BERNARD FAURIE READY TO SHOW HIS 2011 HERMITAGE AND SAINT-JOSEPH IN HIS INTIMATE CELLAR OUTSIDE TOURNON IN THE ARDÈCHE. HIS HERMITAGES PICK THE POCKET OF THE GOOD TERROIRS OF BESSARDS, MÉAL AND GREFFIEUX THIS YEAR
2011 Saint-Joseph whites are flanked by two superior years, 2010 and 2012. Balance and underlying freshness are superior in those two vintages. However, the best are agreeable, well toned towards a stylish showing, with floral tones present.
The grapes were big and attractive according to growers, with a low level of acidity and a lack of stuffing the main problem I encountered. JEAN GONON, who has the honour to work with 50-year plus vines, told me: “the 2011 total acidity is low, but the pH levels are not very high – which gives the palate more tonic and freshness.” If growers were working with young vines, on the other hand, there was a potential lack of length and grip in the wines.
Indeed several wines faded after half way along the palate, having offered early density. This makes them most suitable to aperitif drinking, or with Vieille France cuisine, where cut and raciness are not as much a necessity when paired with butter-based dishes.
One underlying theme is the trend to making the wines safer – more style, sophistication, a lighter touch all round. The days of extreme ripeness, sucrosity and overt fat have been replaced by more trim wines that in some cases have taken this revised concept to the point of tameness. One wants the whites from south ofLyonto have the guts to go with garlic and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, and to respect the role of glycerol in the wines as their main orchestrator over acidity.
This year the imprint of the wines is led by a good performance from the MARSANNE, which was also the case at CROZES-HERMITAGE. The older the vines, the better: the YVES CUILLERON LOMBARD (100% MARSANNE back to 1967) is a good example. For a wine that truly finishes well, look to the CHAPOUTIER GRANILITES (100% MARSANNE), while the GUIGAL LIEU-DIT SAINT-JOSEPH (97% MARSANNE of 1968, 1973 and 2004) is extremely long, its fine gras richness retained all through. These are expensive, but serious, wines.
I would be happy to drink a white Saint-Joseph in a restaurant, since I know it would make an immediate impression and would show well in a broad glass (ask for one). If buying for home consumption, I would be more circumspect. Perhaps the JULIEN PILON DIMANCHE À LIMA (75% MARSANNE, 25% ROUSSANNE) – a well made, smooth STGT wine from this talented young producer – or the harmonious DOMAINE GRIPA (75% MARSANNE, oldest 1971), the classic and therefore cheaper wine of the two they make.
As for longevity, many feature around seven to 10 years, the fullest capable of doing well for more like 12 to 15 years.
|****(*)||E.Guigal Lieu Dit Saint-Joseph||2025-27||05/13||complex: long, gras|
|****(*)||2019-21||12/12||stylish; pure fruit|
|****||Yves Cuilleron Le Lombard||2018-19||11/12||ripe texture, some class|
|****||Ferraton Les Oliviers||2020-21||11/12||body, complete; long|
|****||Domaine Gonon Les Oliviers||2022-24||11/12||rich, full, trad, muscle|
|****||Christophe Pichon||2019||10/12||STGT; great elegance|
|***(*)||Cave de Tain Terre d’Ivoire||2019-20||11/12||rich, oak, hidden|
|***(*)||M Chapoutier Les Granilites||2020-21||11/12||STGT; grounded, long|
|***(*)||M Chapoutier Les Granits||2023-25||11/12||full-on; gras, oaking|
|***(*)||Dom Coursodon Le Paradis St Pierre||2020-21||11/12||gras, robust, tangy|
|***(*)||Domaine Coursodon Silice||2018||11/12||fine harmony|
|***(*)||Yves Cuilleron Lyseras||2018||11/12||stylish, decent acidity|
|***(*)||Ferraton La Source||2019||11/12||character, bit wild|
|***(*)||Domaine Gripa||2017-18||11/12||harmony, order, gras|
|***(*)||Julien Pilon dimanche à lima||2019||11/12||STGT; smooth|
|***(*)||Domaine Richard||2018-19||11/12||aromatic, quite long|
|***(*)||André Perret||2017||10/12||clean, clear, tidy|
|***||Cave de Tain||2017||11/12||STGT; grain, tang|
|***||Yves Cuilleron Saint-Pierre||2018||11/12||waxen, grippy, grounded|
|***||Domaine Faury||2016-17||11/12||apero, fresh, graceful|
|***||Domaine Gripa Le Berceau||2019-21||11/12||tight, beefy|
|***||Jean-Claude Marsanne||2017-18||11/12||local; country foods|
|***||Eric Rocher Mayane||2017||11/12||75% R; gentle, quite genuine|
|***||Domaine Vallet Méribets||2018-19||11/12||80% R; gras; thick style|
|***||J Vidal-Fleury||2016||11/12||early drinking, agreeable|
|***||Pierre-Jean Villa Saut de l’Ange||2016||11/12||bang on aperitif|
|***||François Villard Mairlant||2018||11/12||correct; give time|
|***||Dom de La Ville Rouge Cuvée Lenny||2016||11/12||65% R; rich style, foods|
|**(*)||M Chapoutier Deschants||2019||11/12||tight, bit on edge|
|**(*)||Delas Les Challeys||2018||11/12||correct, uninspiring|
|**(*)||Guy Farge vania||2015-16||02/12||ripe sweetness|
|**(*)||François Villard Fruit d’Avilleron||2016||11/12||escapist fruit|
2011 at Cornas is a not an Agatha Christie vintage – there is little sense of mystery. The wines are straightforward, not as packed in as in the leading vintages, and present an accessible entrée to those trying Cornas for the first time. The best carry very appealing flroal notes - witness the DOMAINE CLAPE and both the CHAILLOT and REYNARD from THIÉRRY ALLEMAND - so charm is in the air.
Unless selecting those two domaines, this is not, therefore, a vintage to cellar assiduously across the board, awaiting a moment of glorious flowering after a cussed start. These are more convivial wines than usual, open and easy to appreciate. I have found them very consistent on the palate, formed of two stages. The first is marked by fruit that ranges from juicy to abundant and generous. The second stage brings slightly darker notes from tannins, or oak.
“Structure” – meaning a classic assembly of properly deep content backed by brisk or fresh young tannins – is not often in evidence, although wines such as the GRANIT 60 from VINCENT PARIS can claim to show some structure, built around forceful late tannins.
It is a good to sometimes very good year, and I would not put anyone off buying the wines, especially those with the undertow of potential development – those from the classic top names of ALLEMAND, CLAPE – and those in the eye of the vintage, ones offering short-term harmony and pleasure. In this category feature names of domaines with a modern approach, those that do not seek the full display of tannin of which CORNAS is capable. I would nominate wines such as the two DURAND wines, the PRÉMICES more immediately than the EMPREINTES, and also the DOMAINE COURBIS SABAROTTE and the TARDIEU-LAURENT COTEAUX (their second tier Cornas).
Ripening did not run evenly, so that there were dips and halts along the way. As a result, in the words of PIERRE CLAPE, “the form of the year was shaped by rather incomplete maturity – the late August high heat between the 20th and the 28th and the subsequent days, which were at 35°C, not 24°C. That led to a blocking of ripening due to the heat, and not due to hydric stress, which is a lot more commonly the case. The grapes became puckered and flat. Acidities lowered very slowly, and the sugars didn’t budge. The difference between the old vines and the young vines was greater than normal, as well – the old vines suffered less at the end of the cycle, and kept more concentration.”
The ripening season started almost without a classic quarterly season to set it on its orderly way; LUDOVIC IZÉRABLE of the traditional, STGT, DOMAINE LIONNET reported: “there was no real spring this year – we went virtually from winter to summer, and May was very dry and resembled a high summer month in style.”
DRY EARLY ON
Conditions became very dry early on, with ANNE COLOMBO, who plays an important role at DOMAINE JEAN-LUC COLOMBO explaining in mid-June: “we had intense drought for six to eight weeks; from early June for 10 days we had a few storms, a bit of rain, but it’s still very dry at depth – there has been an irregular distribution of rain – we had one 50 mm (2 in) storm on the night of 3-4 June and one 10 mm (0.4 in) fall recently. Much of the storm water ran off the dry soils, so was inefficient. The vegetation isn’t showing symptoms of drought, though in some places it has been growing less quickly than usual. It was quite cool until 14 June, then it rocketed up to 30°C on 16 June. There has been no mildew this year, but we still need to protect against oïdium.”
LUDOVIC IZÉRABLE termed the early June rain “magnificent.” “In early June we had a 40 mm (1.8 inch) fall, and another 20 mm (0.8 in) around 10 June, just after flowering which took place in hot and dry conditions. Nights have been fresh.”
Not everyone was able to profit from the rain, though. The storm swathe that cut across from the west hit JACQUES LEMENICIER, who in mid-August told me: “I had hail on my vines in June after a large budding. By mid-August, we were two weeks ahead, and I was obliged to drop grapes, leaving me then at around 35 hl/ha or more. We have had August rain, even a bit much - 80 mm (3.2 in) - but no storms. One big storm of 30 mm (1.2 in) fell in just 10 minutes. Now the vineyard is super beau.”
PIERRE CLAPE also reported some hail damage in July: “we had 53 mm (just over 2 in) in two falls – 43 mm (1.6 in) then 10 mm (0.4 in), a very little hail, but the rain did help. We had 3 mm of rain on 7 July, then some hail on 10 July – that left perhaps 5% damage. By mid-July the vineyard was pretty dry, and anywhere with a lack of leaves suffered. Temperatures ran around 32-33°C in the first week of July, but the rain of 12 July brought the temperature down from 32°C to 24°C.”
YOUNG VINES: LIGHT WINES
Bunches on the younger vines under 30 years old held fat berries, and when harvested, the relative abundance and lack of tip-top maturity meant a tendency in some of these cuvées towards the dilute. FRANCK BALTHAZAR related: “I wasn’t content with my young vines wine, so I declassified into CÔTES DU RHÔNE part of LES MAZARDS – the best part of MAZARDS is 1961 Syrah, and that went into my CORNAS CASIMIR BALTHAZAR.”
The veraison – changing of colour of the grape skins – was early this year, on the go by mid-July, as opposed to the old days – the 1980s and 1990s, for instance - when it would start in the last week of July. “30-40% of the veraison had completed by mid-July,” PIERRE CLAPE informed me. “That is particularly early.”
FRESH NIGHTS PLAYED A QUIET ROLE
The shape of the vintage – facile wines – would have been further aggravated if nights had not been fresh before August; the image of low acidity crop and incomplete ripeness would have propelled the growers towards a highly technical, cellar-led vintage, so the fine line there was happily not crossed.
A jam-like style is sometimes referred to, which has an immediate ring of the year 2000, a low tannin and acidity vintage, about it. In the words of OLIVIER CLAPE: “the end August high heat blocked the young vines’ ripening; the end of July rain having got them going, the result being very big grapes. The August heat halted their ripening, which is where the jam style fruit comes from. Our yield went to 40 hl/ha this year.”
Hence the comments on the year cluster around a sub-text of some relief about what was avoided, and a realistic view that the wines are not heroic, but are nevertheless useful commercially for earlier than usual appreciation and drinking.
THE YOUNG VIGNERON VIEW
Younger growers gave their verdicts to me. GUILLAUME GILLES, who has definite eye for detail and a thirst for perfection, regarded the year thus: “2011 has finesse due to the fact that the crop maturity wasn’t very pronounced, a logical outcome.”
JÉRÔME DESPESSE, who doubles up with a high profile job for the cork maker AMORIM, stated: “after 2009 and 2010 being such top vintages, 2011 and 2012 are obviously not so good. I prefer 2012 to 2011.” His 2011 is indeed a rather limited event.
JOHANN MICHEL emphasized: “I find the 2011 fruit pretty exuberant.” Meanwhile, MAXIME GRAILLOT, who works with the ELIE BANCEL vineyards, and vinifies at his CROZES-HERMITAGE base is enthusiastic, also a fruit lover: “It is super, a Cornas for debutant drinkers because it is super gourmand; it was a bit over the limit on yields, so the fruit was upbeat and didn’t pose questions. It doesn’t have the power and depth of most years. I kept 20% of the crop with its stems, against 33% in the superior 2012.”
LUDOVIC IZÉRABLE, husband of CORINNE LIONNET, was happy with the year: “It is very Cornas in style, very structured, has a spinal column, just a little astringency from the use of whole bunches, - we don’t destem. Our Cornas is persistent, and the balance is good,” he told me.
T.ALLEMAND: THE CONTRARIAN ANGLE
An enthusiast is THIÉRRY ALLEMAND, who quite often likes to make the Bold Statement – he would be a Contrarian were he to work in financial markets. His view was: “2011 could be better than 2010 in some years’ time. It is good, and above all, very fine. It was very floral, then went through a hard passage until August-September 2012, then back on a floral track now in November 2012. I reached 28 hl/ha - high for me.”
I was impressed with both of THIÉRRY’s cuvées this year: the CHAILLOT subtle and gracious, the REYNARD, quite correctly, possessing a true lining of tannin in support of a good, stable core. His ability always comes through in lesser vintages, just as it does for the CLAPE family. However, it takes something of a leap of both imagination and trust to confer “superior to the mighty 2010” status on 2011, in my opinion. I am an unconditional supporter of 2010 across the board.
In contrast, PIERRE CLAPE made a more sober assessment of the year when discussing it with me in mid-2014: “2011 is a bit average, but I like it well. It is the least good of the past three years – which I rate 2013 ahead of 2012, ahead of 2011 – in terms of structure and construction. It is more “small” than the other two vintages – the fruit is more simple, and there is less concentration. The colour is lower than 2012. The degree is 12.8° - low compared to recent years. It is a good 2008, which drinks in super form now, at six years old.
As an idea on the style of the vintage, our 2011 RENAISSANCE cuvée is like the first years of it, when the vines were indeed young, while the 2010 RENAISSANCE was a more complete wine – that was a beau petit Cornas, in fact,” he concluded.
POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENT OVER TIME
ERIC DURAND, though, did point to improvement over time. He commented: “our CORNAS 2011s have taken on more grip and late tannin since September 2012 – before that they were confected . . . . I would compare it to 2000, and it is a year of quite low acidity.”
