Focus on the Rhône – Wine & Spirits Magazine

Focus on the Rhône


95             E. Guigal     $57     2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape
In the opulent, well-upholstered style of white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this feels broad and rich, with a satin texture and luxurious amounts of peach and apricot fruit. The flavors last, their nutty warmth and spicy detail pointing to the wine’s time in oak, the length pointing to the mineral structure that will keep this vibrant for years in the cellar. Vintus, NY

88             E. Guigal     $19     2020 Côtes du Rhône Blanc (Best Buy)
Mostly viognier, with a host of local varieties making up the balance, this is ripe and round, an inviting mouthful of sweet fruit flavor. Floral notes add savor and interest, along with peppery warmth. Give it a light chill for a roast chicken dinner. Vintus, NY

86             Delas Frères     $15     2020 Côtes du Rhône St. Espirit Blanc (Best Buy)
This is light, clean and fresh, with a spicy hit of alcohol in the end. Give it a chill for aperitifs. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA
88             Delas Frères     $15     2020 Côtes du Rhône St. Espirit Rosé (Best Buy)
Orange-pink in color, this is smooth and tangy, the tart cherry and cranberry notes grounded by an earthy savor. A hint of tannins gives it the structure and firmness to pair with an herb-stuffed roast chicken. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA
97             E. Guigal     $75     2018 Saint-Joseph Lieu Dit Syrah (Best Buy)
Pulled from the historic heart of the appellation, where the vines cling to a steep gneiss-based slope, this is elegant and firm, almost forbidding in its polished, well-oaked façade. Those mahogany tones course along lean, firm lines, the wine compact and concentrated, a nugget of dense black fruit wrapped in tannins and lashed with notes of licorice and spice. The wine in our bottle remained unchanged for days after opening, opulent in a stand-offish way. Of course, we opened it years before its prime—so you don’t have to. Better to wait at least another ten years, or even twenty. Vintus, NY

93             Chateâu Simian     $41     2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Traversier (Best Buy)
Florian Serguier, the fifth generation to run this estate, helped his father complete the move to biodynamics, earning certification in 2011. Today he works with winemaker Pierre Chaupin, who favors spontaneous ferments and concrete tanks for the wines. The approach allows all the detail in the flavor to show through clearly: The 2017 smells of deep forest and damask rose, dusty spice and fennel. The plummy fruit has a slightly baked edge, as if it were concentrated by the heat of the sun. Still, the wine feels lithe and silky, the aromatic complexity accenting its length. Jenny & François Selections, NY

91             E. Guigal     $34     2018 Saint-Joseph (Best Buy)
This is dense and austere, wrapping its fruit in ferrous tannins and smoky, caramel-scented oak. There’s richness at the center, where the wine comes together in a chocolate-cherry core, but this needs time in the cellar to integrate and unwind. Vintus, NY

88             Maison les Alexandrins     $17     2020 Vin de France Syrah (Best Buy)
Pure syrah, floral and purple, this is clean and juicy, uncomplicated pleasure, with a clarity that’s especially impressive at the price. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

88             E. Guigal     $19     2020 Côtes du Rhône Rouge (Best Buy)
Mostly viognier, with a host of local varieties making up the balance, this is ripe and round, an inviting mouthful of sweet fruit flavor. Floral notes add savor and interest, along with peppery warmth. Give it a light chill for a roast chicken dinner. Vintus, NY

86             Delas Frères     $15     2020 Côtes du Rhône St. Espirit Rouge (Best Buy)
This is light, clean and fresh, with a spicy hit of alcohol in the end. Give it a chill for aperitifs. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA
92             Domaine du Colombier     $50     2019 Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Gaby Blanc
Deep yellow in color, this has a low, lovely hum of quiet flavor. The fruit tastes slightly roasted, as if sprinkled with brown sugar, like flambéed pineapple, but the acidity remains bright, fresh, vivid, giving the wine length and lift. The satin texture is caressing, but it’s also energizing, with a hint of grape-skin tannins that gives it the grip to match lobster in drawn butter. Cape Classics, NY
95             E. Guigal     $525     2017 Hermitage Ermitage Ex Voto Blanc
The Guigals make this wine only in vintages they consider exceptional, such as the hot, dry 2017. Mostly marsanne with 10 percent roussanne, the vines ranging from 40 years old to nearly 100, their concentrated fruit was vinified entirely in new, house-coopered oak barrels, and all of it went through malolactic conversion. The result is an opulent, powerful white wine, golden with notes of caramel and roasted stone fruit. The wine gets fresher with air, a vibrant, lemony acidity giving it a lively feel, and the wood recedes, becoming a background spice that adds texture and complexity. Although the wine is four years old, it’s still very much in its youth, wanting another decade in the cellar—although if you open it now, it’s pretty great with a gently spicy pumpkin curry. Vintus, NY

