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2014 NORTHERN RHÔNE CLOSE-UP

JEAN-FRANÇOIS JACOUTON IN HIS CELLAR AT VION. HE IS THE ONLY VIGNERON THERE, THE FIRST I HAVE ENCOUNTERED IN OVER 40 YEARS, AND WORKS 1.75 HECTARES OF SAINT-JOSEPH VINES AND 1.75 HECTARES OF VIN DE PAYS

INDEX

1. SAINT-JOSEPH RED

2. SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

3. SAINT-PÉRAY

4. CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

5. HERMITAGE WHITE

6. HERMITAGE RED

7. CÔTE-RÔTIE

8. CORNAS

9. CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

10. CONDRIEU

11. CÔTES DU RHÔNE RED

12. CÔTES DU RHÔNE WHITE

13. VIN DE PAYS/VIN DE FRANCE RED

14. VIN DE PAYS/VIN DE FRANCE WHITE

1. 2014 SAINT-JOSEPH RED

2014 is a very good vintage for the granite-derived reds of SAINT-JOSEPH. The gradual ripening of the year allowed free expression of the cool qualities of SYRAH off the granite, so the pedigree of these west bank soils has filtered through into the wines. They are not grandiose, but carry a winning precision and fresh length in the best examples. Indeed, really good length is a mark of the vintage, a triumphant offer of flowing fruit, in the front runners.

They will not demand long cellaring, although any overlooked bottles will still drink well around 2022 thanks to fresh levels of acidity. There are instances of both STGT and w.o.w. wines this year, with the weather effect not shrouding the young wines as would be the case in a much “bigger” vintage such as 2015.

The outcome is most satisfactory, since the ripening season was complicated. FRANÇOIS MERLIN, from the northern sector, described it thus: “the year was very difficult – so much rain in July and August, then drosophile fruit flies encouraged by rot in the vineyards. Harvesting usually takes eight days, but in 2014 it lasted three weeks – the work was extremely slow due to all the sorting needed.”

XAVIER GÉRARD, like FRANÇOIS MERLIN a maker of CONDRIEU, echoed this report, when telling me: “I had to do two sortings on the vines due to the fruit flies, and then grape by grape in the cellar for my BLANCHARD crop. As it was, we could only include 10% stems this year, against 50% in 2013, and the yield was half the usual amount.”

Some growers spoke of bad flowering as being the first problem of the year. CHRISTOPHE PICHON told me: “the quantity is only average, due to a poor formation of the bunches and coulure (flowers not converting into fruit). The white crop is better – both the MARSANNE and the ROUSSANNE enjoyed a good budding.”

JEAN GONON, from MAUVES in the southern sector, gave me this resumé of the year: “we laughed, we cried this year. The spring was super, quite precocious, with the vines on the go by mid-March. May was fresh, dry and beau, while June was also dry. We had rain when we needed it on 3-4 July, then it rained constantly on and off until 17 August. We had some hail at the start of the fourth week of July. By mid-August there were outbreaks of rot, but luckily there was no rain from 17 August until 19 September. Those four weeks saved the situation, and dried the vineyards.”

July was undoubtedly the source of woe for the growers this year. LIONEL FAURY, talented successor to his dad PHILIPPE stated: “in contrast to 2013, the spring was warm, sometimes very hot this year. But July was catastrophic, unlike the hot July in 2013; the rainfall broke the record of the last 50 years by a long way. The previous record for July had been 125 mm (5 in), and this year it was over 150 mm (6+ in).”

PIERRE-JEAN VILLA spoke of the constant rains during the weeks after early July: “between the end of June and near the middle of August, those six weeks, we had 200 mm (8 inches) of rain – lots of 10-15 mm falling in half an hour, for example. The weather was driven by Atlantic fronts and the rain was very randomly spread across appellations. There were also bits of hail at SEYSSUEL, along with CHAVANAY and SARRAS.

As for blights, there was some mildew later on, around the time of the veraison (grapes turning colour to red) , and we also had to fight against oïdium. JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE also told me: “oïdium hit the hillside vines this year.”

