2017 12/15 tight, stretched, short
**  Domaine de Corps de Loup   2018  01/15  fleshy, bit rustic  
**  Domaine Roland Grangier Les Terrasses  2017  01/15  fresh, disjointed, spritz  
         

 

 

BERNARD FAURIE: RUSES SUCH AS TWO HARVESTS AT 10 DAY INTERVALS TO GET THE BEST OUT OF HIS 2013 CROP

10. 2013 HERMITAGE RED

2013 rates as a very good vintage at Hermitage; while I have been very impressed with 2012 in recent months, 2013 perhaps shades the vote between the two. 2012 is a more fine, at times more shapely vintage, and has been gaining weight as it has evolved in the past two years. The wines are fresh and clear on the palate.

2013 starts from a richer, deeper base, but also bears the signature of a fresh rather than solar vintage. I am more impressed by the top wines of 2013 than those of 2012, and would recommend buying – and cellaring, of course. There is something of a quality gap between the wines from the prime sites of LES BESSARDS, LE MÉAL and L’HERMITE and those from the central-easterly sites such as DIOGNIÈRES, and, to some extent, GREFFIEUX or MURETS in 2013.

The vintage was not a cruise control affair, however, and got off to a poor start. There was no spring heat to speak of, so budding and flowering were delayed. As MARC SORREL observed, “it was cold in April-May, which hindered and slowed down the budding; there was some coulure (flowers failing to convert into fruit) on the SYRAH.”

The weather improved a little in June, while July and August were fine. Ripening remained a gradual affair, though, and the time-honoured best sites came to the fore, as witnessed by higher levels of sugar in their grapes as compared to those from the more alluvial sites on the east end of the hill.

However, yields were spare even on the best terroirs: BERNARD FAURIE explained: “BESSARDS and MÉAL [both on the West end] gave very little crop this year.” Come harvest time, BERNARD had to resort to two harvestings to encourage ripeness from those vines, as well. “I harvested GREFFIEUX and BESSARDS in 2 gos this year, 10 days apart, the same vines. Once you had picked three bunches the first time, the remaining bunches did well in that 10 day period.”

Thus degrees slowly rose, even though by mid-September LAURENT FAYOLLE, who works mid-1960s SYRAH on LES DIOGNIÈRES, reported their degree at around 11° - lowly for that time of year when comparing to recent vintages.

One of the trump cards for this vintage is therefore the balance, with good, moderate degrees to help drinkability. MICHEL CHAPOUTIER told me: “degrees are lower in 2013 – Le Pavillon, for instance, is 13.4° - very often it is 14° to 14.5°, such as in 2012. It is a fun vintage.”

JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE spoke of his harvest, explaining that he was satisfied with the natural degree in his best crop: “we harvested in October, quickly, with rain around. From the grands terroirs – west of the road to Larnage – you were OK this year; the Syrah achieved 13° easily, and we didn’t have to chaptalise, unlike in 2014.”

MARC SORREL observed: “my yield was tiny - only 22 hl/ha this year; I have never had so little. It was the first time I harvested in October in 30 years – I started on 3 October. Mind you, another very late vintage was 1978, and that worked out extremely well.” MARC’s LE GRÉAL [a blend of GREFFIEUX and MÉAL] ran to just 8 casks, for instance, against 13 casks in 2011.

Elsewhere, the CAVE DE TAIN reported a yield of 34-35 hl/ha this year, against the 2012 level, which was a normal one of 42 hl/ha. BERNARD FAURIE, despite low crops on BESSARDS and MÉAL, ended with 37 hl/ha.

Bad weather and a lot of rain between 10 and 15 October meant that the vintage came to a very rapid close, with growers mopping their brows at what had been a tricky situation. Herein lies a clue to the quality of 2013, which is a classic example of a late, “just in time” vintage: the end of the cycle makes the year, the last 30 to 45 days.

JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE developed this point to me: “2013 is different, like 2003 was – it is out on a limb. We had no spring, and the fine weather only arrived in July, with the whole vineyard system very late. Another late year was 1996, but the wines were hard, and kept that side to them – it wasn’t a very good year.

2013 can be a borderline vintage in fact: if you take out some richness, you would have a skinny wine. The wines are pure. 2013 is tighter and more vibrant than 2012, more sealed together – it has more punch and vivacity than 2012, which is more supple.”

The consensus is to favour 2013 over 2012 – that is also the view of MARC SORREL.

My late January 2015 tasting of about 30 Hermitage reds from this vintage was a pleasurable affair, a combination of visits and blind tasting. What particularly pleased me was their accurate definition: bouquets are clear, as are palates. The freshness of the year is the motivator for that.