93             Barruol Lynch     $92     2018 Hermitage La Pierrelle
This is marsanne off 80-year-old vines rooted in granite, the fruit fermented in Burgundian barrels, transformed into a meaty white. Everything about it feels blond, from the toasty notes to the pale, creamy cherimoya and quince flavor. A hint of white pepper and salt accents the wine’s savory notes as well as the freshness of the acidity. Drink this now to enjoy its vivacity, or cellar to let the flavor complexity develop. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA
94             E. Guigal     $75     2019 St-Joseph Lieu Dit Blanc
This bears Guigal’s signature, showing a sure hand with oak—the lavish scents of toasty, spicy wood its first greeting. The fruit comes up to meet it, masses of juicy pear and golden peach flavor melding into it to create one giant, seamless whole. A hint of tannins helps shape the wine and draws out an underlying earthiness. A huge wine from the steep granite-and-gneiss lieu-dit that gave this appellation its name, it’s built for the cellar and a grand meal. Vintus, NY
95             Andre Perret     $115     2019 Condrieu Chéry
André Perret has been working in Condrieu since the 1980s, back when many growers had given up working the steep slopes for less physically challenging jobs. This wine comes from his 50-year-old viognier vines at Chéry, a south-facing patch of granite and mica-schist. Vinified one-third in stainless-steel tanks, the rest in oak, the wine is perfectly balanced between honeysuckle florals, golden peach and apricot flavor and firm, savory minerality. Powerful yet restrained, it lasts for days after opening, remaining fresh and clean—a sure sign that it will age well in bottle. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

94             Jean-Luc Colombo     $90     2018 Condrieu Amour de Dieu
From a steep granite slope planted to viognier 40 years ago, this radiates freshness, from its head-turning floral scents to its crisp, sweet peach flavors. It’s bright and energetic, the acidity directing the attention to the saline minerality that holds the fruit firm. The wine’s vivacity makes it easy to drink now, but this also has the structure to age well. Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, FL

93             Delas Frères     $99     2019 Condrieu Clos Boucher
Like a ripe apricot, this is compact yet packs lots of flavor, with a red blush to the golden fruit and a nuttiness in the center. It feels young and unformed, all potential energy, wanting a year or three in the cellar to see what it might become. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA

92             Andre Perret     $108     2019 Condrieu Clos Chanson
Clos Chanson is a half-hectare of 40-year-old terraced vines enclosed by a wall. Those well-protected vines grew intensely ripe fruit in 2019, turning out an especially concentrated wine. Vinified in oak barrels, its vast golden-peach flavors are burnished with smoky, spicy wood notes. The alcohol makes a lasting impression, adding its own spice, and suggesting this needs a few years in the cellar to calm down before pouring with a dish as opulent as the wine, like a fruit-stuffed pork loin. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

92             Stéphane Ogier     $82     2020 Condrieu La Combe de Malleval
An ambitious Condrieu, this is ripe and powerful, with fragrant, floral, honeyed apricot flavor competing with toasty oak notes for primacy. It’s firm, too, with a salinity that brings it to a savory close. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL
96             Rotem & Mounir Saouma     $111     2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Omnia
Rotem and Mounir Saouma’s aim with Omnia is to build complexity from the diversity of their nine parcels spread out over all five of Châteauneuf’s villages. The diversity continues in the cellar, where Mounir puts the juice into an assortment of containers, from large foudres to small concrete eggs. Then he leaves the wines to do their own thing for 18 months, without interference. The result is exceptional in how it combines clarity, finesse and grace with structure and complexity. You might even mistake it for a Burgundy, given its garnet hue and the flinty reduction at first pass. But then, with air, the meatiness of the grenache emerges, rose-scented and raspberry-bright. The longer it’s opened, the brighter and more complex it gets, channeling berry patches and rose gardens, herbs and stones, a constant stream of impressions passing like a high-speed slideshow of Châteauneuf. Vintus, NY