STÉPHANE MONTEZ, go-go owner of DOMAINE DU MONTEILLET above CHAVANAY echoed  these views: “flowering was very, very early, but July was bad, a big problem. From mid-August the weather improved overall, though, and it was more clement until the end of September, and that was the period that helped to ripen the crop."

"I like the vintage well," he continued, "because I worked so much in the vineyard, and behind that you see the wine, and can be happy. I cut the raising of my entry level SAINT-JOSEPH red from 11 months to six months, since it was already rounded after only six months. On my PAPY SAINT-JOSEPH red, I included 15% stems this year to help the tannin, which was otherwise low in level.”

After the much reduced crop of 2013, growers were loathe to take risks with the 2014 crop, favouring a speedy, sometimes advanced date of harvesting. JEAN GONON spoke about the challenges during harvesting, when stating: “people harvested quite early; by 19 September, we had harvested half a day of white crop, not more. We then had 120 mm (4.8 in) of rain on 19 September, and more the following day. By then you had to harvest fast, so we harvested everything from 22 September to the 29th or 30th. We lost a bit of degree from the rain, and had to discard a lot – the rot got going again. We ended up with 30 hl/ha for the white, and 32 hl/ha for the Syrah – 2013 was 15 hl/ha for the white, and 20 hl/ha for the Syrah.”

From CHARNAS, in the northern sector, PASCAL MARTHOURET lamented: “I lost 25% of the crop from the drosophile fruit flies.” He was not alone.

For some, however, yields were satisfactory, given the obstacles. XAVIER GOMART of the CAVE DE TAIN reported: “our yield was near what was allowed – SAINT-JOSEPH 39 hl/ha (against 42 hl/ha allowed), and CROZES-HERMITAGE 39.5 hl/ha (against 40 hl/ha).

A quality indicator this year was spoken of by DAMIEN BRISSET of FERRATON PÈRE & FILS: “we reached 30 hl/ha for our SAINT-JOSEPH SYRAH and 45 hl/ha for the SAINT-JOSEPH BLANC. Granite soils, especially at MAUVES and TOURNON  did extremely well in 2014 because they didn’t retain water due to their being on a slope and due to the nature of the soils. There were a lot of fallen walls and rivulets, but the Saint-Joseph terroir let the water drain away, unlike at CROZES-HERMITAGE.”

After so many travails, it isn’t surprising to hear JEAN GONON state this take on the 2014 SAINT-JOSEPH: “the reds are elegant, but you have to seek them out. They came in at 12.2°, against 12.4° in 2013.”

A feature of 2014 is how it demonstrates a high standard of winemaking, with lots of wines holding clear, expressive, tasty fruit. Progress on this front has occurred across the board, from small domaines to large, and from the heartland of the soouthern sector up to the more recent northern sector.

It is also an ace CHR (Café-Hotel-Restaurant) vintage. Drinkability and ease of access are two of the prime qualities of the vintage, and I would be very happy to have a good few bottles of this vintage in my cellar. They are convivial wines, ideal with roast meats, legs of lamb, meat spaghettis, and their fluid nature is also encouraging if paired with duck breast, loin of pork, veal, white meats.

SAINT-JOSEPH is always entertaining and stimulating as an appellation, since it combines styles as wide apart as the **** DOMAINE DE LA CÔTE SAINT-ÉPINE VIEILLES VIGNES and the **** EMMANUEL DARNAUD, which come at the drinker from different angles. The link is that they are both from very old vines, and both are very drinkable.

In terms of cellar work, quite a lot of prominent oak shows here and there, - which one wonders about, given that these are maximum 10-year wines, and will often be drunk before then. Hence a wait until the wine is, say, three years’ old, implies the loss of the first brightness of fruit.