A WESTMACOTT RATHER THAN CHRISTIE YEAR, AND ITS KEEPING POTENTIAL
So, here you have CORNAS 2011: no Mysterious Affair at Styles, but perhaps a more MARY WESTMACOTT [a literary clue, mes amis] construction in the wines.
CELLARING: with the leading names of CLAPE and ALLEMAND, we are talking 20+ years. With many of the more new wave CORNAS, we are talking 15 to 20 years. There will certainly be some, such as the JOHAN MICHEL CUVÉE JANA, the DURAND EMPREINTES, the FERRATON PATOU and the largely traditional FRANCK BALTHAZAR CHAILLOT, which are stylish but also will become more diverse, more complex and even more rugged if left, their depth of foundation possibly expanding as well.
|*****||Ferraton Patou||2024-26||11/12||stylish, classy|
|*****||Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes||2026-28||11/12||full; major Cornas 2011|
|****(*)||Thiérry Allemand Reynard||2034-36||04/16||inky content, pep, STGT|
|****(*)||Thiérry Allemand no SO2 Reynard||2031-33||10/16||zip, drive, concerted juice|
|****(*)||Domaine Clape||2030-33||12/13||solid heart, fruit goes long|
|****(*)||Domaine Durand Empreintes||2026-27||11/12||modern, clear struck Cornas|
|****(*)||Vincent Paris La Geynale||2026-27||11/12||large scale, dense|
|****(*)||Vincent Paris Granit 60||2026-28||11/12||structure, character, upright|
|****||Thiérry Allemand Chaillot||2030-32||12/15||stylish, aromatic, clear|
|****||Franck Balthazar Chaillot||2029-31||11/12||stylish, fruit-filled|
|****||Domaine Courbis La Sabarotte||2022-24||11/12||pedigree Syrah; elegant|
|****||Dumien Serrette Patou||2024-25||11/12||sturdy, promising|
|****||Domaine Durand Prémices||2024-25||11/12||unbridled fruit, w.o.w.|
|****||Guy Farge harmonie||2021-22||11/12||STGT, precise, traditional|
|****||Ferraton Les Grands Mûriers||2023-24||11/12||STGT, truffly fruit|
|****||Dom Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet||2025-26||11/12||stylish, modern, deep|
|****||Johann Michel Cuvée Jana||2022-24||11/12||potential, interest, good flow|
|****||Dom Michelas St Jemms Les Murettes||2027-29||10/15||drive, good gras, STGT|
|****||Tardieu-Laurent Coteaux||2024-26||11/12||pleasure, fullness|
|****||Alain Voge Vielles Vignes||2028-30||10/15||solar, fleshy, enjoyable|
|***(*)||Franck Balthazar Casimir Balthazar||2024-26||11/12||fresh fruit, cut|
|***(*)||Cave de Tain Arènes Sauvages||2023-24||11/12||plump, nice gras|
|***(*)||Domaine Clape Renaissance||2025-27||11/12||open-fronted; wavy fruit|
|***(*)||Domaine Courbis Champelrose||2023-25||11/12||free roll fruit, oak|
|***(*)||Domaine Courbis Les Eygats||2021-23||11/12||modern appeal, early|
|***(*)||Delas Chante Perdrix||2025-26||11/12||ripe style|
|***(*)||equis, Maxime Graillot||2023-25||11/13||steady, fair richness|
|***(*)||Pierre Gaillard||2024-25||11/12||modern, potential|
|***(*)||Guillaume Gilles Chaillot||2025-27||06/15||aromatic, supple, pleasing|
|***(*)||Guillaume Gilles La Combe de Chaillot||2024-26||11/12||supple fruit; finesse|
|***(*)||Jacques Leminicier||2024-25||12/13||slow gainer, strength|
|***(*)||Domaine Lionnet Terre Brûlée||2026-28||12/13||genuine; tannic structure|
|***(*)||Johann Michel||2022-23||11/12||modern, clear fruit|
|***(*)||Domaine des Remizières||2023-25||11/12||very sound, sturdy|
|***(*)||Alain Verset||2020-21||12/15||authentic, cosy, elegant|
|***(*)||Les Vins de Vienne Les Barcillants||2023-25||11/12||effective, deep-seated|
|***(*)||Alain Voge Les Chaillés||2023-25||11/12||abundant fruit; deep|
|***||Cave de Tain||2019-20||11/13||plump, tasty, early|
|***||M. Chapoutier Les Arènes||2019-21||11/12||fleshy; sweet fruit|
|***||Ferraton Les Eygats||2021-23||11/12||tight pack; pinched|
|***||Chrystelle Michel||2019-20||12/15||facile, light, early|
|***||Vincent Paris Granit 30||2020-21||11/13||early action; bit hyper|
|***||J Vidal-Fleury||2021-22||11/12||uncomplicated, sparky|
|**(*)||Yves Cuilleron Les Vires||2021-22||11/12||stretched, tame|
|**||Jérome Despesse||2018||12/13||lack of fruit carry|
|**||Maison Ughetto-Audoin||2019-20||12/13||mainstream, too modern|
In 2011, Saint-Péray’s revival showed up after a very good 2010 in the shape of a ripe, full vintage that lent itself to dining rather than the aperitif. Ripeness from early maturing crop was central to the style of the wines.
For someone who appreciates the cool clarity of granite-backed wines, this was a vintage of stuffing, perhaps leaning at times to “made in the cellar”, or certainly “influenced in the cellar”. But growers have to work with the goods nature gave them, and this was not a year to back off and seek fresh charmers.
What it did demand, though was a lot of constant work and attention in the vineyard. FABRICE GRIPA reported: “this year there is better acid balance at SAINT-PÉRAY than at SAINT-JOSEPH – the degree is 13.5° and the pH 3.2; there has been no rot, but a lot of vineyard work was involved.”
JEAN-LOUIS THIERS of DOMAINE DU BIGUET told me: “this was a precocious vintage; we harvested at the end of August and early September. The fruit was very well ripened. As a result, I blocked the malolactic fermentation this year to keep freshness, unlike 2012 and 2013.”
The harvesters at the end of August and early September were obliged to get going if they wanted to make the METHODE CHAMPENOISE, sparkling, SAINT-PÉRAY. Whereas domaines such as CLAPE waited until mid-September for their crop; PIERRE CLAPE spoke of a “correct yield, and a sound degree,” their MARSANNE wine bearing the genuine gras richness of the vintage.
This year degrees were set in a compact range of 13° to 13.5°, indicating that some of the excesses of overripeness and over-buttered wines from a few years ago is fading. The excess also derives from growers seeking maquillage – make-up – on the juice from young vines, so that their lack of true richness can be masked by extreme ripeness and/or the use of new or young oak. Two wines lay at the high end of the scale – LES BIALÈRES (14.5°) from LES VINS DE VIENNE – CUILLERON, GAILLARD and F VILLARD – and the ALAIN VOGE FLEUR DE CRUSSOL (14°) where the style is always aimed at Vieille France dishes in sauces and butter, with the restaurant trade a notable purchaser of the wine.
MARSANNE remains the majority variety ahead of ROUSSANNE; historically this has been the case for economic reasons as much as anything else; STÉPHANE ROBERT at DOMAINE DU TUNNEL achieved 35 hl/ha yields on his MARSANNE this year, against 30 hl/ha for his ROUSSANNE, a normal ratio. However, aware of the already fat shape of the vintage, he backed off using as much oak as usual on his MARSANNE this year, to allow the wines more space, greater freedom.
He summed up the vintage as follows: “personally, I like 2011 - perhaps it’s my favourite of the three years from 2013 to 2011. It is a bit more heavy, shows some overripeness, and is less lively than 2012 and 2013, and is well suited to la table, fish in a cream sauce, or gambas if you are drinking the Roussanne.”
The old hands of BERNARD and son FABRICE GRIPA made two very good whites. FABRICE likes his wines to give effortless drinking, a shared pleasure with friends, and is not seeking to make scaled-up, long-lived offerings. The word “stylish” fits them like a glove.
The GRIPA LES FIGUIERS, with its 60-70% early 1960s ROUSSANNE supported by post World War Two MARSANNE, is always a notch ahead of LES PINS (70-80% 30-year MARSANNE) in sophistication, its delicate drops of flavour accumulated along the palate. The 2011 mix of intricacy and its leaning towards red wine, grounded features fits the vintage character well. As a serious white wine made from two relatively poorly known varieties, it is well worth buying and cellaring a little, to be offered to guests who appreciate discoveries. It costs around £25 from VINE TRAIL in Britain, and is imported to the USA by ALAIN and JOHN JUNGUENET in New Jersey.
Of the relative recent comers, YVES CUILLERON started at SAINT-PÉRAY in 2006 with the rental of vineyards. His two wines are also defined by one that is all MARSANNE – LES CERFS – and a second that is a 50-50% split, LES POTIERS, taken from 25 year old vines, 10 years less than the MARSANNE for LES CERFS. “The POTIERS is designed for simple accompaniments, grilled fish or the aperitif,” he says, “while the CERFS, with its greater volume and gras from the Marsanne, is suited to cooked ham, cheese or fish in sauce.” In 2011 the fleshy richness of the Marsanne was well captured in his CERFS.
There is a longer article on SAINT-PÉRAY under 2012, where some of the history of the appellation is also discussed.
|****(*)||M Chapoutier Lieu-Dit Hongrie||2020-21||11/13||STGT; gras, depth, great|
|****(*)||Domaine Gripa Les Figuiers||2023-24||11/12||intricate, solid, long|
|****||Yves Cuilleron Les Cerfs||2020-21||11/12||fleshy, bright|
|****||Guy Farge grain de silex||2018||11/12||honest, has character|
|****||Domaine Gripa Les Pins||2020-21||11/12||stylish, poised|
|****||Dom du Tunnel Pur Blanc||2020-21||11/12||fleshy, nuanced|
|****||Alain Voge Les Terres Boisées||2019-20||11/12||STGT; crisp, elegant|
|***(*)||Cave de Tain Fleur de Roc||2017||11/12||gras, and flinty|
|***(*)||Anne-Sophie Pic & M Chapoutier||2020-21||11/12||dumb, but potential|
|***(*)||Domaine Clape||2018-19||12/15||bold gras, thick coating|
|***(*)||Yves Cuilleron Les Potiers||2021-23||11/12||compact; with full foods|
|***(*)||Chrystelle Michel||2017||12/13||aromatic gras, joli|
|***(*)||Domaine Johann Michel||2016-17||09/12||delicate, sympa|
|***(*)||Dom Julien Pilon les maisons de victor||2018||11/12||opulent, savoury|
|***(*)||Domaine du Tunnel Marsanne||2017-18||11/12||serene, soft|
|***(*)||Domaine du Tunnel Roussanne||2017||11/12||comfortably round, pure|
|***(*)||François Villard Version||2019||11/12||fat; smooth texture|
|***(*)||François Villard Version Longue||2018-19||11/12||fat but flows, allow time|
|***(*)||Les Vins de Vienne||2019||11/12||authentic Marsanne, STGT|
|***(*)||Les Vins de Vienne Les Bialères||2018||11/12||well flavoured|
|***(*)||Alain Voge Fleur de Crussol||2021-23||11/12||red wine style, ripe|
|***||M Chapoutier Les Tanneurs||2018||11/12||tight, grippy, local|
|***||Ferraton Le Mialan||2020-21||11/12||grounded, dour; time|
|***||Domaine Rémy Nodin champenoise||12/13||sound body, pear fruit|
|***||Domaine Benoit Roseau||2017-18||11/12||flan, toffee, 12° only|
|***||Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes||2018||11/12||reliable, has gras|
|***||Domaine du Tunnel Cuvée Prestige||2017-18||11/12||solid; sound length|
|***||Les Vins de Vienne Les Archêveques||2021-22||11/12||take yr time; red vin style|
|***||Alain Voge Harmonie||2018||11/12||varied foods avec|
|**(*)||Cave de Tain||2016||11/12||smooth, bit insipid|
Saint-Joseph red 2011s = highly drinkable wines, with that extra soupcon of flair above the Crozes-Hermitage 2011s that are more open and obvious. It is a vintage to buy and drink in convivial circumstances, or with picnics and events outdoors. Much the same DNA applies here as elsewhere in the Northern Rhône this year – mild tannins, pretty good freshness, and clear fruit.
Thus, a Saint-Joseph 2011 red at 4 star rating is a better buy than a Côte-Rôtie 2011 at similar rating. The lean of quality with the St Jo appellation is towards the southern zone around St Jean-de-Muzols, Tournon and Mauves, where there fell less rain, and the crop was riper than in the Chavanay area, also allowed to make Condrieu - so a different micro-climat away.
The weather patterns were a precocious start to the year after a cold winter. FABRICE GRIPA of DOMAINE GRIPA, leading edge Questor and man for details, told me in March 2011: “we had three or four days snow in the winter – a bit in December, a fall of 30 cm (14 inches), then some in January 2011. The spring has been dry, and we need rain now, when I am replanting. I think 2010 may have been tiring for the vines – it wasn’t a hot year, and the vegetation worked hard, and also stopped and started several times during the growing season.” Hence possible fatigue in the vineyards at the start of the new growing season, a point to bear in mind vis-à-vis the future depth of the wines.
The high early spring heat catapulted the vineyards and their vegetation forward, with PIERRE COURSODON, from the epicentre of Mauves, reporting on 6 June 2011: “it’s fine today; we are three weeks ahead. The grapes are like petits pois (peas) now. If it becomes hot, we will harvest in August this year. We haven’t had great heat – a maximum of around 30°C, and the nights have been fresh. We had a 10 mm (0.4 in) storm on 4 June, and the 1 June was a cold, damp day, not much above 10°C.”
Then June played its role in slowing things down, via cool and occasionally rainy weather. JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE, also from Mauves, with vineyards there and just north of Tournon, told me: “the rain on 23 June varied between the villages where I have vineyards – while Tain had 17 mm (0.65 in), Mauves had 20 mm (0.8 in), and Lemps had 35 mm (1.4 in). There is no stress in the vineyards currently. It has been very easy in the vineyards so far this year.”
