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2007 NORTHERN RHÔNE

INTRODUCTION

The first word that ticks over in my mind when thinking about 2007 in the Northern Rhône is "gentle". The second two words, encouraged by the passage of time, are "growing depth". These are wines that at first showed the personable, relaxed side of the Syrah, wines without a big or obvious tannic structure, possessed of a friendly juice and an easy approachability. They are wines that should be bought by drinkers, not investors, people who are happy to open a few bottles with a group of friends and let the discussion roam from there.

In 2012, the best wines have gained structure and persistence, and this is a vintage to appreciate for its wholesome qualities. For instance, I see my notes on wines such as the Guigal Saint-Joseph Vignes de l`Hospice red extolling the aromatic fruit of its old vine Syrah, and my raising of it from 4 stars to 5 stars, the drinking window largely unchanged. 2007s are creeping into contention, playing a waiting game, so do not rush to consume the finest appellations.

The 2007 Northern wines have received a fair publicity, but lie in the shadow of the undoubtedly good, showy 2007 Southern Rhônes. The ripe abundance of the latter have meant that the focus of buyers has been squarely on Châteauneuf-du-Pape above all, with attention also straying towards Gigondas and some of the better Côtes du Rhône Villages such as Cairanne and Rasteau.

So there are opportunities to actually get hold of these Northern wines, and to open them without undue fear of being too early in the game. I have been impressed by Saint-Joseph reds this year, real children of their hillside vineyards, less impressed by Crozes-Hermitage, where the more humble fruit-growing plain origins of many wines has been revealed by a lack of genuine, natural depth. Thus there has been plenty of catch-up exercised in the cellars at Crozes, to the detriment of offering a free and easy drinking, natural wine.

Côte-Rôties are stylish, with a neat potential to unfurl and caress. Hermitage - no surprise - is not bestowing one of its "manly" vintages of yore. The wines are graceful, the tannins tender rather than precise and dense. There are very few really imposing, grandiose wines. Likewise Cornas, where the fruit exceeds the imprint of any tannins, and the best wines from the best sites have a quiet muscle that isn`t obviously stated. It is a vintage where the prowess of younger winemakers has come through, those running a tight ship, with strong cellar care and an emphasis on clear-cut, streamlined fruit delivery.

The whites are good, and better balanced than 2006 at Condrieu. It would be hard to surpass the triumph of white Saint-Joseph 2006s, but its 2007s are fun wines, with uncluttered fruit, good for the here and now, and extending a little into the medium-term. They are better than most of the 2007 white Crozes, with some notable exceptions such as Combier and Mucyn. When well-managed, oak has also been successful at Crozes for the whites in 2007, in contrast to the often clumsy oak application on the reds. Saint-Péray 2007s are successful - great to drink young, but with enough depth to evolve over a few years.

2007 weather: the cycle got into its stride early, with Condrieu 3 weeks ahead in the spring. After that, the tempo gradually slipped through the summer, and by late August, growers were on edge. August had been wet, with fog as well, and by then the 3 weeks` advance of the spring had been lost. If August doesn`t perform, it is extremely rare for any area to be able to produce Grand Vin, so by early September the game was all about playing as much catch-up as possible.

At Côte-Rôtie, Jean-Paul Jamet found 2007 to give the longest delay he had ever known between flowering and harvest - 120 to 130 days, not the usual 100. "We had an exceptionally precocious start, so that our flowering had ended by mid May - there was an exceptional quality of tannin as a result," he recalls.

Presto, and along came the North Wind in September, to help to cure the vintage, much as it had done in a lesser vein in both 2006 and 2004. This year it was absolutely vital. The North Wind, known locally as La Bise (the Kiss) helped to concentrate the grapes in the first three weeks of September. "Above all, the North Wind saved us," is how Marc Sorrel at Hermitage expressed it. Jean-Louis Chave`s take on his Hermitage vineyard`s development was: "there was good fruit concentration in mid-September, and the grapes kept their acidity and balance, but also concentrated."

Thus 2007 was a vintage for experience rather than youthful impetuosity, to delay the harvest, to garner all possible ripeness that was on offer through the late stability of the weather, and to accept that this was not to be a vintage of density and probing depth. It therefore also implied a calm approach in the cellar, rather than trying to extract and to construct temples out of stones better suited to rural chapels.

Now for some grower comments on 2007, the appellations in alphabetical order:

INDEX

1. CONDRIEU

2. CORNAS

3. CÔTE-RÔTIE

4. CÔTES DU RHÔNE & VIN DE PAYS DES COLLINES RHODANIENNES

5. CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

6. CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

7. HERMITAGE RED

8. HERMITAGE WHITE

9. SAINT-JOSEPH RED

10.SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

11. SAINT PÉRAY

1. CONDRIEU 2007

The 2007 Condrieus deliver a well modelled fruit, but seem to have gained in power and headiness as they have evolved. My impressions from January and December 2008 point in different directions, the former reflecting the stylish fruit of the vintage and a more gourmand aspect than 2006, the latter accentuating the overt head-on beefiness of the wines. Likewise, by December 2008, more cellar work, treatment, oaking had come through - robbing the wines of some of their early innocent appeal.

Nevertheless, it is better balanced than 2006, where the power side and heat came through in obvious measure. "There is a roundness in the 2007, commented René Rostaing, adding "there was a lot of malic acid this year because of the cool August." The rounded theme was echoed by the accomplished François Merlin, who also pointed to a low level of acidity: "At the start of September, we had large grapes with low degree, but the North Wind came along, and over 3 weeks in September, the grapes dried. Growers who cut back their leaf growth achieved a rot-free crop," he stated. "My whites are 14.5°-15° and are rounded, with not very high acidity."

The decision about when to harvest is always absolutely crucial in determining quality for a vintage, and at Condrieu in 2007 it related directly to the style sought. Stéphane Ogier, making his first Condrieu, chose to pick on 7 September. "I adore Rieslings, and I like my Condrieu to be fresh," he explained, "and I picked on 7 September, one of the first, at only 13.5° as a result of that - which is fine for me."

Jean-Claude Mouton, who makes big Condrieus that often tilt towards 14-15°, started two weeks later - an enormous interval given the Viognier`s propensity to gain degree late and fast. His Côte Bonnette is very textured in 2007, bearing the smooth, warm tones of the Viognier fruit. His wine is for rich dishes, the Ogier is great as an aperitif. The Mouton Bonnette also contains 25% 1960s Viognier, and its lees are stirred for maximum richness, whereas the Ogier is all early 1990s Viognier, and its lees are not stirred.

High profile domaines Georges Vernay and André Perret both found 2007 fresher than 2006. Christine Vernay commented "2007 has richness, but is more springy with a tingle of freshness in it than 2006, which was very rich and demonstrative." André Perret found that "2007 has a bit more acidity, and less alcohol than 2006 - I would give them 5 to 6 years of life. I find them quite fine, with good length."