With 2015 taking up many of the sexy headlines, 2014 will certainly always be a Cinderella vintage: all the more reason to take advantage of a good rapport between price and quality, and to entertain your friends with the fruit of some shrewd buying.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH RED 2014s

****(*) Delas Saint-Épine 2025-27 10/15 serious depth, v long
****(*) E. Guigal Lieu-Dit St Joseph 2029-31 06/17 noble juice, stylish, long
****(*) E.Guigal Vignes de l'Hospice 2031-33 06/17 tasty fruit, mineral, complex
****(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Salamandres 2022-23 10/15 sophisticated, v long, gusto
****(*) Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques 2023-24 10/15 class, balance, inner strength
**** Aléofane 2022-24 10/15 suave fruit, oak, length
**** Étienne Becheras Tour Joviac 2021-22 10/15 suave, fruit, jolly wine
**** Cave de Tain Esprit de Granit 2022-24 10/15 elegant, scented, enjoyable
**** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2020-21 10/15 racy, tasty fruit, w.o.w.
**** M Chapoutier Deschants 2021-22 10/15 joli fruit, density, detail
**** M Chapoutier Les Granits 2024-25 10/15 flowing fruit, full-on
**** Domaine Jean-Louis Chave  2029-31 12/15 scented, complex, interesting
**** Jean-Louis Chave Offerus 2023-24 04/18 gt purity, cressing, w.o.w.
**** Guillaume Clusel 2023-24 10/15 serene, tasty, serious vin
**** Dom la Côte Sainte-Épine V Vignes 2021-22 10/15 handsome, gourmand, STGT
**** Domaine Coursodon L’Olivaie 2023-24 10/15 tasty, classy, stylish
**** Yves Cuilleron Les Serines 2022-23 10/15 joli fruit-gras, character
**** Emmanuel Darnaud   2022-23 10/15 streamlined, peppy, buzzy  
**** Domaine Durand Lautaret   2021-22 10/15 liberal fruit, fluid gras  
**** Guy Farge Passion des Terrasses   2020-21 10/15 friendly fruit, with flair  
**** Lionel Faury La Gloriette   2021-22 10/15 juicy, shapely, tempting  
**** Ferraton Lieu-Dit Paradis   2024-16 10/15 savoury, individual, STGT
**** Ferraton Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph   2026-28 10/15 close-knit, style, cool  
**** Domaine Gonon   2027-28 04/16 alluring, pure, with depth 
**** Dom Michelas-St Jemms Sainte Epine 2023-24 10/15 fine fruit, authority 
**** Domaine du Monteillet Papy   2026-28 10/15 Burgundian, slow gainer 
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin   2021-22 10/15 joli fruit, stylish  
**** Gilles Robin André Péleat   2024-25 12/15 tasty, live, Road Runner 
**** Martine Rouchier luc biologique 2020-21 10/15 Vin Nature, free, w.o.w.
**** Les Vins de Vienne L’Arzelle   2020-21 10/15 entertaining fruit, w.o.w. 
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2020-21 10/15 tender fruit, harmonious
***(*) Dom Les Alexandrins L'Arène de Coeur 2020 10/15 joli fruit, true, quite stylish  
***(*) Nicolas Badel Montrond   2021-22 10/15 crisp fruit, savoury drive  
***(*) Nicolas Badel Les Mourrays   2021-22 10/15 supple, cool fruit, peppery  
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Granilites   2022-23 10/15 peppery, free, entertaining  
***(*) Domaine Courbis Les Royes 2023-24 10/15 gd fruit, modern, bit clinical 
***(*) Domaine Coursodon Silice   2021-22 10/15 live fruit, time to amplify 
***(*) Dom Coursodon Le Paradis St Pierre   2020-21 10/15 soft, harmonious  
***(*) Delas Les Challeys   2020-21 10/15 red fruits; cool, direct  
***(*) Domaine Durand Les Coteaux   2020 10/15 nicely trad, cool clarity  
***(*) equis, Maxime Graillot 2021 10/15 grip, clarity, STGT  
***(*) Guy Farge Gourmandises   2020-21 10/15 fresh, tasty, very joli  
***(*) Guy Farge Terroir de Granit   2022-23 10/15 expressive, natural gras, STGT
***(*) Lionel Faury Hedonism   2020 10/15 precise, tender, w.o.w.
***(*) Ferraton Lieu Dit Bonneveau   2026-27 10/15 scented, quite handsome 
***(*) Pierre Finon Les Rocailles 2020 07/17 crisp fruit, charm, honesty
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille   2023-24 11/15 live, sleek fruit, peppery 