A view from further north in late July, at Saint-Pierre-de-Boeuf, where some of his vineyards stand at 250 metres, came from the promising XAVIER NOVIS, of DOMAINE DE LA ROCHE DE L’ISLE. He reported: “it has been super good so far; we are three weeks ahead, the recent rain has been just what the grapes and the leaves have needed. We had 40 mm (1.6 in) of rain on 13 July, after around 10 mm (0.4 in) on 7 July. I would say we will be picking around 10 September this year, against early October in 2010, and 25 September in 2009” – an early date then set.
FABRICE GRIPA later told me of the circuitous route to taken to the final harvest this year: “we had three weeks of rain in July, flanked by drought. The berries were very small, and we cut back crop and thought “job done”, but after the rain we had to go back in again because the remaining grapes had expanded so much. Overall, there was a lot of vineyard work all through from mid-April to mid-October. Our harvest took 20 days not the usual 7 this year – there weren’t many full vats’ picking at any one time, and there was also a lot of difference between levels of ripeness across the vineyard.”
“Of course, at the end of June we thought we had a 2003 on our hands, and that we were heading for a harvest around 20 to 25 August – just as well that wasn’t the case. The 2011 reds are good, that I do know,” he concluded.
Uneven ripeness, and the need for vigilance when collecting the crop at the cellar door was underlined by growers such as ANTHONY VALLET of the good DOMAINE VALLET at Serrières, which stands a little above the mid-point of the appellation going south to north. He stated: “we were lucky with storms at Serrières and didn’t get too badly hit by them. This year you had to drop crop and do green harvesting. Our yield was 34 hl/ha against 36 hl/ha in 2010.”
From Saint-Jean-de-Muzols and Tournon, in the south, GUY FARGE, a man with a lean towards STGT wines, told me: “this year I had south facing bunches giving Syrah at 13.5°, and north-facing bunches giving Syrah at 9° - complicated.”
From a vinification standpoint, the 2011s were not tricky, but excess cellar intervention was likely to hurt the rather fragile young wines. FABRICE GRIPA reviewed his winemaking year as follows: “the pHs on our red wine were high, indicating low acidity, while degrees were high - all over 13°. Colours are very good, the tannins very soft, very velvet. 2011 isn’t as massive as 2009 and 2010. Density of the wine is the game. I did one pumping over instead of two or three - a light approach this year. The Syrah vats worked almost on their own.”
Ex-Co-operateur at Saint-Désirat in the middle zone, and biodynamic grower, JEAN DELOBRE of FERME DES SEPT LUNES told me about his cellar work: “my vinifications went well, with the malolactic fermentation occuring quickly, some even under the marc. We had double the crop of 2010, so near a full yield. The reds are a bit less dense than 2009 and 2010, and will be a nice canon to drink.”
The drinkability of these wines was emphasized by several growers. JÉRÔME COURSODON: “the reds are in the style of 2007, better than 2007, are very gourmands. The tannins are very supple and the acidities help the tension in the wines. It is a good drinking vintage.” Also from the southern zone, at Châteaubourg, the brothers DURAND offered these views: JOËL DURAND remarked “the reds have finesse, appealing texture and drink well. We were a bit worried about a lack of depth after 2010, but feel that they will evolve well. They have fine tannins.” His brother ERIC told me: “the 2011s have taken on more grip and late tannin since September 2012. I would compare it to 2000, and it is a year of quite low acidity.”
From the southern sector at Tournon, BERNARD FAURIE, now working a smaller vineyard as he gradually sells off some of his Saint-Joseph vines to son-in-law EMMANUEL DARNAUD, observed as follows: ““I think the 2011 Saint-Joseph reds will do well and be OK; often you get years like 1997 and 1987 that do really well,” he explained. Note that vintage in comparison are not mighty wine, more ones that gave easy to appreciate pleasure, nothing too complicated.
The STGT maestro, JEAN GONON, from his HQ at Mauves, gave me his take on the vintage; Jean makes excellent red and white, has been organic for years with his brother PIERRE, and his oldest Syrah dates back to 1915 at St Jean-de-Muzols, part of the old RAYMOND TROLLAT vineyard on the soft granite there. This is rock-solid quality, year in year out, thus. Off we go, Jean: “2011 is a normal year, neither too much nor too little. It is joli, more gourmand and kind than 2010. In November 2011 I was a bit deceived by it – I found it very good, but too simple. However, the cold weather of the winter 2011-12 changed it, did it good after the cold of February – and it became more profound.” I find the brothers’ wine w.o.w. this year – a lovely, textured drink.
One of the rare leading lights from the Northern zone this year is ANDRÉ PERRET, at Chavanay. His top wine, LES GRISIÈRES, is made from 40 to 70-year old Syrah, and it, too, is tasty, has flair, is a w.o.w. wine. Hurrah! ANDRÉ reviewed the year thus: “2011 is elegance over power. My two St Joseph reds this year are closer in quality than they were in 2010. I had a good, homogenous ripening on my Syrah.”
There lies 2011 Saint-Joseph, thus. Perhaps for export markets, it is creeping up in price, but it fulfils much of what the old Ardechois hands believe it should do – be a free flowing drink with country foods and in good company. Don’t wear your tuxedo, gents, or your tiaras, ladies. Just get on and do. Allow around 10 to 12 years, perhaps a little more, but
I emphasize the fun and pleasure to be had with these wines, their fruit extolling a message of Happy Days, so youthful consumption should be on everyone’s agenda.
|*****||Les Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques||2024-26||11/12||very long, serious depth|
|****(*)||Domaine Jean-Louis Chave||2028-31||11/12||big wine; terroir talking|
|****(*)||Domaine Courbis Les Royes||2022-23||11/12||modern; Burgundian poise|
|****(*)||Delas Sainte-Epine||2025-27||11/12||good style; Burgundian|
|****(*)||André Perret Les Grisières||2024-26||10/12||classy fruit, w.o.w.|
|****||M Chapoutier Les Granits||2020-22||11/12||modern, oak, has ease|
|****||Dom de la Côte Saint-Épine V Vignes||2019||11/12||discreet delicacy, genuine|
|****||Dom Coursodon Paradis St Pierre||2023-25||11/12||fleshy, full, manly|
|****||Delas François de Tournon||2022-23||11/12||authentic; sleek fruit|
|****||Domaine Durand Les Coteaux||2023-25||11/12||STGT; elegant fruit|
|****||Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille||2020-21||11/12||hearty, long|
|****||Domaine Gonon||2022-24||11/13||sweet fruit, gusto, w.o.w.|
|****||Domaine Bernard Gripa Le Berceau||2028-30||11/17||tasty, interesting, beauty|
|****||E Guigal Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph||2028-30||10/15||stylish, long, has detail|
|****||E Guigal Vignes de l'Hospice||2027-29||10/15||grunt factor, liqueur fruit|
|****||Jean-Claude Marsanne||2022-23||10/15||supple fruit, pure, unadorned|
|****||Domaine Monier-Perréol||2019-21||10/14||STGT; very tasty; tight gras|
|****||Domaine Monier-Perréol Terre Blanche||2021-22||11/14||character, variety, length|
|****||Domaine Mucyn||2018-19||11/12||copious fruit, w.o.w.|
|****||Tardieu-Laurent Les Roches V Vignes||2020-21||11/12||harmonious, bonny|
|****||Domaine Vallet Méribets||2019-20||11/12||buzzy, fruit-filled, w.o.w.|
|****||Pierre-Jean Villa Préface||2021-22||11/12||Bingo St Jo, life, w.o.w.|
|****||Pierre-Jean Villa Tilde||2020-21||11/12||pure, very good flow|
|****||Les Vins de Vienne L’Arzelle||2020||11/12||quiet finesse, w.o.w.|
|***(*)||Cave de Tain||2016-17||11/12||approachable, long|
|***(*)||Cave de Tain Esprit de Granit||2020-21||11/13||modern, swell, likeable|
|***(*)||M Chapoutier Le Clos||2019-20||11/12||clear fruit; oak|
|***(*)||Jean-Louis Chave Offerus||2022-24||11/15||rocky, stylish, mineral|
|***(*)||Domaine du Chêne La Dame||2020-21||11/12||gourmand, tasty; oak|
|***(*)||Domaine Courbis||2018||11/12||country wine appeal|
|***(*)||Domaine Coursodon La Sensonne||2022-24||11/12||modern; lasting fruit|
|***(*)||Domaine Coursodon Silice||2020-21||11/12||harmony, free fruit|
|***(*)||Yves Cuilleron Les Serines||2020-21||11/12||stylish; mature notes|
|***(*)||equis Maxime Graillot||2019||11/13||racy fruit, long; solid quality|
|***(*)||Guy Farge terre de granit||2019||11/12||good fruit carry|
|***(*)||Bernard Faurie||2020-22||12/13||v pure fruit; subtle body|
|***(*)||Domaine Faury La Gloriette||2019-20||11/12||light tread, glides along|
|***(*)||Domaine Faury Hedonism||2019-20||11/12||trad, plump, musky|
|***(*)||Ferraton La Source||2018||11/12||fun, early drink, w.o.w.|
|***(*)||Pierre Gaillard Les Pierres||2018||11/12||gentle; sound juice|
|***(*)||Domaine Alain Graillot||2019-20||11/13||crunchy, gd vigour; wild horse|
|***(*)||Domaine Gripa||2023-25||11/17||suave gras, aromatic|
|***(*)||Domaine Habrard||2016-17||11/12||attractive, biddable|
|***(*)||Domaine des Martinelles||2019-20||11/12||STGT, tasty fruit|
|***(*)||Gabriel Meffre Saint-Etienne||2019-20||11/12||harmony, elegance|
|***(*)||Dom des Miquettes Sans Soufre Ajouté||2018||11/12||capital, gt bistrot vin|
|***(*)||Dom du Monteillet Cuvée du Papy||2021-22||11/12||pliant, ripe|
|***(*)||André Perret||2020-22||10/12||supple, drinkable|
|***(*)||Dom Georges Vernay La Dame Brune||2025-26||04/15||fluid fruit, nuggety tannins|
|***(*)||Dom Georges Vernay Terres d’Encre||2020-21||03/13||pure, clear, elegant|
|***(*)||Vidal-Fleury||2019-20||11/12||early; sizzles along|
|***(*)||François Villard Reflet||2022-23||11/12||deep, constructed|
|***(*)||Les Vins de Vienne||2021-22||11/12||oak; will sing in time|
|***||Domaine Boissonnet Extrêm||2019-21||11/12||oily, extraction, oak|
|***||Cave Saint-Désirat Septentrio||2021-22||11/12||v modern, fluid fruit; oak|
|***||Caves Saint-Pierre||2020||11/12||Safe Operator, luxury|
|***||Domaine du Chêne Anaïs||2020-21||11/12||upright, hardworking|
|***||Delas Les Challeys||2017||11/12||live, aromatic|
|***||Emmanuel Darnaud||2020-21||11/12||asserted oak, needs soul|
|***||Domaine Durand Lautaret||2018-20||11/12||charm, simple|
|***||Ferraton Lieu Dit Paradis||2021-22||11/12||oak, international|
|***||Pierre Gaillard||2020||11/12||trad, solid|
|***||Yves Gangloff||2019-20||11/13||typical, mineral, v drinkable|
|***||Brunel de la Gardine||2017||09/13||smooth, polished, reliable|
|***||Domaine des Miquettes||2017||11/12||fresh; fine fruit|
|***||Domaine Pradelle||2020||11/12||wild, can get together|
|***||Domaine des Remizières||2019-20||11/12||modern, arm’s length, brisk|
|***||Gilles Robin André Péleat||2019-20||12/15||perky, raw; sweet spice|
|***||Eric Rocher Terroir de Champal||2020||11/12||cellar-led, dark|
|***||Dom Romaneaux-Destezet Ste-Epine||2020-21||03/12||direct fruit; slow gainer|
|***||François Villard Mairlant||2020-21||11/12||ripe coating, “effective"|
|***||François Villard Poivre et Sel||2018||11/12||Steady Operator|
|**(*)||Dom Benoit Roseau Cuvée Patagone||2019||11/12||fat, coated|
|**(*)||Cave Saint-Désirat Coeur d Rochevigne||2019-20||11/12||retro style; much oak|
|**(*)||M Chapoutier Deschants||2017||11/12||dark wine|
|**(*)||M Chapoutier Les Granilites||2018-19||11/12||needs more depth|
|**(*)||Domaine Coursodon L’Olivaie||2021-22||11/12||oak beats fruit|
|**(*)||Yves Cuilleron Pierres Seches||2019||11/13||tame, oak; bit sweet|
|**(*)||Romain Duvernay||2019-20||11/12||correct, arm’s length|
|**(*)||Guy Farge Passion des Terrasses||2018-19||11/12||crisp, direct, low charm|
|**(*)||Jean-Michel Gérin||2017-18||11/13||down the line; fair|
|**(*)||Vincent Paris||2016||09/12||simple, some depth|
|**(*)||Domaine Christophe Pichon||2017||10/12||timid wine; mid-term drink|
|**(*)||Christophe Semaska||2017-18||11/12||floral, push button|
|**(*)||Dom de la Ville Rouge Cuvée du Potier||2018-19||11/12||full-on, stretched|
2011 Condrieu will not go down in the annals as a great vintage, but it does provide something of a rarity these days, when Viognier has spread so far and wide from its home source, namely that of crisp, mineral fruiting. Most winemaker converts to the variety chase a path of ample, obvious muskiness, density being preferred over cool lines.
The centre of the appellation, its historical heart, is of course the hills closest to the village itself. Limony in the south, Malleval and other areas near Saint-Pierre-de-Boeuf were not part of the original zone when it was established in 1940, when the decree allowed for a total vineyard of 200 hectares across the communes of Condrieu, Vérin (home of Château-Grillet) and St-Michel-sur Rhône. In this group lie the sites ofVernon(notably Domaine Georges Vernay), Chéry (notably André Perret), Colombier (ex-Dézormeaux, now E Guigal for La Doriane) and Clos Bouche (Delas).
In style, the 2011s are mild, not especially deep, and are sometimes described as “fragile” by growers; acidity is gentle, a bit low, but present. Bouquets are varied, expressive. I also feel that growers have been sensible this year – not generally too ambitious, either in harvesting with extreme ripeness, or in going for broke on the cellar work. The base quality is good – there are few wines below three stars.