Yves Gangloff looks back on 2007 with a slight air of what he could have done better: "I lost 15% of my crop. I could have picked on 3 September, not the 10th - I had been anticipating a full crop. 2007 is quite delicate but alcohol is an issue".

I conclude that 2007 marks another vintage when many Condrieus are not equipped for the aperitif - they are simple too rumbustious. These Beefy Condrieus are not for the faint-hearted. They are best suited to properly structured fish dishes, to our old friends the awkward squad - asparagus, celery, salsify, cardoons, braised fennel, and of course can accompany smoked fish including smoked salmon and sea trout, especially if drunk outdoors.

And the old adage applies: top wines from the best vineyards, the best sites - those that formed the original Condrieu appellation in 1940 - Vernon, Chéry, Colombier being leading plots, and contributing to the top three wines of this sound, but not spectacular vintage at Condrieu.

2007 v 2006 CONDRIEU

stars  2007  2006 
01  01 
4.5  01  00 
02  03 
3.5  08  02 
12  13 

SOME LEADING CONDRIEU 2007s

*****  Domaine Georges Vernay Coteau de Vernon  top terroir in a less evident year 
****(*)  André Perret Chéry  see above 
****  E.Guigal La Doriane  all the top 3 from heartland sites 
****  Jean-Michel Stéphan  lovely, meaty Viognier 
***(*)  Domaine Chante-Perdrix Authentic   
***(*)  Yves Cuilleron Les Ayguets liquoreux wine success 
***(*)  Yves & Mathilde Gangloff  mix charm + power = 2007 
***(*)  Domaine Mouton Côte Châtillon  young vines (10 yrs), good site 
***(*)  André Perret Clos Chanson   
***(*)  Christophe Pichon   
***(*)  Dom Georges Vernay Chaillées de l`Enfer   
***(*)  J.Vidal-Fleury  discreet richness 
***  M.Chapoutier Invitare   
***  Yves Cuilleron La Petite Côte  sturdy, lobster por favor 
***  Yves Cuilleron Les Chaillets   
***  Domaine Faury La Berne   
***  Pierre Gaillard   
***  E.Guigal   
***  François Merlin Jeanraude  oak can fuse 
***  Domaine Mouton Côte Bonnette   
***  Domaine Niéro Cuvée de Chéry  the grace of a top vineyard 
***  René Rostaing La Bonnette   
***  Michel & Stéphane Ogier  good effort from Syrah domaine 
***  Dom Georges Vernay Terrasses de l'Empire   

2. CORNAS 2007

Cornas 2007 marks the continued emergence of younger domaines and growers, who approach their winemaking free from the local village culture at Cornas, which has a very Ardèche, France Profonde mentality. Thus two of the top wines are made in the neighbouring hamlet of Châteaubourg, by the Courbis and Durand brothers, whose main wines are Saint-Josephs. They can be called "modern", in the sense of seeking to provide wines that are drinkable relatively early, the emphasis on fruit ahead of tannic structure and patient cellaring. Whole bunch fermentation is not part of their agenda, and in 2007 weather conditions suited this style of winemaking - the late progress of the vineyards, and the low tannic incidence in the crop. In this respect, the year resembles the also low-tannin vintage of 2000.

Pierre-Marie Clape found the 2007 climate challenging. "It was a dry year, with the problem of stress due to lack of humidity. It rained a maximum of only 10-20 mm (0.2-0.8 inch) in July, rain which was anyway absorbed by the leaves and the wind. It was a bad year for mushrooms. As a stressful year for the vine, the skins were not really, really ripe. Thus we had the vines high up on Reynards (the supreme, central site) very ripe, but at the bottom end, near the stream, the phenolic acids were behind, and there wasn`t such maturity."

"The acidity was a bit higher in 2007 than in 2006 -  it promised to be even more acid, but the level lowered at the end," continues Monsieur Clape. "It was a fresh year, saved by three weeks of North Wind at the start of September. The ripeness had not been very complete, but the North Wind concentrated the berries; the phenolic ripening had been slow to occur, the same as the sugars. When we ended picking, there was little juice left in our Patou young vine bunches. In 1997 we also had a similar blockage - then we had rain during the vegetative cycle, but a week after the rain the vines became stressed again."

Vincent Paris was very happy with the ripeness of his crop, and found the tannins fine. For him, yields were normal to above average - 35-40 hl/ha (2006 1-2 hl/ha less, 2005 35 hl/ha). "I started 11-12 September, took 6 days to pick, and was happy with that."

For the Clapes, 2007 yields were "quite copious" - 39 hl/ha, like 2006 (38 hl/ha) but unlike 2005 (33 hl/ha). The Domaine Lionnet registered a lower 33 hl/ha.

Given the manner of the ripening, with the late lowering of acidity, the wines are easy to drink. Eric Durand of Domaine Durand commented: "2007 holds less tannin than the 2006s, and the wines are more exuberant."

Clape père and fils differ somewhat on 2007: In December, 2008, Pierre related: "it is now a bit more closed than it was - it is less on its fruit than when we assembled it. It is not an enormous year for us, but is a wine for the future. It has cleaner fruit than the 2004, more matter than 1996, while 1991 had more sparkling fruit. It isn`t easy to find a parallel year for this."

Auguste Clape differs from his son Pierre and grandson Olivier: "2007 is better than 2006," he says; "I said this from the start about our wines - even though most people are more content with 2006 over 2007. 2007 will give more pleasure than 2006 - it could be more gourmand." In agreement with Clape père is young Max Graillot, who started to make Cornas in 2006: "I find 2007 superior to 2006 for my Cornas," he observes.

On my own ratings, 2006 shades the verdict over 2007: 

2007 v 2006 CORNAS

stars  2007  2006 
00  01 
4.5  01  02 
08  01 
3.5  08  07 
12  09 

From my tasting of around 35 of the wines in December, 2008 and March 2009, I delight in the really good fruit - it is vivacious, juicy, the crop was ripe and well-judged. There was a lot more purity and abundance of fruit than found in the Syrahs of Crozes-Hermitage, for instance, even taking into account the greater nobility of the Cornas vineyards.

There are few real stars, but plenty of quality, interesting wines that combine juicy fruit with ripe, but live tannins; the lengths are good and the wines will show well especially around 5 to 9 years` old. In some of the leading wines, I get a sense that the vintage is muscled without being obviously so, indicating that it can gradually tick along and make quiet progress over time.

It is a vintage to buy, and to drink the odd bottle over time, rather than tucking it into a far corner of the cellar or cupboard. Vin de plaisir - an unusual title for the often exacting Cornas, with its mineral clip and woven tannins.