***(*) Xavier Gérard Le Blanchard   2020-21 10/15 beau, precise, genuine 
***(*) Domaine Alain Graillot    2022-24 10/15 sleek fruit, charm, true  
***(*) Domaine Gripa Le Berceau 2029-30 11/17 silk, interest, freshness
***(*) Jean-François Jacouton Pierres Isserand  2020 04/16 tender fruit, frank, character  
***(*) Domaine Lionnet Terre Neuve   2020-21 12/15 sparky, good kick, genuine 
***(*) Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne 2024-25 03/18 joli juice, good country wine
***(*) Pascal Marthouret   2020 04/16 mild fruit, up tempo 
***(*) Domaine des Martinelles    2022-23 10/15 beau fruit, swish, oak  
***(*) André Perret Les Grisières   2023-24 10/15 gd gras, pepper, perfume  
***(*) Domaine Christophe Pichon   2021-22 10/15 tasty, likeable, sweet appeal
***(*) Domaine Pradelle   2022-23 10/15 clear, cool fruit, fresh  
***(*) David Reynaud 350 m Plateau Gneiss 2021-22 10/15 smooth, up tempo  
***(*) Martine Rouchier la chave 2022-23 10/15 prune, pine, oak needs time
***(*) Martine Rouchier luc   2021-22 10/15 bright, tasty fruit, smooth  
***(*) Christophe Semaska 2020-21 04/16 quiet gras, charming  
***(*) Christophe Semaska Malleval   2022-23 04/16 fluid gras, rocky notes  
***(*) Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes   2026-27 07/16 thick juice, floral 
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne   2021-22 10/15 racy, free drinking, minted  
***(*) Alain Voge Les Vinsonnes 2022-23 10/15 crisp, long fruit, fresh
*** Emmanuel Barou un Autre Monde 2019-20 04/16 red fruits, grainy texture
*** Domaine Belle Les Rivoires   2021-22 04/16 OK, not arresting  
*** M Chapoutier Le Clos   2023-24 10/15 ample, pumped, oaked  
*** Domaine Louis Chèze Ro-Rée   2021-22 10/15 peppery, fresh, bit tense 
*** Domaine Courbis   2020 10/15 fresh, lightly scented 
*** Dard & Ribo   2021-22 12/15 peppy, direct  
*** Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin   2021-22 10/15 streamlined fruit, with oak  
*** Delas François de Tournon   2022-23 10/15 tasty fruit, straightforward  
*** Ferraton Père & Fils La Source   2022-23 10/15 compact, savoury, brisk fruit
*** Pierre Gaillard   2019-20 11/15 sleek, plump, peppery 
*** Pierre Gaillard Les Pierres   2021-22 11/15 bright fruit, depth???   
*** Domaine Gripa 2025-27 11/17 mineral, crisp, allow air
*** Dom des Hauts Chassis ….?   2019 10/15 compressed juice, trad  
*** Yves Gangloff 2021 10/16 clear, naked, soft gras
*** Cath & Pascal Jamet Tour d’Arras   2018 12/15  soft content, gentle
*** Cath & Pascal Jamet Les Traverses   2019 12/15 fine, well presented  
*** Gabriel Meffre Saint-Etienne   2020-21 10/15 direct fruit, some sweetness 
*** François Merlin   2020 10/15 squeezy gras, clear  
*** Dom du Monteillet Grand Duc   2020 10/15 fresh, workmanlike  
*** Didier Morion Lléandre 2020 10/16 crisp, some intensity, natural
*** Stéphane Ogier Le Passage   2023-24 04/16 lively, direct, spiced 
*** Alain Paret Les Larmes du Père   2019 10/15 direct fruit, very easy  
*** Vincent Paris Les Côtes 2019 07/17 soft, spiced; lunch wine
*** André Perret    2020-21 10/15 sweet, cosy, round  
*** Domaine des Remizières   2022-23 10/15 cool, peppery, polished  
*** Domaine du Tunnel   2020  12/15 overtly modern, bit light  
*** Dom Georges Vernay Terres d’Encre   2019-20 12/15  dainty, tasty, spiced  
*** Domaine de la Ville Rouge Potier 2020 11/18 spiced flow, brittle end
**(*) Pierre Amadieu Les Capelets   2019-20 10/15 black fruit, simple  
**(*) Vignobles Chirat Les Côtes   2019-20 10/15 crunched content, not a whole
**(*) Domaine Rémy Nodin   2018-19 12/15 compact, easy, some freshness
**(*) Vign Verzier Chante-Perdrix La Madone 2019-20 10/15 compressed, gummy, trad  
** Eric Rocher Terroir Champal   2020 10/15 clipped, Spartan  
         