The balance is good, too, something I found would shine through on the 2013 DOMAINE JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE; its heart of gras is founded on a restrained LE MÉAL, not as bulging and dense as it can be, and on a striking PÉLÉAT. The frame of the wine is provided by the grain and cut of LES BESSARDS, while droplets of intricate detail are provided by a complex L’HERMITE.

Balance is the first and last quality possessed by any Grand Vin, and it means that the 2013s are accessible earlier than they are in solar vintages such as 2009 and 2010. But this year they also possess good depth, which sometimes moves towards intensity.

Elsewhere, the quality of LES BESSARDS has come through in the DELAS LES BESSARDS and the CHAPOUTIER LE PAVILLON. The former is an STGT wine, with good, rocky cut in it, and, for now, its juice just peeking out. As usual, it is not an immediately easy wine to appreciate.

L’HERMITE is glorious this year: the CHAPOUTIER L’ERMITE ERMITAGE is a stunner, a 6 star wine: it is a Grand Vin of real flair, proper authority, the provider of Joy in the Glass.

Another attraction of 2013 is the quality of the tannins; they contribute to furnishing the best wines with a smooth texture, and fit in seamlessly. The CHAPOUTIER MÉAL is a good example of this.

Among the more easterly wines, that of YANN CHAVE has shown very well for the second year running. Centred on 1978 SYRAH from BEAUME, with a touch of PÉLÉAT, it is harmonious and balanced. The PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET from LES DIOGNIÈRES (1983 SYRAH) was similarly elegant – the texture silken, the fruit pure.

As for longevity, all the leading wines will show well for 20 years, and the best, thanks to their balance, will run for up to around 30 years.

LEADING HERMITAGE RED 2013s 

****** M Chapoutier L’Ermite 2037-40  01/15  Grand Vin, dynamic, complex  
****** Marc Sorrel Le Gréal 2037-40  01/15  savoury, fine, precise  
*****  M Chapoutier Le Méal   2034-36  01/15  silken, fine, great balance 
*****  M Chapoutier Le Pavillon   2033-35  01/15  stylish, pedigree, smooth  
*****  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave   2040-43  01/15  balance, style, length  
*****  Bernard Faurie Bessards-Méal   2034-36  01/15  tasty, muscle, style  
****(*)  M Chapoutier Les Greffieux   2034-36  01/15  solid, ripe, good life  
****(*)  Yann Chave   2030-32  01/15  generous, fresh, long  
****(*)  Delas Les Bessards   2033-35  01/15  STGT; lithe fruit, long  
****(*)  B Faurie Greffieux/Bessards/Méal   2032-34  01/15  fine, beau, genuine  
****(*)  Marc Sorrel   2034-36  01/15  delightful fruit, tasty, flair  
**** Cave de Tain Epsilon 2031-33 10/15 full, mobile, polished; oak
****  Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche   2028-30  10/15  character, stubborn, long  
****  Delas Domaine des Tourettes   2032-34  01/15  fleshy, gd gras, racy tannin  
****  Bernard Faurie Greffieux-Bessards  2030-34  01/15  clear fruit, crisp tannin 
****  Ferraton Les Dionnières    2026-28  01/15  generous fruit, entertaining  
**** E Guigal Ex-voto 2042-44 03/19 muscle, sinew, rocky intensity
**** Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle 2034-37 11/16 fluid content, good spine
**** Paul Jaboulet Aîné Petite Chapelle 2031-33 11/16 red fruits, fresh length, bit strict
****  Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet   2030-33  01/15  pure fruit, silken, fresh  
****  Maison Nicolas Perrin   2025-27  10/15  solid, smooth, pure fruit  
****  Domaine des Remizières Emilie   2025-27  01/15  fleshy, free, w.o.w. 
****  JMB Sorrel Le Vignon    2025-27  01/15  sustained, long, thorough  
***(*)  Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2026-28  01/15  compact, smooth fruit   
***(*)  M Chapoutier M de la Sizeranne   2029-31  01/15  safe player, fair weight  
***(*) J-L Chave Sélection Farconnet 2028-30 12/15 sparky, tasty, character, truth
***(*)  Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Dionnières  2026-27  01/15  fleshy, accessible  
***(*)  Ferraton Le Méal   2025-27  01/15  open, medium weight  
***(*) Maison Lombard 2023-24 04/15 rock n'roll Hermitage, flair
***  Domaine Belle   2026-27  01/15  modern, clipped, improve 
***  Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2025-27  01/15  compact, quite fresh   
***  Domaine du Colombier   2026-28  01/15  ground force, needs order  
***  Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2024-25  01/15  peppery, low profile  
**(*)  Ferraton Les Miaux   2024-26  01/15  med weight, bit dilute  
**  Dauvergne Ranvier Vin Rare   2021-22  01/15  low-key, timid  
         