SOME LEADING CORNAS 2007s 

****(*)  Thiérry Allemand Reynard good-hearted wine 
****  Thiérry Allemand Chaillot muscular 
****  Matthieu Barret Billes Noires €55, but is a fine wine 
****  Jean-Luc Colombo Vallon de l`Aigle  first year for a generous wine, 1960s Syrah 
****  Domaine Courbis Les Eygats  the modern school, 1991 Syrah 
****  Domaine Durand Confidence  1985-1990 Syrah, central site 
****  Jacques Lemenicier  moved from w.o.w. to STGT, bravo 
****  Domaine du Tunnel Vin Noir  old Syrah, younger grower, more modern 
****  Vincent Paris La Geynale  his first wine from this prime site  
***(*)  Domaine Auguste & Pierre Clape  traditional 
***(*) Dom Auguste & Pierre Clape Renaissance 07/12 - up from **(*); racy, intense
***(*)  Jean-Luc Colombo Les Ruchets  fine style of Cornas, non troppo oak 
***(*)  Jérome Despesse STGT, improving 
***(*)  Domaine Durand Empreintes   
***(*)  Guillaume Gilles  very young, promising 
***(*)  Vincent Paris Granit 60   
***(*)  Domaine Alain Voge Vieilles Vignes  inc 1925 Syrah, top site 
***  Franck Balthazar Chaillot  traditional 
***  Matthieu Barret Terrasses du Serre carbonic gas alert 
***  Brotte Les Arlettes w.o.w. wine 
***  Cave de Tain   
***  M.Chapoutier Les Arènes  shows local character 
***  Jean-Luc Colombo La Louvée  agreeably fat 
***  Domaine Courbis Champelrose   
***  Domaine Courbis La Sabarotte  1947 Syrah meets young oak 
***  Delas Chante Perdrix  much oak 
***  Guy Farge harmonie  traditional 
***  J.Vidal-Fleury  lot of oak for now 
***  Alain Voge Les Chaillés 12/09 up from **(*) 

 

3. CÔTE-RÔTIE 2007

As a "northern" vintage, with its inglorious summer, 2007 allowed Côte-Rôtie to express its links with Burgundy rather than the Southern Rhône. Indeed, few are the vintages when these wines come forward with the fat and obvious richness of the south: 2003 and 1999 in recent times would be years that I would term atypical.

An unusual characteristic of the year was the extended length of the ripening season. Jean-Paul Jamet takes up the story: "2007 had the longest delay I have known between flowering and harvest - 120 to 130 days, not the usual 100. We had an exceptionally precocious start, so that our flowering had ended by mid-May - there was an exceptional quality of tannin as a result."

As with the rest of the Rhône, the vintage came together late on, via one usual culprit in one usual part of the vineyard - hail on 20 June that was worst in the northern end of the appellation. At Saint-Cyr, Christophe Semaska of the improving Château Montlys lost 50% of his crop, the result being a yield of only 22 hl/ha, versus 40 hl/ha in 2006. François Merlin`s production from Cognet, next to Saint-Cyr, was cut from 2,100 to just 800 bottles.

The woe continued, with small growers heavily dependent for cash flow on their top sites, afflicted: Stéphane Othéguy, the organic grower, saw the production from his 1945-55 older vine cuvée Les Massales drop from 3,000 to 900 bottles. The Massales is so called due to the hand grafted nature of the vines, the word massale in French, with Sérine, a pre-clone Syrah, as the vine. His plots for this are on Bonnivière and Leyat, both near the Côte Brune. 

However, the hail was also felt around Ampuis; Patrick Jasmin lost 4,000 hectolitres in 2007. Jean-Paul Jamet recounted that "La Landonne and Gerine were our sites most affected by the hail - they gave just 10 hl/ha after it. The hail came from Mount Pilat in the west, so any west-facing slope was hit, while the easterly facing slopes escaped more lightly - it fell at 9 o`clock at night, and greenhouses were broken, and a concrete façade that was one week old was damaged, so strong was the hail." Mont Pilat, the large Massif Central presence beyond Côte-Rôtie and in a walkers` wilderness, is often the source for such summer hail and thunderstorms.

With their central, Brune and Blonde vineyards, the Barge family were not spared the hail, but I find that their wines have made progress into mid-2010, a feature of this slow-burn vintage. Julien Barge remarked to me in July 2010, that "we were hit by hail, so the crop was down. Spring was very precocious, so between flowering and St Jean there were 120, not the usual 100 days. A lot of sugar built up, so the fermentations lasted a long time. Hence there was also a bit more Volatile Acidity than usual."

Across the northern sector, Cognet, Les Rochains, Montlys and Viallière were hit, but not Le Plomb. Any parts of La Landonne, Côte Rozier and Viallière that faced east were also spared. For Gilbert Clusel of Clusel-Roch, it was damage on the low slope of La Viallière, and a bit on Les Grandes Places, the site of his mid-1930s Syrah that gives the wine of the same name (also the vineyard on the cover picture of "The Wines of the Northern Rhône").

Philippe Guigal recognises how late 2007 came together: "2007 was made by a magnificent September - we were worried before that. It is a vintage of fruit, both in the Northern and the Southern Rhône" he says. In December, 2008, Patrick Jasmin remarked that "the 2007s have remained young a long time so far - they started to move on from around harvest time 2008, maybe because the pH was a bit raised this year. Now the wine is gaining structure, and will be between 2006 and 2005 in style." Jean-Michel Gérin reported in March 2009 that "2007 needed time to round itself, and is doing that now."

"We were hit by hail on Leyat in 2007, says René Rostaing, "but I find the 2007s have a sunny side to them - they are ripe and rich, which I also found in my 1997s. Of course, the weather in 2007 wasn`t very hot, but that`s how it is."

Perhaps the biggest enthusiast about 2007 is Jean-Paul Jamet of Domaine Jamet - he is positively bubbling over about this wines. "I would like to make a 2007 every year - it is very good in my view, with fruit and matter both together," he states. "I am convinced that it has an enormous potential - provided growers worked their vines, avoided hail for the most part and were patient with the ripening. Out of 2005, 2006 and 2007 I would go for 2007 - some people may have picked too soon, but if you waited the final 10 to 15 days, it was great. With the hail we had to destem 25% of the crop this year. Even though the Phs are very high, there is a good freshness."

From the less well-known domaines, François Gérard, the father of the promising Xavier, found that "there was a lot of colour, volume and structure in 2007," when I spoke to him in March 2009.

In tasting through many wines, ripening is a prominent issue in 2007. There is a group of wines that I term "cellar-driven" - ones with a lot of oak that have been manoeuvred in the cellar to over achieve. These are tough when young, and suggest the issue of correct - but not really full - ripening: thus it can be a close run race between the depth of matter holding up and the need for the oak to ease and absorb.

However, if the oak has been well judged and well handled, it can help the structure of these sometimes fragile wines, but it needs expertise, and that is not always a given. 2007 is a vintage that sorts out the careful from the careless - both in the vineyards and the cellar. It is definitely not a year for the ambitious headline seeker, nor for strong extraction or high yields - no autopilot behaviour will pass muster in 2007.