2. 2014 SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

The 2014 white SAINT-JOSEPHs are unusually large wines for this appellation, and contrast with the cooler, more direct 2014 SAINT-PÉRAYs. The ST-JO blancs pack a full punch, and are all destined for la table, sauced dishes, big flavours. Degrees are also pretty high, often around 14°+ I suspect. Some will benefit from calming down over the next 18 months. Overall, it is an excellent vintage.

There is still a theme of freshness within the wines, so this can be taken as a serious vintage which will reward some cellaring. Bouquets are prominent, and the style of the wins should appeal to drinkers dipping their toes into northern Rhône whites. 

JOËL DURAND, the President of the SYNDICAT DES VIGNERONS DE SAINT-JOSEPH, has been more involved with red wines for most of his career, but professed to great enthusiasm for the vintage:  “the 2014 whites are extraordinary,” he told me; “spring was early and gave us good weather, and by the end of June there was almost a blockage in the ripening due to the dry weather.

We had regular rainfalls during July, and into early August – stop, start, lots of small showers giving about 5 mm (0.2 in) – lots and often. Around 15 August, the rain stopped, the North Wind came, and it was hot for a month, until mid-September, with temperatures around 25°C to 27°C. This month concentrated the vintage. 

We started harvesting on 15-16 September. There were storms on 18 September, some hail on the heights and at SAINT-DÉSIRAT. The degree is a bit lower than 2013 - 12° the lowest for our Saint-Joseph. The older white vines gave lower yields. The MARSANNE hasn’t been generous with its bunches in recent years.

In the summers of 2012, 2013 and 2014, which have not seen any heat wave weather, the vegetative cycle has been slower than recently. As a result, the berries ripen slowly and well. The vineyard hasn’t been stressed like it was in 2003 to 2005 – remember the winter of 2004 was very dry, following on the from the high heat of summer 2003.”

PIERRE-JEAN VILLA welcomed a higher yield this year, especially in comparison with 2013: “he yield this year was OK, and above all we’ll have more crop than last year, when there were bunches but very small grapes, and low levels of juice.”

However, an unheralded menace this year came in the form of fruit flies; from CHARNAS, up on then plateau in the northern sector of the appellation, PASCAL MATHOURET lamented: “I lost 20-25% of the crop from the drosophile fruit flies. The whites have good balance, are fresh, have attractive tension.”

Further south at MAUVES, JEAN-CLAUDE MARSANNE gave this view: “the white crop was joli and healthy – it was easy to work with it this year.”

Referring to the freshness of the vintage, PASCAL JAMET at ARRAS, north of TOURNON, described his take on the malolactic fermentation this year, as opposed to 2015. “My malos were 90% completed this year, whereas I will be blocking the 2015 malos – I prefer the aromatic quality of 2014 to the style of 2015,” he reported.