However, I stop short of 5 star Condrieu this year, mainly because of the regular slight tapering of their content in the late palates. The matter can drop down in their late stages, giving a sense of drift, which matches the vintage style of early ebullience followed by quietening.
The vignerons and vigneronnes are content. CHRISTINE VERNAY, doyenne of the appellation, at DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY, observed: “it’s pretty good; the whites are disparate in quality, though. I harvestedVernonand La Caille (1957 Viognier for LES CHAILLÉES DE l’ENFER) at the end of August before the rains, with a high degree of 14.5°-15°. After the rain the grapes lost acidity, and their balance suffered. It is more like 2010 than 2009.”
A different reaction to the effect of the rain came from PHILIPPE GUIGAL, who stated: “our La Doriane vineyards were at 15.8° before the September rains that were separated by two days, bringing a total of 50 mm (2 inches). After the dilution of the second rain, you had to wait for three weeks to re-concentrate the grapes.”
The Viognier is indeed a tricky variety, with surges of ripening near harvest time, but also reverses. The rains had this impact for FRÉDÉRIC BERNARD of DOMAINE BERNARD, whose vineyard is on Bassenon, at the north end of Condrieu, towards the Côte-Rôtie boundary: “after the very hot spell at the end of August, when we had 120 mm (4.8 inches) of rain across one week, the Viognier lost 3°, so our average is around 13.7° this year.” Here the rain served a calming purpose on the potential headiness of the wines, but the imprint of late fade on the palate was established.
Low acidity is remarked upon by several domaines. ANDRÉ PERRET told me: “it is not a high alcohol year – 13.8° to 13.9°. We added no cultured yeasts – the natural yeasts were healthy - and both Chéry and Chanson fermented until spring 2012. It is a year of low acidity, so you couldn’t do a lot of extraction by lees stirring and skin fermentation. Freshness is present, but the wines, with the abundant crop, are fragile given their low acidity. We might have picked in August, as has been the case recently – but we waited until 10 September, to achieve better ripeness and degree, but that involved a loss of acidity.”
FRANÇOIS MERLIN, whose son Laurent is now working with him, viewed the vintage thus: “2011 will have lowish acidity; the Viognier is 13.5° to 14°. In 2010 I needed 15.5° to achieve a good ripeness, but in both 2011 and 2012, it was nearer 13.5°. I expect gourmand wines given the high Phs, and the lack of acidity.”
Another grower seen giving instructions to the next generation is CHRISTOPHE PICHON, whose two eldest sons Corentin and Alexis are now active helpers; he remarked on the essential quality of 2011 – drinkability: “2011 has attractive, aromatic freshness, length and good balance – you want to drink these wines. I rate them slightly ahead of 2010, helped by the acidity that brought length. The 2011s have a greater capacity to absorb oak than the 2010s – there is more wine in them, and better acidity.” In tasting over 50 2011 Condrieus, I also found that this year the use of new and young oak has given one or two wines valuable extra structure, and prevented looseness in them.
The number of STGT wines reflecting a faithful display of terroir has not varied much in recent years: 2011 was 3, 2010 was 3. The hot and dry summer of 2009 fominated the style of that vintage, with just 1 STGT wine, the poor weather-affected 2008 just 1 as well.
In terms of quality from one vintage to the next, here is a snapshot on the past six vintages at Condrieu. Remember that some growers show me their wines later than others, so the 2011 line-up is not yet complete.
So the best wines in 2010 are better than the best wines in 2011, but 2011 has plenty of good, upper quality bottles. Both vintages are some way ahead of 2009.
I would be happy to buy Condrieu 2011; I would not be expecting grandiose, impressive wines, so bear that in mind. They are agreeable, less startling than, say, in 2010 and will do extremely well in setting up a dinner party or cocktail event. Santé!
|*****||Yves Cuilleron Les Ayguets||2028-30||11/12||abundant, varied, late picked|
|****(*)||Pierre & Marie Benetière||2018-19||11/13||variety; gras inside, v good|
|****(*)||M.Chapoutier Coteau de Chéry||2024-26||11/12||profound, masculine|
|****(*)||Xavier Gérard Côte Châtillon||2024-26||10/12||STGT; clear, can live|
|****(*)||François Merlin Jeanraude||2020-21||10/12||close-knit, joli|
|****(*)||S Montez Dom du Monteillet Chanson||2021-22||11/12||provocative, appealing|
|****(*)||André Perret Chéry||2019-20||10/12||smooth, v fine|
|****(*)||Tardieu-Laurent||2017-19||11/12||stylish, nice depth|
|****(*)||Dom Georges Vernay Coteau de Vernon||2028-30||04/15||flamboyance/reserve mixed|
|****(*)||Dom Georges Vernay Terrasses Empire||2019-20||03/13||deft, stylish, understated|
|****(*)||François Villard Les Terrasses du Palat||2023-24||11/12||firm matter, lots here|
|****||Yves Cuilleron Les Chaillets||2020-21||11/12||close-knit, dense|
|****||Yves Cuilleron La Petite Côte||2017||11/12||sympa, fine, fresh|
|****||Yves Cuilleron Vertige||2019-21||11/12||sturdy, imposing|
|****||Domaine Faury La Berne||2017-19||11/12||precise, ripe, oak|
|****||E.Guigal La Doriane||2026-27||05/13||rich, serious, promising|
|****||François Merlin Les Terroirs||2017||10/12||smooth elegance|
|****||S Montez Monteillet Grandes Chaillées||2021-22||12/13||full, solid, stylish|
|****||Domaine R & R Niéro Les Ravines||2016-17||11/12||STGT; stylish, authentic|
|****||M & S Ogier V Vignes Jacques Vernay||2017||11/12||tender, excellent apero|
|****||André Perret Chanson||2019||10/12||STGT; elegant, clear|
|****||Domaine Christophe Pichon||2019-20||10/12||fleshy, persistent|
|****||Domaine Christophe Pichon Caresse||2022-23||10/12||sturdy, v long|
|****||Domaine Julien Pilon Lône||2016-17||11/12||style, potential|
|****||René Rostaing La Bonnette||2020||05/13||silken, serene, quite classy|
|****||Dom Georges Vernay Chaillées Enfer||2021-23||11/13||full; stewed fruits; time|
|****||François Villard Le Grand Vallon||2018||11/12||stylish, interesting|
|****||Les Vins de Vienne Les Archêveques||2017||11/12||fine depth, foods|
|****||Les Vins de Vienne La Chambée||2016||11/12||elegant, drink now|
|***(*)||Domaine Boissonnet||2017||11/12||traditional, fat|
|***(*)||Domaine Bonnefond Côte Châtillon||2019||11/13||supple, likeable gras, high fruit|
|***(*)||M.Chapoutier Invitare||2017||11/12||sturdy, grounded|
|***(*)||Domaine du Chêne||2018||11/12||lots of flavour|
|***(*)||Domaine Louis Clerc||2017-18||11/12||big, thorough, hearty|
|***(*)||Domaine Clusel-Roch Verchery||2018||11/12||intricate, knit|
|***(*)||Delas Clos Boucher||2020-21||11/12||oak, oiliness, floats|
|***(*)||Pierre Gaillard L’Octroi||2017||11/12||broad nose; mild fruit|
|***(*)||E.Guigal||2019||05/13||floral, has gras, bit tame|
|***(*)||Domaine Mouton Côte Châtillon||2017||11/12||fat, compact, oak|
|***(*)||M & S Ogier La Combe de Malleval||2017||11/12||finesse, rich fruit|
|***(*)||André Perret||2016-17||10/12||mild, harmonious|
|***(*)||Stéphane Pichat La Caille||2018-19||10/12||wholesome, refined|
|***(*)||Saint Cosme||2018-19||12/12||juicy, fresh, high oak|
|***(*)||Christophe Semaska Lys d’Or||2023-24||04/16||wide, knit, lots of wine|
|***(*)||Les Vins de Vienne Amphore d’Argent||2016-17||11/12||earthy power, enjoy|
|***||Domaine Bernard Bassenon||2016||05/13||rich; fleshy fat|
|***||Domaine de Bonserine||2016||11/12||rich, bit tame|
|***||Vignobles Chirat||2017||11/12||assertive, grounded|
|***||Delas La Galopine||2017||11/12||apero, bit tame|
|***||Domaine Faury||2015||11/12||light n’easy|
|***||Ferraton Les Mandouls||2018||11/12||sturdy, enclosed|
|***||Pierre Gaillard||2016||11/12||tidy, orderly|
|***||Cave Saint-Désirat||2017-18||11/12||sturdy, oaked|
|***||Domaine Vallet Rouelle-Midi||2016-17||05/12||sympa, unforced|
|***||François Villard De Poncins||2018||11/13||tangy, fresh, busy fruit|
|**(*)||Gilles Barge La Solarie||2016||05/13||floats, glides, not more|
|**(*)||Gabriel Meffre Laurus||2017||11/12||direct fruit; oak|
White wine standards at Crozes-Hermitage have risen well in the past half dozen years. I am sure this is the result of growers spending more time on their whites, first in the vineyard, with canopy and yield management, and more exactitude on the maturity of the crop. In the past, green crop or the easy default of exaggerated ripeness crop could be harvested – the former leading to thin or mean wines, the latter to receive the dubious open arms of oak and hence a stew-up.
In the cellar, there is also greater refinement in the crop handling – temperature control, lighter pressing, more vigilance. No more is the Crozes blanc the extremely junior partner of the red wine. Growers realise that they can make easy drinking wines, which fits the current vogue for buvabilité – drinkability – and also provokes the image of drinking wines at the zinc counter with a dish of sliced saucisson and some olives to hand.
Roussanne vines are also growing up, and their proportion is rising – Gilles Robin’s Les Marelles is now 60% Roussanne, for instance, and the proportion at Yann Chave has risen, too.
Above all, 2011 is a great Marsanne vintage, capturing its finesse side rather than its potent forces. Following the all-round strength of the 2010, an excellent year for la table, 2011 is often suited to the aperitif and light, clear-flavoured dishes. The high yields this year helped balance in the wines finally.
So the Marsanne is very expressive, bearing notable aromas of hazelnut and honeycomb, supported by pear or peach, apricot, stylish white fruit flavours. Their finishes are accurate – they have classic Marsanne grip and tang. Some, not a lot, are very aromatic and pure – the CLASSIQUE DE CLAIRMONT and DOMAINE MUCYN, for instance.
Many are suited to food – cold foods, lighter flavours for the majority. Among this group, I would highlight the graceful DOMAINE DES ENTREFAUX LES PENDS from one of the best sites in the appellation at Mercurol, and also the promising young grower JULIEN PILON’s nuit blanche – rich wine, with flair.
At the end of the scale are more heavyweight wines such as DOMAINE PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET – excellent attack, sturdy, very typical Marsanne - and the DOMAINE DES REMIZIÈRES CUVÉE CHRISTOPHE. The latter accentuates a savoury, full richness, and provides stimulating drinking.
Yields were higher than usual this year, and acidity levels were limited. ALAIN GRAILLOT reported: “2011 is a very abundant year, especially in the white crop – 50 hl/ha. We harvested on 5-6 September, picking a really healthy crop, with very good balance. It is closer to 2010 than 2009 – 2010 was balanced and fresh.”
FRANCK FAUGIER of DOMAINE DES HAUTS CHASSIS was content: “we had a bit more crop than 2010, which meant more freshness, more citrus notes. The wines are persistent, with good gras behind.”
YANN CHAVE liked the drinkability of the 2011 whites: “they have a certain acidity, good balance, a wee bit of tannin and bitterness, hold gras richness. They are good aperitif wines, don’t have too much degree, will not tire drinkers, and can be kept better than 2009. 2011 is a pleasure wine year.”
OLIVIER DUMAINE, STGT grower at Larnage - good white wine lands based around kaolin (white clays) - also emphasized their fruitiness: “early on they were all on the fruit, with very little acidity, even though they are very fruited. September was magnificent. I picked the white crop on 11 September – it ripened regularly, and is at 12.8° to 13°.”
Also speaking about the great white wine zone of Larnage, PASCAL FAYOLLE of DOMAINE DES MARTINELLES, gave the following resumé: “I harvested 12 September, with a lot less acidity than 2010. Our yield was 50 hl/ha. The high heat at the end of August degraded the acidities. There are very interesting aromatics, and the wines were ready early. They are attractive, do not have a lot of acidity, so are quite rich – they suit the aperitif, and meals, too.” Pascal’s wines are authentic, traditional, and by and large suit table dining over the aperitif. His 2011 is STGT, in line for some grand Vieille France dishes.
MARC SORREL pointed to the quantity of the harvest, up 25% on his usual tally: “with the high yields, the white is on its fruit, and can be drunk early. I made 2,000 bottles instead of 1,500 bottles,” he told me.
ETIENNE POCHON prefers 2010 to 2011: “it was very, very hot at the end of August, and is a bit less interesting as a vintage than 2010, which I considered a reference year – 2011 is a bit like 2003. Malos were all done in 2010, not done in 2009, and in 2011 it was the Roussanne alone that did its malos.”