Taking a view across the appellation, I would regard 2007 as having a little less potential than 2006 - there is not quite the same depth, and the wines suggest a more testing challenge for the growers than 2006. There will be exceptions to this rule - Jean-Paul Jamet`s enthusiasm springs to mind, but there are also good site-specific wines. The 2007 Côte Rozier made by the Bernard brothers at Domaine Bernard - only the second vintage of this wine - is redolent of this clipped, northern site`s nature - the zing of the palate fruit, the tannins fine-grained, the reserve of the northern schist on the bouquet - all very typical. The Côte Rozier also contributes 30% of Yves Gangloff`s La Sereine Noire, and its form was suggestive of Burgundian subtlety, a wine of poise and clarity. "The pH was high in 2007, certainly higher than 2006," observed Yves, "but the overall acidity was quite low in analysis."

An indication of the softness of the tannins in 2007 comes from the Bernard Burgaud, where the wine has an early style, the initial palate fruit supple, and only checked by a mineral, lithe finish. Usually his wines require much greater time to even hint at a soft texture. The Domaine de Rosiers of Louis Drevon 2007 is similar - fine tannins, scented and floral fruits on the palate.

Consequently, these are wines for the amateur not the investeur - wines that will provide grace and amusement, superior wines to "off vintages", and where good climats across the appellation yielded good results - the Côte Brune, parts of Les Grandes Places, La Landonne, Côte Rozier. Look out, too, for wines made by non or low interventionists - those who have let the vintage do the talking, and have not sought extra pumping up in the cellar. Growers who take care over vineyard yields, and have the nerve to wait for as full a ripening as possible will also be to the fore. Finally, those who avoided the overt bad luck of hail will be in clover.

The 2007 versus 2006 comparison yields the following results:

2007 v 2006 CÔTE-RÔTIE

stars  2007  2006 
01  03 
04  04 
4.5  08  06 
12 08 
3.5  17  11 
14  14 

The above implies that the top 2006 wines are superior to the 2007s, but that 2007 offers plenty of good drinking at the steady, 3 to 3.5 stars quality level. By August 2010, I will also observe that wines such as the Barge Du Plessy have moved from 2.5 to 3.5 stars, and that more are coming together with that bit of bottle age. The result is a really agreeable drinking vintage - pop the cork, and off you go.

Expect the domaine wines to live over 10 to 15 years, with the usual proviso attached to the Guigal big wines, that can live for, say 27 to 32 years. The Jamet and Rostaing wines - as usual - will also live for around 20 years. 

SOME LEADING CÔTE-RÔTIE 2007s

******  Domaine Jamet Côte Brune  the wonder climat, ahead of the Blonde 
*****  E.Guigal La Landonne  "the most serious of our top 3" P Guigal 
*****  Michel & Stéphane Ogier Belle Hélène  true C Rozier, long life ahead 
*****  Saint Cosme  lovely, making progress, L Barruol 
****(*)  Gilles Barge Côte Brune  no hurry 
****(*)  Jean-Michel Gérin Les Grandes Places  back stage now, singing at 10 yrs
****(*)  E.Guigal Ch d`Ampuis  fresh, subtle, classy 
****(*)  E.Guigal La Mouline   
****(*) E.Guigal La Turque joli, en finesse 11/15
****(*)  Domaine Jamet  top quality, great value, gd structure *****(*)
****(*) Vignobles Levet La Péroline/Chavaroche STGT; character, delight. Tasted 09/12
****(*)  René Rostaing Côte Blonde  interesting, definite potential 
****(*)  Jean-Michel Stéphan Coteaux de Tupin carbonic maceration wine 
**** Christophe Billon La Brocarde hail-hit; gentle evolution 11/11, up frm ***(*)
****  Domaine de Bonserine La Garde  oak still needs to settle 11/09
****  Bernard Burgaud   moving into shape 06/11 
****  Clusel-Roch Les Grandes Places   
****  B & David Duclaux Maison Rouge   
**** E.Guigal Brune et Blonde rich, coated, spiced 10/15
****  Stéphane Othéguy Les Massales  STGT wine, organic 
****  S Ogier Lancement terroir de Blonde  typical Blonde 
****  Stéphane Pichat Les Grandes Places  STGT wine, access to its origins 
****  Domaine de Rosiers  STGT, flavour, appeal, improver  
****  Dom G Vernay Maison Rouge  slow developer 
****  François Villard La Brocarde new to list, tasted Nov 2009, great nose 
***(*)  Château de Montlys   
***(*)  Gilles Barge Le Combard  first year from this southern site 
***(*)  Gilles Barge Du Plessy  gaining ground after 3 yrs 
***(*)  Domaine Bernard Côte Rozier  1950s Syrah, typical of its terroir 
***(*)  Domaine de Bonserine La Viaillière  classy young Syrah vines 
***(*)  Aurélien Chatagnier Côte Rozier  en route to STGT from young grower 
***(*)  Yves Cuilleron Bassenon   
***(*)  Delas Seigneur de Maugiron helped by La Landonne crop this year 
***(*)  Benjamin & David Duclaux La Germine  full, quite punchy for the year 
***(*)  Domaine Garon Les Triotes   
***(*)  Jean-Michel Gérin La Landonne  not big, but sympa 
***(*)  Domaine Patrick Jasmin  more robust than his 2006 
***(*) Vignobles Levet Maestria STGT wine
***(*)  M & S Ogier Réserve du Domaine  half Brune, half Blonde 
***(*)  René Rostaing La Landonne   
***(*)  Jean-Michel Stéphan   
***(*)  J-M Stéphan Coteaux de Bassenon  in transition Feb 2012; firm vin, no SO2 
***  Domne Bernard Coteau de Bassenon  mature vineyard on their doorstep 
***  Christophe Billon Les Elotins  STGT wine 
***  Domaine de Bonserine La Sarrasine   
***  M.Chapoutier La Mordorée  a sleeper wine 
***  Clusel-Roch   
***  Domaine Corps de Loup Paradis  1960s Syrah 
***  Y & Mathilde Gangloff La Sereine Noire   
***  Domaine Garon Les Rochins  low acidity, drink early 
***  François & Xavier Gérard  Xavier raising quality 
***  J-Michel Gérin Champin le Seigneur   
***  François Merlin  STGT wine 
***  Stéphane Pichat Champon`s   
***  Chr Pichon La Comtesse en Blonde   
***  Dom G Vernay Blonde du Seigneur  clear fruits, loose-limbed with age 

4. 2007 CÔTES DU RHÔNE & VIN DE PAYS DES COLLINES RHODANIENNES SYRAHS, WHITES 

Every year I take great delight in the cool tones of the Northern Rhône Syrahs from the plateau above Côte-Rôtie, and from its young hillside vines. They can be Côtes du Rhône, made with lower yields than the other category Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes. These wines are all made by experienced Syrah handlers, and provide really good value. The wines have enough tannic structure to live past their early fruit, and in the case of top-class providers like the Jamet brothers, they are wines capable of at least 10 years of fruitful evolution.