As for longevity of these wines, ten years is within reach of the best and fullest. At a much cheaper price then HERMITAGE BLANC, I would recommend buying 2014 SAINT-JOSEPH BLANC for a tasting experience of some similarity, at much lower prices.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE 2014s

****(*) Yves Cuilleron Saint-Pierre   2020-22 10/15 very fine, beguiling, STGT  
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Les Oliviers 2026-28 10/15 sleek, bright, plump, terroir 
****(*) Domaine Gonon Les Oliviers 2031-33 04/16 graceful richness, complex
****(*) Domaine Gripa   2023-24 10/15 stylish, cool, balanced  
**** M Chapoutier Les Granits   2022-24 10/15 big, close-knit  
**** Louis Cheze Ro-Rée   2020-22 10/15 fat, Roussanne on top  
**** Yves Cuilleron Le Lombard   2022-24 10/15 fleshy gras, style  
**** Yves Cuilleron Lyseras   2023-24 10/15 Marsanne style, punch  
**** Dard & Ribo Les Opateyres   2023-24 12/15 inner strength, well knit  
**** Dard & Ribo Pitrou   2020-21 12/15 v precise, v elegant  
**** Ferraton Père & Fils La Source 2020-21 10/15 supple gras, fresh, neat  
**** E Guigal 2021-22 10/15 shapely gras, tasty, joli  
**** Dom du Monteillet Grand Duc   2022-23 10/15 sustained gras, long 
**** Christophe Pichon   2022-23 10/15 authentic, tangy, deep  
**** Domaine Richard   2023-25 10/15 concerted richness, punch
**** Verzier Chante-Perdrix Granit  2020-21 10/15 comfortable gras, finesse  
**** Les Vins de Vienne L’Élouède   2021-22 10/15 well-filled, textured  
***(*) Cave de Tain Terre d’Ivoire   2022-23 10/15 fat gras, solid; la table  
***(*) J-L Chave Sélection Circa   2023-25 12/15 stylish, soft, precise gras 
***(*) Delas Les Challeys   2021-22 10/15 high fruits, bit dumb  
***(*) Delas Saint-Épine   2020-21 10/15 smooth gras, spiced  
***(*) Domaine Boissonnet   2020-22 10/15 supple, fat, textured  
***(*) Dom Coursodon Paradis St Pierre 2023-25 10/15 firm, tight, grippy  
***(*) Domaine Durand   2022-24 10/15 rich coating, genuine  
***(*) Guy Farge Vania   2021-22 10/15 fat, spiced, jungle fruits  
***(*) Lionel Faury   2021-22 10/15 gentle, fresh  
***(*) Domaine Gripa Le Berceau   2023-25 10/15 charged, manly, oak  
***(*) E Guigal Lieu-Dit St Joseph   2022-24 10/15 stately, plump, rich, oak  
***(*) Jean-François Jacouton Souvenirs 2020-21 04/16 stylish gras, good grip  
***(*) C & Pascal Jamet Tour d’Arras  2018 12/15 enjoyable gras, w.o.w.  
***(*) Pascal Marthouret   2020-21 04/16 trad, supple, balanced 
***(*) Dom Jean-Claude Marsanne    2025-26 12/15 creamy, grounded, local  
***(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Carats    2021-22 10/15 cosy fruit, precise  
***(*) Vidal-Fleury   2019-20 10/15 supple gras, modern  
***(*) Vignobles Chirat Les Côtes   2020-21 10/15 open richness, cool fruit  
*** François Merlin   2020 10/15 soft fruits, New Wave  
*** Alain Paret Les Larmes du Père   2018 10/15 stylish, enjoyable  
*** André Perret   2021-22 10/15 quiet style, steady 
*** Julien Pilon dimanche à lima   2018 12/15 creamy, sound   
**(*) Domaine Courbis   2018 10/15 New Wave, lacks depth  
**(*) Eric Rocher Mayane   2018-19 10/15 fair gras, drifter  
** Domaine Blachon Prestige   2019 12/15 mild fruit, lacks cohesion  
         

 

3. 2014 SAINT-PÉRAY

In keeping with the fresh tune of the vintage, SAINT-PÉRAY 2014s are very attractive, and combine good depth of content with fresh appeal. It is most certainly a vintage to buy. Some of the wines are now in the New Wave tendency, meaning their shelf life is reduced, and their ability to accompany sauced or richly flavoured dishes restricted.

The overall take is one of direct, racy wines, except for those - a few - who seek the fat, unctuous style. Some of the racy wines can be a little spare currently, and may gain some flesh over the next 18 months. The **** M CHAPOUTIER LES TANNEURS and the **** DOMAINE GRIPA LES FIGUIERS are two examples of this ability to amplify over time.