A brief summary from MAX GRAILLOT will end this report: “we have belles, fresh, quite balanced whites this year.”
|****(*)||Dom des Remizières Cuvée Christophe||2020-21||11/12||savoury richness|
|****||Cave de Clairmont Classique de Clairmont||2015-16||11/12||STGT; delightful|
|****||Domaine des Entrefaux Les Pends||2018-19||11/12||rich content|
|****||Domaine des Martinelles||2020-21||11/12||STGT; trad dishes avec|
|***(*)||Domaine Belle Les Terres Blanches||2016-17||11/12||STGT; stylish, precise|
|***(*)||M.Chapoutier Les Meysonniers||2018||11/12||full; fine Marsanne|
|***(*)||Yann Chave||2018||11/12||weight, elegance|
|***(*)||Domaine Combier||2018||11/12||thick; rich texture|
|***(*)||Dard & Ribo Cuvée K||2027-28||11/18||naked, character, fresh|
|***(*)||Olivier Dumaine La Croix du Verre||2020||11/12||fragrant, stylish|
|***(*)||Ferraton La Matinière||2018-19||11/12||bright; typical Marsanne|
|***(*)||Domaine Habrard||2022-23||11/12||trad, scaled, solid|
|***(*)||Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet||2020-21||11/12||sturdy, v typical Marsanne|
|***(*)||Maison Nicolas Perrin||2018||11/12||genuine; joli richness|
|***(*)||Julien Pilon nuit blanche||2017-18||11/12||soft flavours; foods best|
|***(*)||J Vidal-Fleury||2016||11/12||supple, smooth, bonny|
|***||Domaine Bernard Ange||2015||11/12||agreeable apero|
|***||Domaine Belle Roche Blanche||2018||11/12||low acidity; oak|
|***||Bruyères D Reynaud Aux Bêtises de Léa||2016||11/12||comfortable gras|
|***||Cave de Tain Les Hauts d’Eole||2016-17||11/12||heart; low acidity|
|***||M.Chapoutier Petite Ruche||2017-18||11/12||broad, grounded|
|***||Domaine du Colombier Cuvée du Gaby||2017-18||11/12||hazelnut, tight|
|***||Dard & Ribo Blanc Divers||2018||03/12||close-knit; interesting|
|***||Delas Les Launes||2016||11/12||fine, easy float|
|***||E.Guigal||2016-17||05/13||ripe flavour, with steel|
|***||Le Domaine de Lucie Pitchounettes||2016||11/12||richly coated|
|***||Domaine Mucyn||2015||11/12||elegant, apero|
|***||Domaine du Murinais Cuvée Marine||2014||11/12||floral, subtle, agreeable|
|***||E Pochon Château Curson||2016-17||11/12||good-bodied|
|***||Domaine Pradelle||2016||11/12||glycerol, decent heart|
|***||Dom des Remizières Ciuvée Particulière||2019||11/12||grounded, stubborn|
|***||Domaine Saint-Clair un matin . . .||2016||11/12||aromatic, fresh|
|***||Marc Sorrel||2020-21||11/12||tight, has gras|
|***||Dom de La Ville Rouge Cuvée Nathan||2018||11/12||interesting, spiced|
|***||Les Vins de Vienne||2016||11/12||simple, easy|
|**(*)||Domaine Combier Laurent Combier||2015-16||11/12||simple, apero|
|**(*)||Dard & Ribo Les Opatayres||2018||03/12||naked, raw wine|
|**(*)||Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix||2017-18||11/12||acetate, bit austere|
|**(*)||Domaine Alain Graillot||2016||11/12||easy, cld be deeper|
|**(*)||Domaine Pradelle Courbis||2017||11/12||grounded, expressionless|
|**(*)||Gilles Robin Les Marelles||2017||11/12||arm’s length, bit short|
|**(*)||Domaine des 7 Chemins Tradition||2015||11/12||smooth, but plods|
Crozes-Hermitage is worth buying in 2011. It expresses the easy fruit virtues of the vintage extremely well, and is half the price of a somewhat diluted Côte-Rôtie year. Saint-Joseph – a little more expensive because of the costs of labour on largely hillside vineyards – is also worth buying in 2011, as is Cornas with its successful depth of content.
Most of the Crozes-Hermitage reds are accessible, contain moderated tannins and drink well now, in early 2013. The most interesting wines come from older and better-sited vineyards, and so end up in the higher priced cuvées such as CLOS DES GRIVES of DOMAINE COMBIER, the CUVÉE GABY of DOMAINE DU COLOMBIER, or the DOMAINE ALAIN GRAILLOT LA GUIRAUDE. The northern zone – with its granite and hillside influences – has done very well, the quality consistent across the domaines there – DOMAINE BELLE, CHAPOUTIER (VARONNIERS), FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE, HABRARD, MARTINELLES and MUCYN, to name a few.
The ripening season reflected the contours of neighbouring appellations – a fast start, a slow down, an acceleration, changed plans, doubts, on the hoof decisions. FRANCK FAUGIER of DOMAINE DES HAUTS CHASSIS explained: “it has been beau after problems. We had a hyper early start, and a drought. The end of July storms helped us; the July weather hadn’t been great so we were fearful by then. But from the end of August the weather was exceptional and gave us a lot of help, allowing us to catch up. Some grapes were burnt by the end of August sun. After the spring droughts, the vineyards didn’t lack water reserves. We started the white crop on 12 September and the Syrah on 20 September.”
The adjective used by YANN CHAVE for 2011 was “bizarre”. He saw it thus: “2011 is a very bizarre year. Until mid June it was very hot, with near extreme temperatures; flowering had been very good, quantity was normal, all was OK. Then from mid-June to the end of August the weather was fresh, not bad, with the most rain at the start of August – a lot of 10-20 mm (0.4-0.8 inches) falls, the worst kind. We lost our advance on the year, and then faced the risk of oïdium. The second half of August saw 40°C heat, which dried the bunches a lot, similar to 2009, with a South Wind as well. So then we had lack of water stress, and a blockage of ripening.
On 2-3 September, we had 80 mm (3.2 inches) of rain in one big fall, without hail, and that unblocked the vines. We then had a lovely September, so you could take your time. The crop was very large – you had to drop grapes this year, and do that in several gos since it was dry then wet. The result has been degrees that are interesting without being too much – 12.5° to 13.5° for the Syrah, the white similar,” he concluded.
ETIENNE POCHON also remarked on yield control this year. He stated: “there was a big diversity of success with the Syrah this year. You had to sort your yield – a lot of crop meant that you had to wait a long time for full ripeness. I find 2011 a bit similar to 2010 – my crop was 45 hl/ha in both vintages.”
In tasting around 85 red Crozes this year, there are examples that lack body, which I would suggest derives from not waiting for full ripeness, and hoping that cellar work could compensate. IT NEVER DOES. There are also wines that show the 2011 trait of starting well, then tapering - as opposed to the 2012s that finish with a fair old flourish.
However, the best wines offer harmony between bouquet and palate, are long and pleasurable, the w.o.w. acronym (what one wants) or “drinkability” being applied to several. GILLES ROBIN’s PAPILLON actually achieves the rare double of both w.o.w. and STGT (Soil to Glass Transfer), and is highly recommended (available under the name Les Papillons at The Wine Society in GB, £12.50, for instance).
Growers’ opinions of the quality and nature of the reds cluster around words such as “gourmand” and “joli”, or attractive. FRANCK FAUGIER: “The 2011 reds are pretty – it is an extremely particular vintage – from the degree in the vineyard and the end wine – 12.3°-12.5° became 13.2°-13.3° in the wine – I have never seen that before. So we have a very good degree, beautiful colour. The wine wasn’t aromatic at the start – it was austere, but two months on in November it showed more fruit and charming acidities and matter – there is some resemblance to 2010. Both 2010 and 2011 have a similar quality across the old and young vines. The southern sector had a bit less coulure (flowers failing to convert into fruit) than the northern sector of Crozes.”
OLIVIER DUMAINE, long-time organic grower at Larnage in the northern sector, owns vineyards in great soils and locations. He told me: “2011 is a bit like 2007. It is a wine of the zinc counter – round, low on acidity, not at all aggressive, the tannins not rude. It is very, very sympa and agreeable to drink, will be a wine of limited keeping, less than 2009 or 2010. It was easy to vinify – I would like that every year. The reds reached 13° - I harvested them on 22 September, and found that the Syrah only really got going in mid-September. The phenolics moved into shape between 15-20 September notably, and my neighbours also found that same late development.” Here, the benefits of patience in the vineyard were laid clear.
ALAIN GRAILLOT, whose domaine is effectively run by his son MAXIME now that ALAIN is often away consulting on overseas vineyard projects – one of his is near Venice on low-lying soils – spoke thus of 2011 in its early days: “2011 has given simple but gourmand wines at this early stage in mid-November, 2011. Raising them may bring out a bit more depth. There are possible comparisons with 1991 and 2007.”
A year later, his son MAX GRAILLOT gave this assessment: “the 2011 reds are not great wines, but they are vins de canon (drinking, toot-toot wines). They are a bit like 2000 – high yields, everything is there, the fruits are very ripe, the tannins beau; the wines lack some power and concentration, but then you don’t drink wines for their concentration. The critic will want more, but the consumer will enjoy them.”
YANN CHAVE’s view of the 2011 Syrahs ran as follows: “the reds have decent balance, the tannins are not green. 2011 lacks a bit of concentration vis-à-vis 2009 and 2010, and is less powerful than them, too. It is more like 2007 in its finesse, is very round and facile. Vinifications were tricky due to very heterogeneous bunches in a single plot – those grapes facing the sun had burnt grapes at 14°, for instance; those on the other side of the bunch were not really ripe – some people thought they had 13°, but ended up with just 11.5°. As for the young vines – these showed no cassis bud notes or vegetal. Work en douceur, without exaggeration, was necessary – long macerations without too much extraction. We actually need vintages that are more facile and round like this, similar to 2007, without the imposing structure of 2009 and 2010.”
DOMAINE DE LA VILLE ROUGE is making progress year on year, and son SÉBASTIEN GIRARD saw the vintage as an early drinking one: “2011 is more balanced, fresher than 2010. The reds won’t keep a long time, and should be drunk quite fast.”
A good, traditional, STGT-style vigernon is PASCAL FAYOLLE of DOMAINE DES MARTINELLES at Gervans. He sells part of his wine to GUIGAL, but bottles a little each year. His rundown on 2011 centred on the easy nature of the wines: “I started harvesting my first plot on 13 Seotember, then the rest on 18 September onwards – ripening speeds were different. The wines are quite pleasant, have attractive colours. Our yield was a little lower than the white, at 47 hl/ha. I see it as a sympa, gourmand year – the tannins are supple and silken, and there is interesting volume on the palate. The reds already present themselves well, have very good colour, too. Thanks to the fine late season’s weather, we picked with good ripeness.”
So expect low acidity and soft tannins in the 2011 red Crozes-Hermitages – indeed, the tannins are hardly in evidence at times. The bouquets are aromatic. Several are good for solo drinking thanks to the mild tannins, which implies that growers did not exaggerate the work on their crop, a good portent. A lot of wines are clustered between 3 and 3.5 stars, implying a very reliable, good but not exceptional vintage – which therefore fits the profile one wants from Crozes-Hermitage. Drink it up with friends and family, have a party. Do not treat the wines with reverence. Go to Paris and trawl around les bars à vin, which will be dispensing them with liberal relish. They are there to be drunk.
Only in certain cases – BELLE’s LOUIS BELLE, COMBIER’S CLOS DES GRIVES, DELAS LE CLOS, FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE’s CLOS LES CORNIRETS to name a few – should the wines be laid down, pending their fusion. These wines can show well towards 2023-2026. See the drinking dates in the LEADING WINES below for precise references.