2007 with its forward fruit is a great year to enjoy these wines. Among the whites, the Viognier leads the way, always a fresher version than any full-scale Condrieu, and there are one or two Marsanne wines as well. Among the best of the 2007 crop are the following

***  Domaine Jamet VdP  fab value, w.o.w. 
***  Dom Michel & Stéphane Ogier VdP Seyssuel L`Âme Soeur  schisty richness 
**(*)  Christophe Billon VdP Les Corendies  has character 
**(*)  Domaine Jamet Côtes du Rhône  to 2020 
**(*)  Domaine Michel & Stéphane Ogier VdP La Rosine  
**(*)  André Perret VdP Marsanne Franc de Pied white   
**  Aurélien Chatagnier VdP Le Guilleret   Gamay and Syrah 
**  Domaine Patrick Jasmin VdP La Chevalière   local nature 
**  Domaine Mouton VdP    
**  André Perret Côtes du Rhône early drinking 
**  André Perret VdP Syrah Franc de Pied  
**  René Rostaing VdP Les Lesardes  
**  René Rostaing VdP Viognier Les Lesardes white  some 1974 Viognier 
**  Domaine Georges Vernay Côtes du Rhône Ste Agathe  elegant 
**  Domaine Georges Vernay VdP    

5. CROZES-HERMITAGE 2007 REDS

2007 at Crozes-Hermitage reveals this appellation`s essential dual zone nature. The northern part - granite-laced hillsides, with signs marked "Danger of Snow"; and the southern part - the flat, fruit-bearing plain of Les Chassis, where I have seen crows eating dead snakes. The terroir in the north is more noble, and a year such as 2007 (and 2004) shows up the fact that you never create a terroir by legislation.

In good vintages - those with a fine summer, helpful amounts of rain, and a smooth run-up to the harvest - the southern area of Crozes performs well. Bear in mind that the southern part represents easily the most wine here, from where any start-up domaines are emerging, usually ex-members of the Cave Co-operative de Tain.

2007 shows the dilemma for growers in this southern area; lacking true ripeness in their crop, they were drawn into trying to buff up their wines in the cellar. Long extractions and plenty of oak seem to be the usual formula, no doubt advised by oenologues whose first regard is not terroir. Of course, this becomes a circular argument when one starts to question whether the southern area is a terroir of note in the first place. Thus, cellar-made wines from it are much more excusable - unless you take the Alain Graillot approach, and cultivate your vineyard organically, and do not force high amounts of new oak on to the Syrah.

When tasting through around 50 red Crozes in December, 2008, I found the balance to be hit and miss. Many wines were cosmetic, rather than showing genuine fruit and a relaxed quality. A lot of the wines were propped up - either by extraction or by oak. Certainly Crozes is the most commercial Northern Rhône appellation, the one where the winemaking has the biggest eye on the tastes and proclivities of the consumers. But there were a lot of vinification errors, which was disappointing.

The aromas were rarely clear and vineyard expressive - they often or mostly express the cellar handling - toffee, raisin, oak, tea aromas, for instance. Maybe that is Crozes` role in the bigger scheme of things - that of the one commercial, mass-market Northern Rhône wine.

Ripeness and a clean crop were clearly challenges in 2007 - I find definite parallels with 2004, although 2007 has a bit more matter. I regard many of the 2007s as being short life, low acidity wines.

As to the evolution of the vintage, it was indeed a year whose health was retrieved at the last moment. "We were saved by three weeks of North Wind - otherwise there was a lot of rot. It is a good year for the whites, more than the reds," reported Stéphane Cornu of Domaine du Pavillon-Mercurol, adding "we had rain every three days in the summer - 5-6mm (0.2 inch) at a time."

"September made the vintage," agreed Gilles Robin when speaking in March, 2009: "we started to harvest on 24 September, then stopped until 29 September because the outlook was fine, finally finishing on 10 October. The wine reflects this late coming together - there was a lot of malic acid, so that after the malos were done, the wines were very hard to taste. Now they are coming together as time passes."

François Tardy, of the accomplished, modern style Domaine des Entrefaux, reported in January 2008: "our crop in 2007 was 32 hl/ha. I find 2007 more biting than 2006, but it is better and has more colour and content than 2004, when one of the problems was the large crop - 42 hl/ha. Matters were difficult by August, and I wasn`t sure that we were going to be able to make wine: I regard it as an early year, not a keeper."

An intrinsic lack of secure structure is apparent, but time has helped some of the wines to gain ground. Alain Graillot, one of the top names at Crozes, told me in March 2009, "2007 was frankly stunning because we had very light coloured wines a year ago, but they came together softly during their raising: at one stage I wasn`t even certain that I would make a Guiraude Crozes (his special wine, selected from the best casks)." Florent Viale, the lanky and charming owner of Domaine du Colombier, takes the Graillot line: "2007 is making progress all the time - it has fine tannins and a lot of elegance," he told me in November, 2009.

Philippe Jaboulet was the vineyard manager for Paul Jaboulet Aîné before the sale of the family firm to the Swiss investor Jacques Frey. He and his son Vincent are the only members of the family to have resurfaced with their own domaine at Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage itself. They are still feeling their way with the new domaine, its vineyards having been poorly cultivated under the previous owners. Their 2007s are sound, and Philippe told me, ""2007 was immediately a good tasting vintage. In the months leading up to mid-year 2008, the wines took on density, notably in their tannins."

As to comparisons with 2006, Philippe Desmeure of Domaine des Remizières, a family who were bottling their own Crozes way back in the late 1960s, reported: "I find 2007 similar in style to 2006." Marc Sorrel, also an owner at Hermitage, prefers 2007: "my 2007 Crozes is richer than my 2006 - and I can`t explain why," he remarked with a shrug.

On the ratings, 2006 is well clear of 2007 at the top end, however. The comparison yields the following results, with more 2007s than 2006s tasted: 

2007 v 2006 CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

stars  2007  2006 
01  01 
3.5  02  05 
15  08 
2.5  15  11 

As has been written elsewhere, 2007 is not a vintage likely to live long - a horizon of 5 years suits many wines, although some may run for up to 8 years. An optimum moment may well be 2009-2011.

SOME LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE RED 2007s

****  E.Guigal  STGT; true northern zone 
***(*)  Emmanuel Darnaud Les Trois Chênes  classy 
***(*)  Delas Domaine des Grands Chemins  10% less oak welcome 
***  Domaine Les Bruyères Les Croix   
***  M.Chapoutier Les Varonniers  northern zone, mystery 
***  Yann Chave Le Rouvre  gainer over time 
***  Domaine Combier Clos des Grives   
***  Dard & Ribo Pé du Loup n zone, whole bunch, w.o.w. 
***  Emmanuel Darnaud Mise en Bouche  w.o.w. wine 
***  Olivier Dumaine La Croix de Verre  STGT wine 
***  Domaine Fayolle Fils & Fille Clos Les Cornirets  pleasure! 
***  Ferraton Père et Fils Le Grand Courtil  from 2010 
***  Domaine Alain Graillot  handsome 
***  Domaine Alain Graillot La Guiraude  live and clear 
***  Paul Jaboulet Aîné Domaine de Thalabert  solid quality 
***  Domaine du Murinais Vieilles Vignes  oak absorbing now 11/09 
***  Marc Sorrel  w.o.w. wine 
***  Domaine Rousset   
***  Domaine Saint Clair Etincelle  good first vintage 
**(*)  Cave des Clairmonts Cuvée des Pionniers  good stuffing 
**(*)  Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles  w.o.w. wine 
**(*)  Domaine du Colombier Cuvée Gaby   
**(*)  Jean-Luc Colombo Les Fées Brunes mainly northern zone 
**(*)  Domaine Combier  crisp, goes "bang" 
**(*)  Delas Le Clos   
**(*)  Domaine des Hauts Chassis Les Chassis   
**(*)  Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet Cuvée Nouvelère   
**(*)  Domaine des Lises  w.o.w. wine 
**(*)  Domaine des Martinelles   
**(*)  Domaine Mucyn  live fruit 
**(*)  Domaine Michel Poinard early, easy wine 
**(*)  Domaine Rousset Les Picaudières  granite wine, oaked 