95             E. Guigal     $105     2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chateau de Nalys Grand Vin Rouge
This is the first vintage of Nalys that Philippe Guigal saw through from budbreak to bottling, after having purchased the estate in July 2017. He blends it from all the estate’s vineyards—the sandstone-clay of Nalys; the high, sandy, alluvial plateau of Bois Sénéchal; and the galet-covered La Crau, which makes up 50 percent of this blend. Fermented in oak vats, then aged 18 months in oak (30 percent) and concrete, it’s a regal, elegant Châteauneuf, plush in texture and alluring in its scents of wood, berries and earth. The interplay of tart and sweet fruit gives the wine lift and movement and echoes the dichotomy of brisk acidity and firm tannins. You could decant this now, enjoying its fresh elegance with a steak dinner, or wait another decade to see what details time will bring. Vintus, NY

94             Domaine Roger Sabon     $217     2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Secret des Sabons
The Sabon family’s 45-acre estate is in the northeast of Châteauneuf, where the soils are sandy and rich in limestone; the oldest vines date to the early 1900s. They are the focus of this cuvée, mainly grenache with an undisclosed amount of other varieties blended in. The details of its vinification are also kept a secret, until its final destination, a single demi-muid barrel. The clarity of the 2019 suggests a light hand in the cellar: It radiates red fruit like sun filtered through a ruby. Underneath, fine-grained tannins gird the juicy fruit and draw out a meaty spice, the wine steadfast and lively at the same time. This will age well but it’s also delicious now, the balance of bright fruit and substantial spice suggesting a match with a paella studded with merguez sausages. European Cellars, Charlotte, NC

94             Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe     $105     2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The Bruniers have specialized in wines from La Crau, a lieu-dit in the northeast of the appellation, since 1898, when Hippolyte Brunier began building a name for his wines. The high elevation and the limestone-rich, galet-covered soils make for some of the appellation’s most elegant wines, their rich red fruit balanced by brisk acidity. The 2018 channels a bright, fresh feeling right from the start, with lots of floral spice moderating the sweet red-cherry flavor. There’s plenty of depth there, too, with earth notes that bring to mind roasted game, as well as forest floor and fresh button mushrooms. But it’s the brightness and freshness that make this so compelling, and so readily drinkable, especially if there are some lamb chops around. Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA

93             Château de la Font du Loup     $62     2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Puy Rolland Vieilles Vignes
Le Puy Rolland comes from a 10-acre plot of 100-year-old grenache vines in the east of Châteauneuf, where the coolness of the north-facing slope slows the ripening of the fruit. Purchased by the Melia family in 1992 and farmed under organic principles, the site turned out a fine-boned, garnet-hued red in 2109. Notes of herbs and roses lift its red-cherry fruit, and brisk acidity gives it a lively feel, even while a vein of chocolatey tannins adds the sort of structure and density that suggests that this will age well. Artisans & Vines, Silver Spring, MD

93             Domaine Grand Veneur     $62     2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Miocene
A selection from Miocene-era sandstone soils in the northern end of the appellation, this is based on grenache vinified solely in stainless steel; the 30 percent of syrah and mourvèdre in the blend age in second- and third-use oak barrels. The result offers both an energetic pop of red-cherry flavor and a deeper, lasting complexity of earth and spice that holds the flavors long and adds succulence. Kysela Père et Fils, Winchester, VA

93             Château Simian     $41     2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Traversier (Best Buy)
Florian Serguier, the fifth generation to run this estate, helped his father complete the move to biodynamics, earning certification in 2011. Today he works with winemaker Pierre Chaupin, who favors spontaneous ferments and concrete tanks for the wines. The approach allows all the detail in the flavor to show through clearly: The 2017 smells of deep forest and damask rose, dusty spice and fennel. The plummy fruit has a slightly baked edge, as if it were concentrated by the heat of the sun. Still, the wine feels lithe and silky, the aromatic complexity accenting its length. Jenny & François Selections, NY
94             Delas Frères     $66     2019 Cornas Chante-Pedrix
Lush violet scents and plush, velvety tannins surround juicy plum fruit in this dark Cornas. There’s an earthy savor at the base of the fruit that lends the wine a sense of gravitas, but what makes the wine stand out is its lift and translucence. It’s easily enjoyable right now, though its structure and staying power predict that it will age well for a decade or longer. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA

93             Domaine Johann Michel     $203     2019 Cornas Mère Michel
Dark and pretty, this starts out open and giving, with notes of violets and spice on rich plum fruit. Then the tannins move in, cinching the wine shut, holding its details close, so that only the reverberations of flavor remain. Give this time in the cellar, as everything points to a promising future. Kysela Pere & Fils, Winchester, VA

92             Jean-Luc Colombo     $105     2019 Cornas Les Ruchets Syrah
Les Ruchets was planted nearly 100 years ago on an east-facing granite slope. That cool exposure shows in this wine’s fine balance of juicy black-cherry fruit against firm, savory notes of black earth and plum skins. It’s chewy and dense, with an overlay of oak that suggests this is best cellared for a few years. Taub Family Selections, Boca Raton, FL
95             Château de Saint Cosme     $100     2019 Côte-Rôtie
If you’re looking for the dark side of Côte-Rôtie, this isn’t it. Instead, it’s lean and lithe, capturing the Rhône’s most northerly appellation in all its stony cool. Louis Barruol makes it from sérine, an old selection of syrah that he finds to be especially aromatic, which he gathers from a range of parcels and then allows to spontaneously ferment as whole bunches. Its floral notes come through clearly, lending lift and complexity to the woodsy berry fruit; herbal notes work with the tart cherry fruit to accent the wine’s cool savor. Vivacious and fresh, it’s a mouthwatering wine that should age well in the cellar for many years to come. Winebow, NY

95             Stéphane Ogier     $82     2019 Côte-Rôtie Mon Village
A dark, sultry Côte-Rôtie blended from several parcels, this offers a deep well of concentrated black-plum fruit, with ferrous tannins and a stoniness that pins it firmly to the sides of the mouth. For all that brooding flavor, it’s remarkably vibrant in feel, with violet aromas and a soaring arc of acidity to bring it freshness. With 18 months of oak aging, it’s built to cellar, and then to pour with a thick-cut steak. Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

94             Barruol Lynch     $88     2018 Côte-Rôtie La Boisselée
Louis Barruol works with importer Kermit Lynch on this wine, a blend from an array of parcels focused on sérine, an old, especially aromatic selection of syrah. Vinified as whole bunches with ambient yeasts, the 2018 is dark and rich, a tight and complex weave of fruit, earth and stone flavors held firm by ferrous tannins. For all its savor, it feels clean and fresh, of the earth without being earthy, energized by a sense of sun and air that makes it feel expansive and generous. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

94             Delas Frères     $340     2019 Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
A smooth, modern interpretation of this famed schistous vineyard, Delas’s La Landonne is elegant and concentrated in feel. The firm, ferrous tannins keep the dark fruit close, oak providing the loudest detail at the moment, but the fruit is there, welling up behind the oak, showing itself in the wine’s generous texture. Given time in a decanter, the fruit wins out, expanding with juicy freshness, but this would best be left to mellow in the cellar for a few years before opening. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA

94             Lionel Faury     $75     2019 Côte-Rôtie
This is ebullient Côte-Rôtie, fresh and sappy, its red and purple fruit suffused with floral freshness. That freshness is encouraged by viognier cofermented with the syrah; it’s also simply due to Faury’s light touch in the cellar, the wine aged mainly in large old demi-muid barrels. Supple but firm, the bright fruit is underlined with a cool granite feel that makes this feel as ageable as it is enjoyable right now. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

93             Christophe Billon     $0     2017 Côte-Rôtie Les Elotins
This is brusque and meaty, with a bloody richness to the black fruit, and notes of dill and spice speaking of earth and wood. The chocolate density brings to mind a dish as heady and rich as lièvre a la royale, an ornate preparation of rabbit, red wine, foie gras and truffles, though it would do just as well with boeuf Bourguignon. North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA

92             E. Guigal     $85     2018 Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde de Guigal
Guigal’s basic Côte-Rôtie is dark and ripe in 2018, with an earthy blackness under the vanilla notes of new oak. It’s smooth and velvety, even as a prickle of acidity adds a frisson of energy to its rich cherry fruit. Vintus, NY
92             Delas Frères     $40     2019 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Grands Chemins
Fermented in open concrete tanks, then aged in a mix of tanks and used oak barrels, this Crozes feels open and silky, with a deep, earthy savor. The tannins are firm, but pliant enough to let some light into the wine, while notes of red cherry and herb add lift. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA

92             E. Guigal     $35     2019 Crozes-Hermitage
This is a polished Crozes, the red fruit spiced and smoothed by time spent in oak barrels and held firm and fresh in the wine’s tannic structure. Tense and youthful, this is approachable now but better left in the cellar for a couple of years. Vintus, NY

92             Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne     $42     2018 Crozes-Hermitage
Although Marsanne is based in Mauves, on the St-Joseph side of the Rhône, he also has land across the river, in Crozes. This wine comes from the lieu-dit Les Vousseres, close to a hectare of syrah planted in 1967. Destemmed, fermented in stainless-steel tanks and aged for a year in oak barrels, the 2018 is a firm, imposing Crozes. Its tangy red fruit is held in a vice grip of tannins and dusty, savory mineral tones, and stays that way for days after opening. Cellar this for a few years to see what it will become. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA
96             Delas Frères     $104     2019 Hermitage Domaine des Tourettes
A blend of fruit from the lieux-dits Les Bessards, Le Sabot and L’Ermite, this 2019 draws together a picture of the Hermitage hill in all its grandeur and complexity. At its center, it’s bright and juicy, filled with ripe berry flavors; around the edges, it’s stony and firm, with herbal notes that accent its cool reserve. It shows some vanilla and spice tones from its time in oak (a mix of new and barrels) but the fruit handles it well, absorbing it into a warm, rich density of flavor. This should age well for 20 years or more. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA

95             Delas Frères     $320     2019 Hermitage Les Bessards
From the heart of the Hermitage hill, this feels sun-soaked and warm, with an earthy sweetness to its dark, licorice-scented fruit. With air it blossoms, the fruit turning fresher, redder and juicier, spurred on by taut acidity and herbal details. All the while, the mineral tones hold the wine firm, as if tethering the fruit to the hill’s granite base. Right now, it handles its oak better than the 2019 Domaine des Tourettes, but feels slightly less multifaceted. Cellar the two together to see which one wins out in the long run. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA

93             Delas Frères     $340     2019 Hermitage Ligne de Crete
Pulled from the very top of the Hermitage hill, where poor soils, wind and cool temperatures lead to exceptionally concentrated fruit, this is a showy wine made in extremely limited quantities (a maximum of 2,000 bottles). The berries for it are first chilled for up to a day, then de-stemmed, fermented and macerated at low temperatures in stainless-steel tanks. Then it’s moved into oak to complete malolactic conversion, including 30 to 40 percent new barrels. The result is a splashy play of sweet, smoky wood scents and bright red cassis flavors layered with more red fruit, vanilla and spice. Smooth and polished, it’s approachable now if you like that youthful exuberance; otherwise, tuck it away in the cellar for a few years. Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA
97             E. Guigal     $75     2018 Saint-Joseph Lieu Dit Syrah (Best Buy)
Pulled from the historic heart of the appellation, where the vines cling to a steep gneiss-based slope, this is elegant and firm, almost forbidding in its polished, well-oaked façade. Those mahogany tones course along lean, firm lines, the wine compact and concentrated, a nugget of dense black fruit wrapped in tannins and lashed with notes of licorice and spice. The wine in our bottle remained unchanged for days after opening, opulent in a stand-offish way. Of course, we opened it years before its prime—so you don’t have to. Better to wait at least another ten years, or even twenty. Vintus, NY

91             E. Guigal     $34     2018 Saint-Joseph (Best Buy)
This is dense and austere, wrapping its fruit in ferrous tannins and smoky, caramel-scented oak. There’s richness at the center, where the wine comes together in a chocolate-cherry core, but this needs time in the cellar to integrate and unwind. Vintus, NY

95             Château de Saint Cosme     $40     2019 St-Joseph
This is like bright and invigorating, with a bone-warming radiance. It’s made from an old clone of syrah, sourced from parcels in Malleval, at the northern end of St-Joseph, and captures the coolness of the area in the fresh crunch of its fruit and the its effusive florals. Underneath, darker notes of damp earth and stone give the wine a fullness and firmness that bodes well for this wine’s future, though it’s hard to resist at the moment. Winebow, NY

is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.

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