|****(*)||Domaine Combier Clos des Grives||2024-26||11/12||flair; Rock on Tommy wine|
|****||Cave Clairmont Immanence||2020-21||11/12||polished fruit; oak|
|****||Caves Saint-Pierre||2019||11/12||balance; w.o.w.|
|****||Domaine Belle Louis Belle||2023-24||11/12||fruit, gras, oak - good mix|
|****||Yann Chave Le Rouvre||2017-18||11/12||modern; soaked fruit|
|****||Domaine du Colombier Cuvée Gaby||2021-23||11/12||copious, rich, bold|
|****||Emmanuel Darnaud Mise en Bouche||2019-20||11/12||pedigree coolness|
|****||Delas Le Clos||2022-24||11/12||stylish, classy|
|****||Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Cornirets||2020-22||11/12||intresting, mineral|
|****||Ferraton La Matinière||2020||11/12||heart; thick depth|
|****||Domaine Alain Graillot La Guiraude||2024-25||11/13||dark fruits, long, fresh|
|****||Domaine du Murinais Vieilles Vignes||2019-20||11/12||modern; much pleasure|
|****||Gilles Robin Papillon||2017-18||11/12||rare STGT, w.o.w. wine, ace|
|***(*)||Domaine Les Alexandrins||2018||11/12||ripe, tasty, enjoyable|
|***(*)||Aléofane||2019-20||11/12||plenty to enjoy; w.o.w.|
|***(*)||Bernard Ange||2018||11/12||authentic, steady depth|
|***(*)||Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles||2020-22||11/12||scale; rib of beef beckons|
|***(*)||Domaine Betton Espiègle||2017||11/12||precise; Bingo Crozes|
|***(*)||Dom Les Bruyères Georges Reynaud||2017||11/12||softly fruited; precise|
|***(*)||Cave Clairmont Classique de Clairmont||2017||11/12||w.o.w. pleasure|
|***(*)||Cave de Clairmont Pionniers||2018||11/12||easy access; gentle|
|***(*)||M.Chapoutier Les Varonniers||2021-22||11/12||wide, coated|
|***(*)||Domaine Combier||2020-21||11/12||stylish, fresh|
|***(*)||Delas Domaine des Grands Chemins||2019-20||11/12||fat, gourmand|
|***(*)||Domaine des Entrefaux||2016-17||11/12||pliant, suave, w.o.w.|
|***(*)||Dom des Entrefaux Les Machonnières||2018||04/16||spherical, elegant|
|***(*)||Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix||2019-20||09/12||tasty, attractive|
|***(*)||Fayolle Fils & Fille Sens||2019-20||11/12||live fruit, grilling|
|***(*)||Domaine Gaylord Machon Cuvée Ghany||2018-19||11/12||ball of fruit|
|***(*)||Domaine Alain Graillot||2017-18||11/13||ripe fruit; on the go; w.o.w.|
|***(*)||Domaine Habrard||2019-20||11/12||fat, modern, grounded|
|***(*)||Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet Nouvelère||2019-20||11/12||big, oaked; "impressive"|
|***(*)||Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne||2021-22||10/12||expressive, drinkable|
|***(*)||Domaine Melody Premier Regard||2019-20||11/12||very good fruit heart|
|***(*)||Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d'Arce||2021-22||10/15||dark, tasty, good gras|
|***(*)||Ogier Oratorio||2018-19||11/12||modern, smooth, direct|
|***(*)||Etienne Pochon||2019-20||11/12||manly, oily, big|
|***(*)||Etienne Pochon Château Curson||2019-21||11/12||fluid; oaked|
|***(*)||Domaine Pradelle||2020||11/12||tight fruit; modern|
|***(*)||Domaine Pradelle Les Hirondelles||2019||11/12||promsing elegance|
|***(*)||J Vidal-Fleury||2018-19||11/12||solid depth, dark|
|***(*)||Domaine de La Ville Rouge Inspiration||2018||11/12||compact depth; foods|
|***(*)||Domaine de La Ville Rouge Cuvée Paul||2018-19||11/12||STGT; subtle potential|
|***||Domaine Betton Caprice||2016||11/12||upfront fruit; sound|
|***||Cave de Tain Les Hauts du Fief||2018-19||11/13||dwn frm 3.5 strs; depth???|
|***||M.Chapoutier Petite Ruche||2016||11/12||bouncy, supple|
|***||Domaine Combier Laurent Combier||2019||11/12||plum fruits; floral|
|***||2012 Laurent Combier Cap Nord||2018||12/13||prune, grip, OK but ...|
|***||Emmanuel Darnaud Les Trois Chênes||2019||11/12||soft ripeness|
|***||Olivier Dumaine La Croix du Verre||2019-20||11/12||upright, has gras|
|***||Olivier Dumaine Opora||2018||11/12||crisp; grills or solo|
|***||Romain Duvernay||2017||11/12||scaled; immediate impact|
|***||equis equinoxe||2018||11/12||plump, closing now|
|***||E Guigal||2019-20||10/15||bonny juice, slight dry end|
|***||Domaine des Lises||2018||11/13||bright early fruit; bit simple|
|***||Domaine des Martinelles||2019||11/12||discreet persistence|
|***||Domaine Melody Etoile Noire||2018-19||11/12||foot-down, plenty|
|***||Domaine Melody Friandise||2017-18||11/12||big scale, Wild Child|
|***||Domaine Mucyn||2017||11/12||orderly, w.o.w.|
|***||Domaine du Murinais Les Amandiers||2016-17||11/12||juicy, clear, early drink|
|***||Ogier Comte de Raybois||2018-19||11/12||generous, fleshy|
|***||Domaine Pradelle Courbis||2017-18||11/12||careful fruit; very sound|
|***||Dom des Remizières Cuvée Particulière||2015-16||11/12||shapely; easy drinking|
|***||Gilles Robin Albéric Bouvet||2019||12/15||bright fruit; not ensemble|
|***||Domaine Saint Clair étincelle||2016-17||11/12||good drinkability|
|***||Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes||2019-20||11/12||mature; for sweet tooths|
|***||Dom de La Ville Rouge Terre d’Eclat||2018||11/12||supple, subtle|
|***||Les Vins de Vienne Les Palignons||2019||11/12||scented, squeezy, wee oak|
|**(*)||Cave de Tain||2015||11/12||medium weight; solo OK|
|**(*)||Cave de Tain Selection Première||2016||11/12||soft; drink soon|
|**(*)||M.Chapoutier Les Meysonniers||2017-18||11/12||tender, modest|
|**(*)||Yann Chave||2019-20||11/12||gutsy, tight; may improve|
|**(*)||Dard & Ribo Rouge Divers||2016||03/12||soft fruit; bit edgy|
|**(*)||Delas Les Launes||2017||11/12||workmanlike; not more|
|**(*)||Domaine Jeanne Gaillard||2019-20||11/12||swish fruit; technical|
|**(*)||Dom de Lucie Aux Racines Saint-Jaimes||2016||11/12||juicy, modern, stretched|
|**(*)||Dom des Remizières Cuvée Christophe||2017-18||11/12||cellar-led; oak-matter??|
|**(*)||Eric Rocher Chaubayou||2020||11/12||cellar on top|
|**(*)||Domaine des 7 Chemins Tradition||2019||11/12||fruit has style; lot oak|
|**(*)||Marc Sorrel||2018||11/13||lacks depth, quiet drink|
2011 Hermitage fits into a trio of excellent vintages, each one offering its own expression of the ripening cycle and the Noble Hill. We start with the sun-swept power of 2009, a rippling, grounded version of Hermitage, one when the Chave family chose to produce their Cathelin cuvée – the previous had been 2003. In 2009 it is founded around Les Bessards, in deliberate counterpoint to the style of the classic red - the Méal-centric heart of their classic wine was a true example of the bounty that this sweeping slope gives in warm or hot summers.
2010 has better balance than 2009, but one can never discount the full-blooded appeal of a hot sun year such as 2009. However, 2010 is so well-packed, so full of options, that I regard it up among the star vintages of my lifetime – my first “live” vintage, tasted at the time, was 1972. The freshness of 2010 is superior to that of 2009, and that will mean that the wines will take their time to integrate and to strut their undoubted potential. Very, very long, extremely aromatic, the Hermitages of 2010 impress on every level.
2011 is the most winsome vintage of the three years, but it is very good indeed, a real deft purveyor of terroir nuances as one travels around the different climats of the hill. One of the best insights to a vintage always comes from the climat by climat tasting at Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, and the vintage hovering in the back of my mind as I tasted through the parts of their 2011 was the excellent 1991. That was a slow developer, a vintage of finesse and gain over time, an underestimated wine and vintage. Drunk at 10+ years’ old with Gérard Chave’s kid – young goat – dish, provides a Mighty Marriage. (I have been lucky enough to have Gérard serve the 1991 to me more than once, so details about exactly when are blurred, but certainly when the wine was over10 years’ old).
The uneven weather of the summer ended up favouring the most noble sites across the hill. It was also contingent on growers to keep yields under control. “2012 is interesting providing you had a small crop,” asserted JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE, a point also emphasized by MARC SORREL, who told me, “It was extremely important to get on top of yields. We didn’t drop grapes on Les Greffieux and Le Méal, but we did on the lower lying sites [lesser exposures] in early August.”
The year had bounded forward early on in April and May, giving lush vegetation, with JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE stating that he was three weeks ahead on 27 June, at which stage he was envisaging an early September start for the harvest. The vineyard was showing no signs of hydric stress, helped by 20 mm (0.8 inch) of good, steady rain on 23 June. However, as the weather led to a slowing of ripening, but also another surge of vegetation in July, and then hotted up in late August, the differentials between ripening according to exposure widened.
BERNARD FAURIE recounted: “2011 was a complicated year, The fruit is nickel, very, very clear. There were different levels of ripening for both reds and whites. Anything south-facing ripened quickly. From 25 August, after the high heat, to mid-September, not much budged – the vine absorbed the 70 mm (2.8 inches) of rain at the end of August, but the degrees didn’t change. I harvested my Syrah between 10 and 17 September.”
The route to the harvest bucket was therefore tortuous, with growers never quite able to see a clear horizon ahead. This meant they had to be watchful in the vineyard, and alert to uneven rhythms of ripening across sectors, and harvesting plans changed from one week to the next.
There is no doubt that the heat in August will actually help the wines this year. MARC SORREL reported: “August was hot – after mid-month it went up to 36°C in those 10 days, while September was nice.” The heat clinched the ripening and gave the wines their mid-palate depth. Otherwise, this could have been a restricted year.
Alcohol degrees are restrained – Sorrel’s Gréal at 13.5° compares to his 2006 at 15°, for instance but he also picked quite early – 9 September for his Syrah, four days after the Marsanne and Roussanne.
2011 Hermitage reds are also less easy to read than the obvious 2009s and 2010s, a point made by BERNARD FAURIE: “ripening was complex in 2011,” he observed, “and the wines are complex also – I expect them to go up and down, to have heights and troughs. There is a lot of deposit in them, there is matter. 2011 doesn’t resemble any other vintage. It has freshness, like 2010, but less density than 2010.”
MARC SORREL was keen to dispel what he thought the Press might lazily infer about 2011 if they took the route of deducing that what happened in Bordeaux happened all over France, certainly a regular feature of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s: “2011 is not a bit better than 2008, it is a lot better,” he stated. “For me 2011 resembles 2000 – 2000 had a lot of crop as well.”
“In 2011 there is a larger quality gap than usual between the top cuvées and the classic or entry level wines,” he continued. “Although the crop was large, my old vines always produce less; as they are very well exposed, they performed well, and better than the other vines because it wasn’t a very sunny year. I like these 2011 wines, since they allow the typicity to come out from the most noble terroirs,” he concluded.
I expect the wines to take shape gradually, to take time over fusing not only their constituents such as tannin, fruit and acidity, but also to be gradual in working out the balance between the plot contributors. Cool and precise are the best wines, with the CHAPOUTIER MONIER DE LA SIZERANNE a faithful example of the vintage – it offers violet-mineral, tempting clarity this year.
Often the role of the junior wine at CHAPOUTIER is to try to be “big” in order not to disappoint, while the senior wines such as MÉAL and L’ERMITE strut their silken stuff. The last two indeed do just that this year – MÉAL is sunny, replete and long, while L’ERMITE shows its usual intricate mix of depth and saline-style cut.
CHAVE’s red is also a quilt of precise contributors – the classy L’Hermite, the muscled, stylish Méal and the vital baton-wielder, Bessards, long, stylish and clear. The CHAPOUTIER Bessards wine, LE PAVILLON, is also marked by the mineral click of this hillside, with enough ripeness to suggest southern breezes visited the hill during the summer.
Likewise, the DELAS LES BESSARDS’ mineral freshness develops as it goes, with a reassuring certainty of gras to back it up – another accurate connection from the granite to the glass, even in its currently prominent oaked context.
This is therefore a vintage for connoisseurs – it is not a flashy, immediate gratification year; it will develop slowly, it will show Pinot Noir influences at some stage in its mature life, and Burgundy lovers will be turned on by the purity of the fruit. “A most thoroughly agreeable beverage, Dr Watson,” would almost be the Holmesian take on it, in between puffs on some noxious substance.
Expect this vintage to do well over 20 to 25 years, and to be drinking with extreme elegance around the age of 12 or so.
|*****||M.Chapoutier L'Ermite||2032-34||11/12||well assembled, true|
|*****||M.Chapoutier Le Méal||2033-35||11/12||replete, generous, long|
|*****||Domaine Jean-Louis Chave||2035-38||11/12||precise, fine, long|
|****(*)||Domaine Belle||2029-32||12/14||upright, fresh, STGT|
|****(*)||M.Chapoutier Le Pavillon||2033-36||11/12||muscled, mineral, true|
|****(*)||Delas Les Bessards||2027-29||11/12||tight, fresh; gras certainty|
|****(*)||Bernard Faurie Bessards-Méal||2031-33||11/12||good central fruit|
|****(*)||Ferraton Les Dionnières||2028-30||11/12||manly, STGT|
|****(*)||Marc Sorrel Le Gréal||2032-35||11/13||sustained; proper Hermitage|
|****||Cave de Tain Epsilon||2030-32||12/14||copious, long, intense|
|****||M.Chapoutier Monier de La Sizeranne||2029-31||11/12||manly nose, elegant palate|
|****||Delas Domaine des Tourettes||2025-27||11/12||fine; easy texture|
|****||Bernard Faurie Greffieux-Bessards||2027-29||12/13||fine heart, expressive fruit|
|****||Ferraton Le Méal||2028-30||11/12||heart, ripeness|
|****||Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle||2031-34||11/16||supple, elegant, ground force|
|****||Domaine des Martinelles||2027-29||11/12||elegant; fine fruit|
|****||Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d'Arce||2028-30||10/15||stylish, sunny, expressive|
|****||Domaine des Remizières Cuvée Émilie||2026-27||11/12||thorough, mobile|
|***(*)||Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche||2023-24||11/13||joli, authentic; supple fruit|
|***(*)||Cave de Tain||2027-29||12/14||easy, low-key, has detail|
|***(*)||M.Chapoutier Les Greffieux||2029-31||11/12||Regular Guy Hermitage|
|***(*)||Domaine du Colombier||2024-26||11/13||careful; slow gainer|
|***(*)||JC & Nicolas Fayolle Les Dionnières||2024-25||12/15||hunky, grounded, thick gras|
|***(*)||Ferraton Les Miaux||2025-27||11/12||subtle, elegant|
|***(*)||E. Guigal||2029-31||06/17||juicy, sunny, alcohol on cusp|
|***(*)||Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet||2024-26||11/12||aromatic, orderly|
|***(*)||Maison Nicolas Perrin||2023-24||10/15||cosy harmony, floral, tasty|
|***(*)||Gilles Robin||2025-26||12/15||coated, thick, full|
|***(*)||JMB Sorrel Le Vignon Vieilles Vignes||2020-22||01/15||wholesome, genuine|
|***||Yann Chave||2027-28||11/12||swish, modern|
|***||Bernard Faurie Greffieux-Bessards-Méal||2025-26||12/13||dn frm 4.5 strs; fuzzy|
|***||Marc Sorrel||2021-22||11/13||fluid, round, uncomplicated|
|***||Vins de Vienne Chirats de St Christophe||2023-25||11/12||cooked fruit; big shape|
2011 is a good example of a pure Hermitage vintage, the Marsanne as one with its best soils – from climats such as L’Ermite, Maison Blanche and Rocoules. The drawback is the style sought by several of the peripheral growers, those with extremely small holdings, the price of their wines lower than the high amounts from Chapoutier or Paul Jaboulet Aîné. With these smaller domaines, one finds from one year to the next excessive similarity – later harvested crop and large new oak presence, meaning that their white Hermitages lack nuance and provocation.
Michel Chapoutier has been an ardent, dogged defender of the Marsanne, and realistic about its qualities – those that give a wine based around glycerol more than acidity and its accompanying freshness. Houses such as Paul Jaboulet Aîné, who have employed the Bordeaux-based Denis Dubordieu to direct the vinification of their wines, do not understand this, and are intent on creating “fresher”, more aromatic wines. I am upset by the Bordeaux influence on the Rhône, the effect being to neuter many of the wines, notably the whites.
I have the first stirrings of unease at Delas with their 2011 whites, I have to add. Claire Darnaud is now in charge of vinification (she has been helping on the whites for maybe three years now), and she told me: “with reference to our 2011 white, we don’t want to make huge white Hermitage like our 2009 was – we want a more Burgundian model. Now we also raise the white Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette in 50% new François Frères, Damy and Seguin-Moreau casks, and 50% in 1 year casks from those three houses, instead of all being raised in new François Frères casks.”
The DELAS MARQUISE DE LA TOURETTE comes from two contrasting vineyards – it is the only Marsanne at Hermitage that is cultivated on severe granite, that of the west end, windswept, high plot of Les Grandes Vignes, some of it planted in 1912, some planted in 1918 by German Prisoners of War – hence its name Les Vignes des Prisonniers. Its wine is mineral, tight - as one would expect from taut, very rocky granite sources. All the rest of Hermitage blanc comes from clay-limestone, old alluvial soils or from dead soils, loess that lie further east.