6. CROZES-HERMITAGE 2007 WHITES 

White Crozes-Hermitage is usually a wine to bed runk swiftly, within its first 4 years or so. Unlike white Saint-Josephs with their granite influences, the Crozes lack the structure to evolve past their early fruit, and often low acidity renders them unlikely to persist in bottle.

Contrary to the red Crozes, the white are thus helped by discreet oaking: there is a gain in weight and width, and the wines acquire a little more horizon. The leading 2007s are oaked wines - the oak not overdone - and are suitable for dishes more than the aperitif. The Mucyn white is particularly attractive, a fine example of laissez-faire winemaking.          

Laurent Habrard in the northern sector village of Gervans has always made good white wine - both Crozes and Hermitage, aided by the combination of a good terroir and old Marsanne vines. "2007 will be good for our white Crozes," he told me in spring 2009.

SOME LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE 2007s

**** Dard & Ribo Cuvée K exotic vin; great finesse
***  Domaine Combier Clos des Grives  95% mature Roussanne 
***  Ferraton Père et Fils La Matinière  local feel, aperitif OK 
***  Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet  oak adds weight 
***  Domaine Mucyn  STGT wine 
***  Domaine des Remizières Cuvée Particulière  mature Marsanne, oak 
**(*)  Domaine Combier  90% Marsanne, early wine 
**(*)  Domaine du Pavillon-Mercurol STGT wine, 20°C fermentation 
**  Domaine des Entrefaux  25% Roussanne 
**  Domaine Alain Graillot   
**  Domaine des Martinelles  traditional 
**  Marc Sorrel  drink with food 

 

7. HERMITAGE 2007 REDS

2007 Hermitage captures the spirit of this free and easy vintage in the Northern Rhône. "2007 is a more sunshine year than 2006 - it is more fleshy, and gives a true fruit pleasure - people will revel during its youthful stages. 2006 is more intellectual than the 2007," commented Jean-Louis Chave in December 2008.

This view is echoed around the appellation. "2007 has very round tannins, and acidity - it is a facile year," stated Yann Chave, whose main holdings are at Crozes (no relation to J-L). This comment was supported by Philippe Jaboulet of Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet, who termed 2007 a year "to drink more swiftly than 2006. It was immediately a good tasting vintage, but after the spring of 2008 it took on density, notably in its tannins."

Marc Sorrel contributed a historical perspective: "2007 is like the Hermitages we made 10 to 15 years ago - tannins that aren`t too round, and a lot fruit - it is very different from 2005 and 2006. Above all, the North Wind saved us. 2007 may resemble 1999 - a traditional year. 2004, 2005 and 2006 were all very hot, low acidity years - not traditional." 

"Because it is a fruit vintage, I prefer to rack the wines now - December 2008 - I want to preserve their fruit, which is the profile of the year," remarked Jean-Louis Chave when discussing his strategy on this vintage. He added adding that he was going to bottle his 2007 in June or July 2009 - thus ahead of the 2006 which was bottled with 6 months longer raising.

At Chapoutier, the talented Gregory Viennois has been charge of the vinifications since 2004: "I find the 2007s are gaining in finesse and are sensual wines," he stated in December, 2008. "You can trace the itinerary of the terroir in 2007, and the bouquets will certainly evolve. 2004 was a less healthy vintage." I find that all the top plot-specific, parcellaire 2007 Ermitage reds from Chapoutier can only improve with time.

The reason for the style of the year is not complicated, and was repeated across the Northern part of the Valley - the late development in September under clear, stable skies. "There was good fruit concentration in mid-September, and the grapes kept their acidity and balance, but also concentrated. On the whites we had a big crop, around 34 hl/ha, against 22 hl/ha in 2005. We were back to a full 36 hl/ha in 2006 for the whites," recalled Jean-Louis Chave.

I find the reds in the style of 1997 or 2000, vintages with soft tannins, ones that could even be described as rather feeble. There is richness and exuberant fruit, the wines are rounded and the textures silky. There isn`t the sense of anticipation about them that 2006 suggested - the air of mystery, of hidden reserves, of twists in the plot. They deliver in an open, transparent way. If you asked the growers off the record what they thought of the year, they may well say that they were lucky to achieve a wine as good as it was, given the erratic summer ripening conditions.

Chez J-L Chave, Syrah yields dropped a little vis-à-vis 2006: 33-34 hl/ha, against 38 hl/ha in 2006 and in the very dry year of 2005, just 25 hl/ha.

2007 v 2006 HERMITAGE RED

stars  2007  2006 
00  02 
00  06 
4.5  05  01 
03  00 
3.5  06 04 
05  02 
     

SOME LEADING HERMITAGE RED 2007s

****(*)  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave  clear, elegant, Burgundian 
****(*)  M.Chapoutier L`Ermite  can develop complexity 
****(*)  M.Chapoutier Le Méal  heart, muscle in this 
****(*)  E.Guigal Ex-voto  thorough heart 
****(*) Marc Sorrel Le Gréal unforced, thorough 10/15
****  Cave de Tain Epsilon  manly, possibilities 
****  M.Chapoutier Le Pavillon  more supple than usual 
****  Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle   
***(*)  Cave de Tain like 2001, local darkness 
***(*)  Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche  southern richness 
***(*)  M.Chapoutier Les Greffieux  finesse 
***(*)  Yann Chave  modern, juicy Hermitage 
***(*)  Delas Les Bessards  STGT wine, pure
***(*) E Guigal spice, cool, fair body 
***  M.Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne   
***  Delas La Marquise de la Tourette   
***  Ferraton Père et Fils Les Miaux   
***  Domaine Alain Graillot  Pinot Noir connections 
***  Marc Sorrel   
**(*)  Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche  tame tannins, untamed oak 
**(*)  Domaine du Colombier  sappy, early wine 
**(*)  Bernard Faurie Les Greffieux delicate 
**(*)  Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet   
**(*)  Domaine des Remizières Cuvée Emilie  esp 2012-13 

 

8. HERMITAGE 2007 WHITES

2007 for white Hermitage is a curious year, one that is a slow-burn affair. It is a year whose power is well wrapped, with finesse the winner rather than obvious power. I would back it to emerge in a quietly generous, eventually rich way around six years` old, and it could well be a vintage that gains if it is patiently cellared.