The generally breezy style of the 2014 SAINT-PÉRAYs sets them quite apart from SAINT-JOSEPH blanc this year. It also confirms the inclination of a SAINT-PÉRAY to be more a wine of nerve than its neighbour from further north.

STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL, who vinifies his whites with a sure hand, even if there are drifts towards New Wave recently, gave this appraisal of the year: “I would like a spring like we had every year. Budding went well. We were in advance, and flowering came at the end of May, following dry conditions and quite a lot of North Wind.

It turns out that 2014 has been one of my best white vintages”, he continued; “the crop was magnificent, the grapes a golden colour and in perfect health when I picked them. The wines are rich, fresh, balanced. They are quite concentrated, but also fresh. Leave them so they can gain depth. 2015 isn’t necessarily better – that is an extremely concentrated vintage.”

Good yields were welcome after the Spartan offerings of 2013; PIERRE CLAPE reported: “as for SAINT-PÉRAY, the degrees on the MARSANNE are good this year – 13.5° on the young vines, and 14° on the older vines. This year we have made 30 hl (4,000 bottles), which is wonderful – 2013 was only 6 hl (800 bottles).”

Higher than usual acidity levels will keep the wines in good shape over at least seven or eight years. JEAN-LOUIS THIERS of DOMAINE DU BIGUET even adapted that to the vintage: “I let the 2014 malos complete themselves since the acidity levels were good,” he told me.

A new wine was introduced this year. This comes from CATHERINE & PASCAL JAMET, whose wines, mainly SAINT-JOSEPH from ARRAS north of TOURNON, are intended for convivial drinking, always running well on their first impressions. Their SAINT-PÉRAY GREENETTE is a pure ROUSSANNE planted in 2011 on the very poor granite soils of BARRAS, which is an established lieu-dit. “The terrain is very poor, the yields are low, and there is a good link between the juice and solid matter of the grapes”, PASCAL recounted to me. It was a very creditable effort for such young vines.

Much SAINT-PÉRAY is served in restaurants in the RHÔNE ALPES region, but it is a wine that is reviving, undoubtedly, with a surge in demand across the board for Rhône whites. 2015 will be a vintage to aid that advance, since there is a healthy amount of wine. In 2013, total production was 1, 857 hl (247,600 bottles). In 2014 it was 2,745 hl (366,000 b) and in 2015 it was 2,843 hl (379,000 b).

LEADING SAINT-PÉRAY 2014s

***** Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2027-28 07/16 old vine beauty; v stylish
****(*) Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques 2021-22 10/15 stylish richness, fresh
**** M Chapoutier Les Tanneurs 2020-22 10/15 linear, true granite, V
**** Domaine Clape 2021-22 12/15 bright, v stylish, trad
**** Yves Cuilleron Les Potiers 2021-22 10/15 serious, balanced, live
**** Domaine Durand 2020-21 10/15 stylish gras, clear, STGT
**** Guy Farge Grain de Silex 2019-20 10/15 abundant, traditional 
**** Domaine Gripa Les Figuiers 2023-24 10/15 close-knit, fresh, long
**** Domaine du Tunnel Cuvée Prestige 2021-22 10/15 wide richness, elegant 
**** Domaine du Tunnel Roussanne 2021-22 10/15 careful gras, nuanced
**** Les Vins de Vienne Les Bialères 2021-22 10/15 wide, rich, fresh length
**** Alain Voge Les Terres Boisées 2022-23 10/15 vigour, style, flair
***(*) Cave de Tain Fleur de Roc 2020-21 10/15