The other source is a 0.45 hectare vineyard at the bottom of Les Bessards, which borders the eastern flank of Les Grandes Vignes high up the hillside, but which down at its foot by the town of Tain has long accumulated rich deposits in its soils. It is actually close to the Jardin des Bessards, a photograph of which I have in my book, showing cardoons, leeks and tomatoes being grown there. This plot, known as Le Sabot (the Clog) thanks to its shape, gives big, round, oily wine from its 1950s Marsanne. Clearly, therefore, the new policy is to favour the Marsanne from high up, rather than the glycerol-laden wine from the bottom of Les Bessards: harvest the Bessards crop earlier than usual, and the result can be less glycerol in the wine.
Thus reference for those wanting true Marsanne from the noble hill have to either pay top dollar for Chapoutier’s whites, or for the glorious and complex Jean-Louis Chave white (now a £100/US$160+ wine) or seek wines from reliable, STGT-style sources – MARC SORREL is a good example, with his two wines, the more noble by some way the ROCOULES - £385 for 6 in bond at Justerinis (www.justerinis.com), for example. Or one turns to a more obscure estate such as DOMAINE DES MARTINELLES, which for years has supplied wine to Guigal, but also bottle around 3,500 bottles a year of their pure Marsanne, 50% cask fermented and raised wine.
Cheaper than SORREL's ROCOULES by some way is the soft, fleshy Hermitage white from DOMAINE DU COLOMBIER - £415 for 12 bottles in bond with Justerinis. This comes from Maison Blanche, a good, well-exposed easterly site, and the Marsanne dates from 1942. Out of the CHAPOUTIER stable, the already bottled CHANTE ALOUETTE 2011, a stylish and true version of Hermitage blanc, is a sound buy for €45.50 for a bottle in Tain, chez Chapoutier.
I would also mention the CAVE DE TAIN’s year-on-year success with their top white Hermitage, AU COEUR DES SIÈCLES, made from early 1900s Marsanne from Le Méal (robust source), Les Murets (very fine whites), La Croix (OK, but . . - so does well as the source for the Vin de Paille). The 2010 is a big, manly, close-knit Hermitage, while the 2011 is, correctly, a not overdone, genuine and properly elegant white. Worth looking out for, as is their stunning, yes stunning 2009 VIN DE PAILLE, a 6 star wine of Great Pedigree.
Vintages such as 1991 and 2007 line up as Hermitage blancs with lower degree and style in their fruit, and 2011 is similar. However, the 2011 quality isn’t spread widely due to the aforementioned overdone approaches by some growers. The best 2011s, therefore, shoulf offer charm, and have a naturally rich finesse; this year they should be airborne, not based on fat.
The Marsanne performed well in 2011, and the definite quality of the best terroirs is apparent in the fine features of, for example, the CHAPOUTIER plot-specific wines – led by L’ERMITE and LE MÉAL. These , as usual, will unfurl gradually, and need leaving until nearer 2020 than 2010.
BERNARD FAURIE has made an interesting, mineral-tinted white this year: he recognises that his white has not always been consistent from one vintage to the next, but was content with 2011: “I picked my white in early September, with a degree of over 14°,” he told me. “There is a lot of freshness, but the wine may lack a bit of acidity. I harvested in two gos, and there is less body than 2010.”
Meanwhile, JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE has not yet embarked on his crucial blending exercise for his 2011 white, but observed that it had taken a little over year for his whites to get away from their lees, and start to purify.
White Hermitage remains a luxury wine, but one that provokes the mind and the senses when allowed to age well past 10 years. It is a must for a well-planned dinner or lunch, and remains the wine I would take to my Desert Island if I were allowed just one bottle (and not one Bengali Tiger as a companion, either).
|*****||M.Chapoutier L'Ermite||2032-34||11/12||rich, thorough, terroir|
|*****||Domaine Jean-Louis Chave||2031-35||11/12||complex, streamlined|
|****(*)||M.Chapoutier Chante Alouette||2027-29||11/13||stylish, poised, true|
|****(*)||M.Chapoutier Le Méal||2030-32||11/12||fine, airborne|
|****(*)||M.Chapoutier De l'Orée||2029-31||11/12||purity, understated|
|****(*)||Bernard Faurie||2028-29||11/12||mystery, mineral, STGT|
|****(*)||Marc Sorrel Les Rocoules||2027-29||11/12||bonny depth, STGT|
|****||Cave de Tain Au Coeur des Siècles||2025-27||11/12||lift, length, elegance|
|****||Cave de Tain Vin de Paille||2033-25||11/12||very fat, sustained|
|****||J-L Chave Selection Blanche||2033-35||11/16||elegant, knit, thorough|
|****||Delas Marquise de la Tourette||2027-28||11/12||light elegance, fresh|
|****||E Guigal||2026-28||10/15||sunswept, rich, punchy|
|****||Domaine Habrard||2026-27||11/12||weighty, full-on|
|****||Dom Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet||2028-30||01/15||gras, glycerol, acidity|
|****||Domaine des Martinelles||2025-26||11/12||stylish, STGT|
|****||Domaine Julien Pilon Prisme||2025-27||11/12||elegant, very clear|
|***(*)||Domaine du Colombier||2025-27||11/12||soft, fleshy|
|***(*)||Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Dionnières||2024-26||11/12||pure, light touch|
|***(*)||Ferraton Le Reverdy||2025-27||11/12||built-up Ermitage|
|***(*)||Marc Sorrel||2023-24||11/12||medium+ depth, refined|
|***(*)||Tardieu-Laurent||2026-28||11/12||oil, oak, noble oxidation|
|***||Cave de Tain||2023-24||11/12||elegant, cld be deeper|
|***||Ferraton Les Miaux||2023-25||11/12||smooth, polished|
|***||Gabriel Meffre Laurus||2024-26||11/12||fleshy, oaked|
|***||Dom des Remizières Cuvée Émilie||2025-27||11/12||sweet, oxidative style|
|**(*)||Les Vins de Vienne La Bachole||2025-26||11/12||limited; more flair plse|
Côte-Rôtie 2011: a vintage for Northern Rhône enthusiasts, for lovers of finesse in their wines, for those who seek a soft landing after the heavyweight artillery of the fabulous 2010 vintage. I rate 2010 Côte-Rôtie as good as 1978 and 1929, so 2011 inevitably slots into the shade of that wonder year.
The wines have a flourish of fruit early in the palate, but can fail to carry fully through to the finish. The slight dilution present stems from two sources – a large crop, and rainfall in September, rain that didn’t hit Hermitage and the Cornas-southern Saint-Joseph area of the Valley, so those wines are that bit more complete this year.
After the robust, successful 2009 and the profound and lingering 2010, growers see the role of 2011 as helpful, while appreciating that it is a little behind the other two vintages. Adjectives applied are terms such as ”charming” or “fine”, and certainly they are already approachable, their tannins mild.
As with vintages that are not marked by sustained summer heat, there is scope for improvement in these wines; by that I mean a gain in weight and density, and a tightening of their fabric as they evolve. In that respect, they resemble 2007 to some extent, a vintage that was low-key at first, but a gainer of body and length over time. At this stage, 2011’s fruit is more flamboyant and free-running than that of the young 2007.
It was a strange year, with similarities to vintages of high heat such as 2003 in view at some stages, and even showing comparison to 2010 at others. This was because the weather sequence was bumpy, marked by big swings rather than by gradual evolution. The spring was very hot, and the vineyards roared into life, suggesting even then that the harvest could end up being ahead of its usual date, with advances of up to three weeks noted.
RENÉ ROSTAING described the year from his point of view as follows: “it was a difficult year; April was very hot, while July and August alternated between hot and cold, hot and cold weather, and the vines became stressed, lacking regular heat. At the start of June we were three weeks ahead, then we lost two weeks in July and August, and we ended up harvesting one week earlier than usual.”
PHILIPPE GUIGAL expressed satisfaction with the vintage, notably alongside the travails of Bordeaux and Burgundy in 2011: “we shall not be complaining in the Rhône this year; 2011 was a frustrating year, since July and August were average, and we changed our planning and took our annual holiday from mid-July to mid-August to be ready to harvest in mid-August after the early ripening. Then we were delayed with a lot of high heat in mid-August rising to 37°C by the end of August. Two rain falls amounting to 50 mm (2 inches) came in September, the first lovely and needed, but the second one excessive.
The tannins on the Syrah were hurt after the second rain, and it was an error to harvest straight after that – you had to hold back for about a week. It was tricky, because if you waited two weeks after the second rain, you came up with a concentration in the grapes, which was severe, and not typical. Our main harvesting was from 20 to 25 September until early October. Yields were enormous – we did two (more than usual) green harvests, and still hit our maximum 40 hl/ha yield.”
STÉPHANE OGIER also spoke of delicate decisions needed at harvest time: “I harvested two to three days at a time, with a lot of pauses. I actually started on 2-3 September, and finished on 5 October. For example, my Besset vineyard I harvested on 3 September - it is a very, very steep, hot spot, protected from the North Wind – and that was very early. We had 30 mm (1.2 in) of rain on 4 September, and another 30 mm (1.2 in) on 17 September, so this year big decisions were necessary. I think the vintage could show terroir well, like 2010."
GILLES BARGE was content with the crop level this year, but also found the September rains a clear impediment: “I had a full crop this year, 41 hl/ha; degrees advanced a lot in the second half of August – my Syrah at Côte-Rôtie by 3° to 3.5°, and my Viognier at Condrieu by a full 5°. Then things levelled out in September, and didn’t advance a lot more, so we could harvest before 15 September. The main setback was the September rain, which meant that grapes in some cases crumbled or lost their skins if you touched them, so couldn’t be harvested. Our Côte Brune crop (Syrah that is mostly most 1976, with some 1952-53 vines) was in such good shape, though, that we didn’t destem any of it – the rest of the crop was 60-70% destemmed.”
PATRICK JASMIN referred to 2010 possibilities before the September rain: “that bit of rain – 25-30 mm (1-1.2 in) eight days before harvesting diluted the crop – otherwise, the vintage would have been close to 2010,” he told me, while FRÉDÉRIC BERNARD of Domaine Bernard drew on the cauldron vintage of 2003 when he stated: “2011 was saved by the first half of August and July being cold and rainy – otherwise we would have been experiencing a 2003.”
JEAN-PAUL JAMET is regularly about the last grower to harvest at Côte-Rôtie, and this year was among the backmarkers once more. He related: “we harvested a full 40 hl/ha; Côte-Rôtie in general started to harvest on 1 September, whereas we started on 12 September, when most growers had finished. We ended on 29 September, to achieve depth in the crop. I was ready to lose quantity in search of quality of the tannins. Vis-à-vis the climate, 2011 was ultra precocious, the earliest since 2003 but it is extraordinarily fresh; the phenolics were ripened in good condition this year.”
Cellar handling had to be careful as well, given the size of the crop and its relative fragility. Malolactic fermentations happened very quickly, with PATIRCK JASMIN telling me that his occurred under the marc, as did Jamet, before the wine has even been placed in cask. NICOLE LEVET of Vignobles Levet, traditional, STGT in approach and working with at least half the crop in whole bunch form, said that their year was marked by waiting for the tannins to ripen, with concentrated sugars but unrefined skins on their Syrah: “our La Landonne crop was 13.2°, but acidity was feeble. The presence of a lot of natural yeasts set the grapes going fast, and the ferments were all done in two or three days.”
A tactic of several domaines was to restrict cask ageing this year, with the wines considered unlikely to benefit from too much aereation. As JEAN-PAUL JAMET observed, “it is a year of great charm in the Northern Rhône, but it also needed particular attention to not lose its elegance and subtlety. Special attention had to be paid to its raising – you needed extreme prudence in the oxygenation of these wines, which were not reductive this year. The choices and decisions of the grower counted for more in 2011 than in 2009 and 2010, when nature did much of the work. 2012 will be the same as 2011.”
FRÉDÉRIC BERNARD worked along similar lines: “2011 doesn`t have large matter, has round tannins, and is open and flattering,” he recounted. “We may raise it a little less time – bottle it in December 2012 instead of April 2013. I see 2011 as a drink in youth vintage.”
Two of the younger generation, which is tuned into easy drinking wines rather than big scale events, liked the style of 2011, and its accessibility. KÉVIN GARON, 35 years old, who with his younger brother Fabien has taken over from father Jean-François (the last-named currently single handedly constructing a new cellar – its wooden doors, the masonry and so on), had this outlook on the vintage: “the 2011 harvest was very handsome, very healthy – so the wines drink very well, are silken, a bit like 2006. It has less tannin, less acidity than 2010. You can keep them, but also drink a lot of them around 2016-17. I like the style of the wines.” From north of the village of Ampuis, the talented STÉPHANE PICHAT stated: “I find the style of 2011 is for a bit more matter than 2010, but I prefer both 2010 and 2011 to 2009. They both have better balance."
In terms of comparisons, CHRISTINE VERNAY of Domaine Georges Vernay, who likes finesse in her wines, was reaching for a couple of vintages from the recent past: “with a complicated harvest, some wines lack balance; it is not an opulent vintage, and resembles 2004 and 2006 for me.”
PATRICK JASMIN's thinking ran along some similar lines: “2011 will be a very approachable vintage,” he stated. “The wine was slow at first to come together but by October 2012 has taken on weight. I compare 2011 to 2006 and 2007 – it is a year of finesse, and quite easy to drink. I notice that growers are perhaps seeking rounder, more coloured and easier to drink wines since 2010 – extraction isn’t the same, and the cap of the vat is no longer in its bath all day.”
JEAN-PAUL JAMET is enthusiastic about this rather testing year: “2011 is a super year, with class, and Côte-Rôtie charm,” he said. “It is exceptional, with density as well. I find it elegant, fine - silken it is - but there is plenty of wine there as well. It will be good now, but also for 20 years. It is a bit less concentrated than 2010 and 2009, but has great charm. 2010 is superior to 2009, 2011 and 2012, I should add.”.