Its main stamp is the influence of the Marsanne, which reached high levels of maturity. Laurent Habrard told me that his Marsanne was heading for 16°, for instance, while Philippe Jaboulet`s pure Roussanne wine took over nine months to complete its malolactic fermentation. By contrast, Marc Sorrel deliberately harvested his mix of 1930s and 1950s vines earlier than in 2006, which had weighed in at 16° - his 2007 crop was 15°, and the result more elegant.

For Philippe Desmeure at the Domaine des Remizières, it is a year of some finesse.

Jean-Louis Chave described his white as handsome, rich and silky, with a little jam in the flavours - the year made by the fine September, a year of low acidities. "You are going to have to wait for this - 1997 was a bit like this, when the grapes ripened at the end of the season from concentration, which meant a lot of sucrosity in the wine. To have the glycerol, you have to have the alcohol. We picked into October in 2007. The wine has acidity, but it comes in glimpses," he told me in December 2009, after its bottling.

The Marsanne influence clambers all over some of the wines, bringing a lot of hazelnut and white raisin. Expect a life of a good twenty years for the leading whites this year.

2007 v 2006 HERMITAGE WHITE

stars  2007  2006 
01  00 
02  01 
4.5  03  03 
02  03 
3.5  01  01 
07  02 

SOME LEADING HERMITAGE WHITE 2007s

******  M.Chapoutier Le Méal  beautiful, classy 
*****  E.Guigal Ex-voto  muscular, v long; fine 
*****  M.Chapoutier L`Ermite  suited bouncer 
****(*)  M.Chapoutier de l`Orée  rather red wine form 
****(*)  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave firm, rich 
****(*)  Delas La Marquise de la Tourette  gd eg of 2007 white 
****  Cave de Tain Au Coeur du Siècle  gd eg of old Marsanne 
****  Domaine Habrard  fire in belly 
***(*)  Marc Sorrel Les Rocoules  be patient 
***  Cave de Tain  from mid-2011 
***  M.Chapoutier Chante Alouette  fine wine, aperitif options 
***  Ferraton Père et Fils Les Miaux  stylish 
***  E.Guigal  fine, sinewed, oaked 
***  Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet  100% Roussanne 
***  Domaine des Martinelles  trad white Hermitage 
***  Domaine des Remizières Cuvée Emilie  local wine - not till 2013 
**(*)  Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Dionnières   
  Marc Sorrel   

 

9. SAINT-JOSEPH 2007 REDS

2007 is a spot-on vintage for the Syrah at Saint-Joseph, a vintage that brought out the raison d`être of this straggling appellation. Its Syrah fruit is mostly drawn from the reticent, austere granite hills that line the west bank of the Rhône, leavened by some more fertile lands at the top and bottom of those hills. The wines should possess a little tannic structure and cut that allow them to be drunk simply, solo, or with local produce - nothing over flashy.

The nature of 2007, with its late development, brought out a bevy of wines from all sorts of growers that were immediately likeable - a delight for wine merchants supplying the CHR (Café-Hotel-Restaurant) trade and of course, for chefs and drinkers alike - they are wines that complement a wide variety of dishes, of shades of flavour, of sweet and sour.

The year ran much as it did for many Rhône areas - starting well, then slipping towards a trough, then reviving. A coherent sequence of events was supplied by leading growers Jean Gonon of Domaine Gonon at southern village Mauves, whose vineyards take in prime sites across Mauves, Tournon and St-Jean-de-Muzols. He works organically, and by the moon for tasks such as bottling, but is not one to trumpet that as a marketing gimmick.

"We were a bit different from some domaines, in that we had a lot of mildew, since we were experimenting with plant extracts instead of copper treatments - we were trying elements such as willow, stinging nettles and others. We were lucky - at the end of August it didn`t look good. The year started well, too - April was fine, which certainly helped, since ripening was slow during the summer, with a largely grey July and August. By the end of August, there was already a bit of rot - and fat grapes that lacked degree. On 29 August, it rained, and the wind turned to the north for three weeks. Then on 27-28 September we had rain and a south wind, but by then we only had another day and a half of picking to complete. September gave very clear, good weather with a cooling wind, fresh nights, and around 28°C by day, but it was above all the wind that spared us from rot."

Jean finds the 2007 Syrah wines "quite ripe and round, similar to the 2000s; it is a more tender vintage than 2006. 2006 has a good structure - at first we said it would be easy, with expressive red fruits, but in effect it has a similar structure to 2005, marked by black, not red fruits."

His neighbour in Mauves, part of the historical heart of Saint-Joseph around Tournon, is Jérome Coursodon of the mainstay Domaine Coursodon. Jérome related: "there was very low acidity, in the style of 1997 - the wines are drinkable early on. August was rather rainy, so the wines are not very concentrated."

But they give great pleasure, and a lack of concentration is not a defect when it achieves exactly that: Yves Cuilleron - northern sector at Chavanay - and Frédéric Boissonnet - lower northern sector at Serrières - both took to vintage comparisons when discussing 2007. Yves Cuilleron remarked: "I find 2007 between 2006 and 2005 - it is more gourmand than the 2005s, and has more structure (tannin, ensemble of elements) than the 2006s."  

Fred Boissonnet drew comparisons with 2006. For him, "2007 is quite similar to 2006 - it is more tender than 2006, also easy to drink. The 2006s had elegance, suppleness and finesse - although they could be drunk quite early, the 2006s have a mid-term life span. I compare 2006 to 2004, but the 2006s are more concentrated and have a greater touch of elegance, and better ripeness."

2007 v 2006 SAINT-JOSEPH RED

stars  2007  2006 
02  00 
07  01 
3.5  08  08 
10  16 
2.5  15  20 

The word "approachable" was used by Eric Durand of the thriving Domaine Durand that he runs with his brother Joël in the southern village of Châteaubourg. But he noted, in March 2009, "the 2007 reds are capricious at the moment; our Saint-Joseph Les Coteaux was very much on the fruit until February 2009, then it gained a strong note of reduction." As for their other Saint-Joseph, he stated: "often our Lautaret - from the granite, stony soil at 250 metres - is firm, but 2007 is more approachable." In similar vein to Durand on his Les Coteaux, François Merlin remarked in November 2009 that he thought the 2007 reds may close down.

Pascal Marthouret, a talented winemaker on the plateau at Charnas, just in the northern sector of Saint-Joseph, is a fan  of 2007. In November 2009, he told me: "the advantage of 2007 is a passe partout wine (go anywhere wine) - it can be drunk now because of its fruit, but it also has tight tannins that will allow it to age. His 2007 has received both w.o.w. status on first tasting in December 2008, followed by STGT on second tasting in November 2009. 