11. 2013 CÔTES DU RHÔNE RED, WHITE

**** Dom Lombard Brézème Eugène de Monicault red 2021-22 04/15 fluid gras, serious vin
***(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Les Forots red  2020-21 02/15 suave fruit, solid
***(*) Domaine Jamet Syrah red 2025-26 04/15 naked qualities, fresh
***(*) Dom Lombard Brézème Grand chêne red 2019-20 04/15 supple gras, long
***(*) Eric Texier Pergaud St Julien St Alban V Serine red  2020-21 02/15 bustling fruit, clear
***(*) Domaine Jamet white 2020 04/15 good body, copious
***(*) Domaine Lombard Brézème white 2017 10/14 discreet, subtle, full
*** Matthieu Barret No Wine's Land Syrah red 2020 11/15 red fruit, spiced
*** Domaine Chambeyron Syrah red 2020-21 10/15 good weight, heart
*** Charles Helfenbein Brézème red 2019 04/15 clear, naked, peppery
*** Domaine Georges Vernay Ste Agathe red 2018-19 04/15 pure, smooth
**(*)  Stéphan Chaboud red  2018 12/15  trad, bit rustic 

12. 2013 VIN DE PAYS/VIN DE FRANCE RED

**** M & S Ogier Vdp Seyssuel L’Ame Soeur 2025-27 04/16 mini Côte-Rôtie, STGT
**** M & S Ogier Vdp Coll Rhod La Rosine Syrah 2025-27 04/16 nicely thick, rich, v long
***(*) M & Christophe Billon vdp Viennae La Bâtie 2024-25 04/16 pitchy, dark, honest, STGT
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Asiaticus vdp Coll Rhod   2024-25  11/14  aromatic; will gain depth 
***(*) Dom Jasmin Vdp Coll Rhod La Chevalière   2020-21  04/15  rugged honesty 
*** Jean-Luc Colombo Vdp Coll Laure Syrah    2018-19  02/15  jaunty fruit, fresh  
*** Dom Gonon Syrah Vdp Ardèche Îles Feray   2021-22  06/15  quiet gras, gummy  
*** Domaine Jamet Vdp Coll Rhodaniennes   2022-23  04/15  fresh fruit, nerve  
*** Dom Cath & Pascal Jamet Coll Rh Gd Beliga 2017-18 12/15 go-go, crisp, drinkable
*** François Merlin Vdp Coll Rh Grands Ducs Syrah 2021-22 10/15 good centre, structured
*** Julien Pilon Vdp Coll de l’autre rive Syrah  2017  05/15  lift, clarity, neat fruit  
*** André Perret Vdp Coll Rhod Merlot 2018 10/15 plump, gras, long
*** Dom G Vernay Vdp Coll Rhod De Mirbaudie  2018  04/15  harmony, smoky fruit  
*** J Vidal-Fleury Vin de France GSM   2017  05/15  mobile, w.o.w.  
**(*) André Perret Vdp Coll Rhod Syrah 2018 10/15 fresh, natural
**(*) Dom G Vernay Vdp Coll Rhod Fleurs de Mai   2017  04/15  suave, easy  
**(*) François Villard l’appel des Sereines Syrah  2018  11/14  light, “dine and dash”  
** Cave de Tain Queen of Syrah   2017  01/15  peppery, supple fruit  
         

13. 2013 VIN DE PAYS/VIN DE FRANCE WHITE

***(*) André Perret Vdp Coll Rhod Marsanne 2018 10/15 smooth, v elegant
***(*) J Pilon Vdp Coll Rh Viognier grand-père était limonadier 2017 03/15 joli fat, showy
***(*) Julien Pilon Vdp Coll Rhod Viognier sur schist Frontière 2017 05/15 fat, lots of wine 
***(*) François Villard V de France Contours de Poncins Viognier 2017 11/14 w.o.w. v gd, tasty
*** Jean-Luc Colombo Vdp Medit Clairette Les Anthenors 2018 02/15 stylish, good gras
*** Julien Pilon Vdp Coll Rhod le bruit des vagues Marsanne 2018 02/15 crisp, spiced, apero
*** Dom G Vernay Vdp Coll Rhod Le Pied de Samson 2018 04/15 compact; fresh end
**(*)  Domaine Chambeyron Vdp Coll Rhod Viognier 2017  10/15 supple