Today, more and more of the most switched-on, younger vignerons in the Northern Rhône find their inspiration in Burgundy, as opposed to the previous generation, now around 40 years old, who went off to the New World to discover other methods and different thinking. For the current group, 2011 is a great vintage to work with, allowing them to work with restraint, and to draw out subtle influences from their crop. Aromatic, neatly packaged wines are the result of this. 2012 will have more depth, but it, too, will suit this school of winethinking and winemaking.
2011 will suit a trend that not just Patrick Jasmin has observed, namely that of earlier drinking of Côte-Rôtie than used to be the case. A similar comment came from KÉVIN GARON of Domaine Garon, who told me: “I find people are buying and drinking Côte-Rôtie more in the summer these days, a change I have noticed here in France in the last three or four years.” Hence I can see this style suiting the Parisian and Lyonnais restaurant trade, where “cool” (the French word branché) establishments will offer these wines in 2013 – an example would be a duo of w.o.w. wines – the CHRISTOPHE SEMASKA Fleur de Montlys and the DOMAINE BERNARD Les Meandres.
I would buy these wines if I felt flush of pocket, but a pre-condition would be that I would feel it necessary to leave them in the cellar until around 2016-17, so that above all they could gain extra substance, and linger longer on my palate. Their time line for drinking runs towards 2025 or so: cosy friends rather than respected, even wondrous visitors they are.
Extremely few of the 70 or so wines that I have tasted have been bottled at the time of writing in November, 2012. The wines I have listed go as far down as 3 stars, with some below that. But the above commentary hopefully gives a useful guide to one’s expectations about this vintage, another confirmation of the importance and quality of the northern Rhône as a premier wine region not just in France, but in the wide world as well.
|*****||Jean-Michel Gérin Les Grandes Places||2028-30||11/13||stylish; relaxed bounty|
|*****||E.Guigal La Landonne||2035-38||12/15||comely, deep fruit, flair|
|*****||René Rostaing Côte Blonde||2033-35||05/13||buzzy, also dense, fragrant|
|****(*)||Gilles Barge Côte Brune||2030-32||05/12||good body all through|
|****(*)||Domaine Clusel-Roch Les Grandes Places||2027-29||11/12||powerful, driving, potential|
|****(*)||Domaine Duclaux Maison Rouge||2024-26||11/12||STGT, class, balance|
|****(*)||Yves Gangloff La Barbarine||2021-23||11/13||pretty, round, expressive|
|****(*)||Domaine Garon Les Rochins||2024-26||10/12||good style, compact|
|****(*)||Jean-Michel Gérin La Landonne||2027-30||11/13||silken; gd fruit-tannin flow|
|****(*)||E.Guigal La Mouline||2036-39||12/15||super tasty, élan, Pinot|
|****(*)||E.Guigal La Turque||2033-36||12/15||direct, fresh, tight fruit|
|****(*)||Domaine Jamet||2030-33||10/12||stylish, textured|
|****(*)||Domaine Jamet Côte Brune||2033-35||10/12||manly, will accommodate|
|****(*)||Dom Monteillet/S Montez Grandes Places||2026-28||11/12||pedigree, length, terroir|
|****(*)||René Rostaing La Landonne||2029-32||05/13||delicate, solid inside|
|****(*)||Jean-Michel Stéphan VV en Coteaux||2023-25||11/13||subtle, persistent, varied|
|****(*)||J Vidal-Fleury La Chatillonne||2024-27||11/12||pure flavour, good weight|
|****||Gilles Barge Du Plessy||2024-26||11/12||traditional, buoyant|
|****||2029-31||11/13||charm but steel, tenacity|
|****||Domaine Bernard Côte Rozier||2027-29||05/12||stylish, expressive|
|****||Domaine Billon La Brocarde||2024-26||11/12||big, scaled; potential|
|****||Domaine Clusel-Roch La Viallière||2025-26||11/12||wrapped-up power, clear|
|****||Delas La Landonne||2023-25||11/12||aromatic, gras centre|
|****||Domaine Duclaux La Germine||2022-24||11/12||clear fruit, will thicken|
|****||Ferraton Père et Fils L'Eglantine||2022-24||11/12||gourmand; will be stylish|
|****||GAEC François et Fils||2022-23||11/12||polished wine; w.o.w.|
|****||Yves Gangloff La Sereine Noire||2024-25||11/13||subtle; pedigree, interest|
|****||Domaine Garon Les Triotes||2023-24||10/12||tasty, precise|
|****||François & Xavier Gérard||2026-27||10/12||aromatic, shapely|
|****||Jean-Michel Gérin La Viallière||2027-29||11/13||fine fruit; local mineral cut|
|****||Domaine Jasmin||2027-29||04/15||compressed depth, sunny|
|****||Vignobles Levet Maestria||2028-30||03/15||earthy rumble, rocky wine|
|****||Vignobles Levet La Péroline/Chavaroche||2027-29||02/15||properly full, much to enjoy|
|****||François Merlin||2024-25||10/12||elegance, balance, interest|
|****||Michel & Stéphane Ogier Lancement||2027-29||11/12||charm; attractive, terroir|
|****||Stéphane Pichat Les Grandes Places||2027-29||10/12||oak, STGT within, variety|
|****||Christophe Pichon Comtesse en Blonde||2026-27||10/12||harmony; good flavours|
|****||Christophe Pichon Rozier||2023-25||10/12||elegant; pretty pure|
|****||Christophe Semaska Fleur de Montlys||2029-30||04/16||improver; joli juice, Pinot|
|****||Dom Georges Vernay Blonde du Seigneur||2023-24||11/13||charm; swish, liberal fruit|
|****||Dom Georges Vernay Maison Rouge||2029-30||04/15||sleek, ingrained depth|
|****||J Vidal-Fleury Brune & Blonde de V-Fleury||2023-25||11/12||STGT; mineral finesse|
|****||Les Vins de Vienne Les Essartailles||2023-25||11/12||good heart, filling|
|***(*)||Gilles Barge Le Combard||2024-26||11/12||grounded, meaty, dense|
|***(*)||Pierre & Marie Benetière Cordeloux||2022-23||11/13||lucid, unforced; still tight|
|***(*)||Domaine Bernard Coteaux de Bassenon||2026-27||05/12||accessible, rich and fleshy|
|***(*)||Dom P & C Bonnefond Colline de Couzou||2024-26||11/13||modrn, upright, oak; scope|
|***(*)||Dom P & C Bonnefond Côte Rozier||2024-26||11/13||supple, can expand|
|***(*)||Dom P & C Bonnefond Les Rochains||2027-29||11/13||solid, profound, frank|
|***(*)||Domaine de Bonserine La Garde||2023-25||11/12||manly; nimble Burgundian|
|***(*)||Domaine de Bonserine La Viallière||2023-24||11/12||straightforward, sound|
|***(*)||Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine||2022-23||11/12||STGT, grounded, thorough|
|***(*)||M.Chapoutier La Mordorée||2025-27||11/12||STGT, full-on, grounded|
|***(*)||Vignobles Levet Améthyste||2025-27||12/13||dense, full; plenty here|
|***(*)||Dom du Monteillet, S Montez Fortis||2024-26||11/12||moderated, feminine, oak|
|***(*)||Domaine Niéro Eminence||2021-22||11/12||open, uncomplicated|
|***(*)||Domaine Clusel-Roch Classique||2025-27||11/12||STGT; manly, glass filler|
|***(*)||Ferraton Père et Fils Montmain||2023-25||11/12||modern, wired; needs time|
|***(*)||Pierre Gaillard Rose Pourpre||2024-26||11/12||assertive, fat, cellar-led|
|***(*)||Michel & Stéphane Ogier Belle Hélène||2026-28||12/11||upright; gradual developer|
|***(*)||Ogier Cave des Papes Cardinal Saint Ange||2022-23||11/12||harmony, pleasure|
|***(*)||M & S Ogier d'Ampuis||2025-27||11/15||rocky juice, savoury|
|***(*)||Stéphane Pichat Löss||2021-23||10/12||fine, Burgundian, tangy|
|***(*)||René Rostaing Ampodium||2025-27||05/12||stylish, restrained|
|***(*)||Christophe Semaska Château de Montlys||2024-25||04/16||red berries, chunky wine|
|***||Domaine Bernard Les Meandres||2022-23||05/12||supple, flattering, w.o.w.|
|***||Domaine de Bonserine La Sarrasine||2021-23||11/12||drinkable, fresh, fruit roll|
|***||Yves Cuilleron Terres Sombres||2021-23||11/12||light, pleasure wine|
|***||Delas Seigneur de Maugiron||2022-23||11/12||close-knit; medium length|
|***||Domaine Faury Reviniscence||2022-24||11/12||precise, Regular Guy|
|***||André François Gerine||2022-23||11/12||traditional, forceful|
|***||Pierre Gaillard||2022-23||11/12||crisp, free, mineral|
|***||Domaine Garon La Sybarine||2021-22||10/12||genuine, agreeable|
|***||Jean-Michel Gérin Champin le Seigneur||2025-26||11/13||juicy middle; workmanlike|
|***||Domaine Jamet Fructus Voluptas||2022-24||05/13||plenty fruit; grain tannin|
|***||Domaine Stéphane Pichat Champon's||2022-24||10/12||sound, Regular Guy|
|***||Domaine Christophe Pichon||2021-22||10/12||good tooting wine|
|***||François Villard Le Gallet Blanc||2022-23||11/12||scaled-up, effective|
|**(*)||GAEC Daniel, Roland & Gisèle Vernay||2021-22||12/13||rigid; tannins a challenge|
A constant source of good value for money, and really sharp, often stylish wines, is the VIN DE PAYS or as it is now called IGP category from the COLLINES RHODANIENNES or the Département such as ARDÈCHE or DRÔME.
This brings in wines whose vineyards are at the bottom of a hill, on the plain beside the Rhône, bang next to the hillside full appellation vineyard - often the case at CÔTE-RÔTIE - or up on the plateau beyond the main slopes. These wines can also include the young fruit of full appellation vines, before those are deemed worthy of giving correct quality for the principal wine, be it CONDRIEU or CÔTE-RÔTIE, for instance.
2011 has been a success for these wines, since growers aim to provide drinkable, fresh, bistrot-style quality in their more lowly wines - nothing fancy. Indeed, they take the vigneron away from some of the serious, more pressurised winemaking that accompanies the issue of noble French wines from top vineyards. Note that several are w.o.w. wines - ideal for the restaurant trade.
The VIN DE FRANCE category is also being used by growers now - such as YVES CUILLERON, ANTHONY VALLET - since it allows them higher yields - no limit, whereas the IGP category is fixed at 120 hl/ha for reds, whites and rosés. Of course most hillside growers wortk at 50-60 hl/ha for their IGPs.
VIN DE FRANCE also means less red tape (no approval tasting, checking on varietal percentages etc), and also takes away the obligation of IGP to have a minimum 85% of the wine in the variety stated on the label - hence an IGP Viognier must be at least 85% Viognier. The name is also more resonant than the title Collines Rhodaniennes.
Here is a selection of some that have caught my eye in my travels and visits up to the autumn of 2012:
|***(*)||Domaine Gonon vdpays de l'Ardèche Syrah||2017||11/12||high grade|
|***||Domne Clape Vin de Table Le Vin des Amis Syrah||2019-20||10/12||fat, great resto vin|
|***||Domaine Garon Collines Rhodaniennes IGP Syrah||2016||10/12||strng appeal; w.o.w.|
|***||Michel & Stéphane Ogier IGP Seyssuel L'Âme Soeur||2022-23||11/12||breezy, drinkable|
|***||Stéphane Pichat Coll Rhod IGP Syrah||2019-21||10/12||character, structure|
|***||Jean-Michel Stéphan Vin de France Vin Sans Origine red||2019-20||11/13||fresh, steely, edgy|
|**(*)||Dom Les Alexandrins Coll Rhod IGP Intuition||2017||11/12||rich; trad Beaujolais|
|**(*)||Aurélien Chatagnier vdp Coll Rhod Syrah||2014||11/11||natural; STGT|
|**(*)||Yves Cuilleron Vin de France Syrah||2015||10/12||free flow; solo drink|
|**(*)||Domaine Jamet Coll Rhod IGP Syrah||2019-20||05/13||great flow; w.o.w.|
|**(*)||Michel & Stéphane Ogier La Rosine||2018-19||12/11||lively fruit; bonny|
|**(*)||Domaine Perret Coll Rhod IGP Merlot||2019||10/12||clear, drinkable|
|**(*)||Dom Christophe Pichon Coll Rhod IGP Syrah||2014||10/12||aperitif; w.o.w.|
|**(*)||Dom Romaneux-Destezet vdp Ardeche Gamay||2016-17||03/12||clear; good solo|
|**(*)||Dom Romaneaux-Destezet vdp Ardeche Syrah||2017-18||03/12||racy fruit|
|**(*)||Domaine Vallet Vin de France Ritou Syrah||2015||05/12||fresh; w.o.w.|
|***(*)||Yves Cuilleron Vin de France Rousselière||2024-25||09/13||spine; character|
|***(*)||Yves Cuilleron Vin de France Viognier||2015||10/12||outstanding|
|***(*)||Francois & Xavier Gérard Coll Rhod IGP Viognier||2015-16||12/13||up from 2.5 stars|
|***(*)||René Rostaing Coll Rhod IGP Viognier Les Lesardes||2016-17||05/13||mini-Condrieu|
|***||Dom Les Alexandrins Coll Rhod IGP Viognier Poupées||2016||11/12||rich; food best|
|***||Guy Farge vdp de l'Ardèche (Mar/Rous/Vio)||2014||02/12||facile, v pretty|
|***||François Merlin Coll Rhod IGP Brocéliande Viognier||2016||10/12||texture, length|
|***||S Montez, Dom du Monteillet Coll Rhod Le Petit Viognier||2016-17||10/12||gd apero; w.o.w.|
|***||Christophe Pichon Collines Rhodaniennes IGP Viognier||2016||10/12||pure fruit; long|
|***||Dom Romaneaux-Destezet vdp de l'Ardèche (Vio/Rous)||2016-17||03/12||tender; solo|
|***||Dom Grges Vernay Coll Rhod Pied Samson Viognier||2015||03/13||crisp, drinkable|
|***||François Villard IGP Contours Deponcins Viognier||2016||11/13||fresh; w.o.w.|
|**(*)||Yves Cuilleron Vin de France Marsanne||2015-16||10/12||tasty, open|