Such descriptions from the growers fully match my findings across many samples tasted: these are fun, juicy wines, good and uncluttered, wines with lots of fruit and a clear tone about them. I note that 8 qualify for the w.o.w. description (what one wants), against 5 in 2006. I do not expect the 2007s to make progress and gain in amplitude and complexity in the manner of the 2006s, and would shelve it under a drink now to medium-term vintage, while its main card, its bright fruit, is alive and kicking - perhaps a horizon of 6 to 7 years for many.

SOME LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH RED 2007s

*****  Delas Saint-Epine  great juice, pure qualities 
*****  E.Guigal Vignes de l`Hospice  v joli, lovely floral purity 
****  M.Chapoutier Les Granits  1930s, 1950s Syrah 
****  Domaine Jean-Louis Chave  poise, local 
****  Delas François de Tournon  generous fruit, superior St Jo 
****  Domaine Faury La Gloriette  gd balance 
**** E Guigal Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph stylish gras, savoury, 10/15
****  Domaine Monier Terre Blanche  free wheeler, flair 
****  François Villard Reflet  tastd 11/09, gd all thru 
***(*)

Gilles Barge Clos des Martinets 

2 st Dec 08 to 3.5 st May 2013
***(*)  Domaine Durand Lautaret  beguiling 
***(*)  Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille   
***(*)  Domaine Gonon   
***(*)  André Perret Les Grisières   
***(*)  Saint Cosme  good, modern wine, L Barruol 
***(*)  Domaine du Tunnel  w.o.w. wine 
***(*)  Vidal-Fleury  w.o.w. wine 
***  Aurélien Chatagnier  fresh drop 
***  Jean-Luc Colombo Les Lauves  St-Jean-de-Muzols 
***  Domaine Coursodon L`Olivaie  1940s Syrah 
***  Yves Cuilleron Les Serines  old Syrah, inc 1936 
***  Christophe Curtat Nomade   
***  Pierre Gaillard Les Pierres   
***  Domaine Gripa Le Berceau   
***  Pascal Marthouret  w.o.w. 
***  Domaine Mucyn   
***  Domaine Vallet Les Muletiers  natural 
***  Dom Georges Vernay La Dame Brune  cautious for now 
***  François Villard Gran Reflet  tasted nov 2009, still in oak 
**(*)  Emmanuel Barou  organic, local feel 
**(*)  Louis Chèze Ro-Rée  w.o.w. 
**(*)  Domaine de la Côte Saint-Epine V Vignes  progress 
**(*)  Domaine Courbis Les Royes  needs time 
**(*)  Domaine Coursodon Silice  w.o.w. 
**(*)  Domaine Durand Les Coteaux   
**(*)  Domaine Jean-Michel Gérin  oak, gd debut 
**(*)  François Merlin  pure style 
**(*)  Christophe Pichon   
**(*)  SCEA La Tache Cuvée Badel   
**(*)  SCEA La Tache Cuvée Guillamy  good trad 
**(*)  Domaine Vallet   
**(*)  Domaine Vallet Les Rouasses  w.o.w. to Belgium 
**(*)  Domaine Georges Vernay  w.o.w. 
**(*)  François Villard Mairlant  tasted 11/09 fresh, smoky 

 

10. SAINT-JOSEPH 2007 WHITES

After the triumph of 2006, the whites of Saint-Joseph returned to a more humble platform in 2007. Nevertheless, there was the opportunity for wines to show faithful signs of terroir, and to be agreeably full, without the exuberant packing that marked 2006 across the board.

Jean Gonon with his lovely site Les Oliviers on the Tournon-Mauves border, a mere bath toy`s float down from the Syrah bar, indicated a challenge he faced with this vintage - bear in mind that this domaine is a supreme example of laissez-faire winemaking: ""we had to do more lees stirring this year than usual to obtain volume in the whites," he told me, and his wine is agreeable, but not as striking as usual.

Jean`s neighbour Fabrice Gripa likes wines that are easy to drink, and can be drunk soon, so for him 2007 was agreeable: "I prefer our white Saint-Joseph 2007 (80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne) to our 2006," he said; "there is more matter and more wine in it, and it is better balanced,"  adding, "2007 is my sort of style - it is a harmonious vintage."

On the ratings, the comparison with 2006 reveals a clear winner, but 2007 is still a user-friendly vintage, and, once more, I am left to bemoan the lack of enthusiasm of merchants to import these affable companions to a wide range of foods and flavours. ALLEZ, WHITE RHÔNE!

2007 v 2006 SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

stars  2007  2006 
4.5  01  02 
01  02 
3.5  03  06 
05  10 
2.5  06  08 

 

SOME LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE 2007s

****(*)  Domaine Gonon Les Oliviers  improver, classy 
****  M.Chapoutier Les Granits  STGT, yo, Mike 
***(*)  Aurélien Chatagnier  real road runner 
***(*)  Domaine Faury  elegant, local 
***(*)  Domaine Gripa Le Berceau  lovely Marsanne 
***(*)  E.Guigal Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph  14 years of life 
***  M.Chapoutier   
***  Domaine de la Côte Saint-Epine  STGT 
***  Domaine Coursodon Le Paradis Saint-Pierre  scallops, maestro! 
***  Yves Gangloff  gd debut, Baba Cool 
***  Domaine Gripa   
**(*)  Etienne Becheras  STGT, 50% Roussanne 
**(*)  E.Guigal  25-30,000 btls, gd 
**(*)  Pascal Jamet Vignoble de la Tour d`Arras  100% Roussanne 
**(*)  Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne  trad 
**(*)  André Perret   

 

11. SAINT PÉRAY 2007

Once more proving the quality of the vineyards, 2007 was a good year at Saint-Péray, with  a shade more style and depth in the wines than the 2006s. It was also a year further on for more recent vinifiers such as Cuilleron and Villard, while the trusty stable of Auguste Clape as usual delivered a supreme example of STGT wine, the vintage stamp harmoniously secure within it.

The Chapoutier was a rare example of a wine combining both the easy pleasure of w.o.w. and the correct, more precise nature of STGT - a true representative of its place, from the prime site of Hongrie, a classic hillside with the granite or gore high up, and more fine white-yellow clay further down. The lower soils provide rich wine that is capable of living.

Looking through the domaines represented at Saint-Péray, now is a golden period, with very capable operators now focusing on the appellation: no reason why these wines should not enjoy a quiet flourish over the next few years, therefore.

stars  2007  2006 
3.5  02  00 
06  06 
2.5  02  03 

SOME LEADING SAINT-PÉRAY 2007s

***(*)  M.Chapoutier Les Tanneurs  rare w.o.w. & STGT 
***(*)  Domaine Alain Voge Fleur de Crussol  rich 
***  Domaine Auguste & Pierre Clape  STGT 
*** Domaine Gripa Les Figuiers progress Nov 2011
***  Domaine Gripa Les Pins  mainly Marsanne 
***  Domaine du Tunnel Roussanne   
***  François Villard Version   
***  Domaine Alain Voge Harmonie  true to its name 
**(*)  Domaine Stéphane Chaboud Cépage Roussanne   
**(*)  Yves Cuilleron Les Cerfs  oaked Marsanne