easy richness, stylish

***(*) Dom Biguet, JL Thiers Terres Rouilles 2019 10/15 cosy gras, fine acidity
***(*) Julien Cécillon Gemini 2019 10/16 en finesse, airborne
***(*) J-L Colombo La Belle de Mai 2019-20 10/15 finesse, stylish, airborne
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Les Cerfs 2019-21 10/15 elegant, nicely filled
***(*) Laurent & Céline Fayolle Montis 2019-20 10/15 lively, joli gras
***(*) Domaine Gripa Les Pins 2020-21 04/16 subtle gras, elegant
***(*) Jacques Lemenicier Elegance 2019-20 12/15 juicy gras, aromatic
***(*) Johann Michel Les Petites 2018 12/15 elegant, fine freshness
***(*) Johann Michel M 2018 12/15 airborne, tender 
***(*) Rémy Nodin La Beylesse 2019 12/15 fluid gras, calm
***(*) Domaine du Tunnel Marsanne 2020-21 10/15 fine richness, detail
***(*) Domaine du Tunnel Pur Blanc 2020-21 10/15 elegant gras; grippy 
***(*) Alain Voge Fleur de Crussol 2022-23 10/15 full, with freedom
***(*) Alain Voge Harmonie 2020-21 10/15 style, cut, freshness
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2019-20 10/15 salty, crisp, joli gras  
*** Stéphan Chaboud Cuvée Boscus   2019 12/15 snappy, fresh, small gras
*** Catherine & Pascal Jamet Greenette   2017-18 12/15 soft gras, supple 
*** Jacques Lemenicier Traditionelle   2019 12/15 tight gras, nutty  
*** Rémy Nodin Classique  2018 12/15 light, aperitif style  
*** Les Vins de Vienne 2018 10/15 trim, fine gras, New Wave
**(*) Dom des Hauts Chassis Les Calcaires 2018-19 10/15 bracing, tight, bit spare
**(*) Chrystelle Michel   2018 12/15 apricot fruit, bit flabby 
**(*) Julien Pilon les maisons de victor 2019 11/15 spiced, tame, limited  
**(*) François Villard Version   2018-19 11/15 light, New Wave  
** Domaine du Biguet, JL Thiers   2018 12/15 bit skinny, SO2 
** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2017 10/15 muddled, lacks lift
         


4. 2014 CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

MATURE SYRAH VINES AT LARNAGE, A ZONE THAT PERFORMED WELL IN 2014, AS IN THE LOUIS BELLE RED FROM DOMAINE BELLE

2014 is a pretty good vintage for CROZES-HERMITAGE, but I wouldn’t go a lot further than that. It has been very good in the northern, hilly and granite-influenced sector, with villages such as LARNAGE doing well, but the southern zone wines can be dilute thanks to various forces such as hail and prolonged rainfall, notably in July.

It is therefore an easy drinking vintage, one for more immediate consumption than the 2013s, for example, while the 2015s are much more robust and together.

The weather profile corresponded to the rest of the rest of the northern Rhône, with the apricot harvest badly assaulted by fruit flies, another setback for the fruit farmers of the region, who have experienced some difficult years recently.

In early June 2014, LAURENT FAYOLLE of the stylish DOMAINE FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE at GERVANS in the northern sector spoke of the quick-slow nature of the start of the season: “the vegetation got going really quickly due to the heat in April, but the fresh, quite capricious weather in May slowed that down. Flowering has ended except for in the most north-facing and windy spots. With this high summer heat, the vines are galloping along again. As for yield, the areas with the poorest soils seem to be giving small berries and not too many bunches – some of our old vines may have just one bunch instead of two or three per shoot. There is very little mildew pressure so far.”

July set the tone for the year, however. Trouble came on 26 July – hail, a wandering cloud from the west that hit the southern zone – notably PONT DE L’ISÈRE and LA ROCHE-DE-GLUN – and then moved towards SERVES-SUR-RHÔNE on the granite hills of the northern sector. Among those hit was EMMANUEL DARNAUD, the skilled grower who is BERNARD FAURIE’s son-in-law. “July this year was atrocious, really,” he told me; “21 days of rain out of 31, and that meant that we lost the totality of the advance from the spring, maybe even four weeks’ worth.

Because the weather behind it wasn’t great,” he continued, “we had worries about scarring and long-term implications. This year we were quite evolved in the ripening cycle, which meant potentially a worse outcome than in 2013, when the hail hit on 9 July on BEAUMONT-MONTEUX, allowing more recovery time.”

To some extent, August and September saved the year. Three weeks of fine, dry and warm weather from mid-August until 10 September boosted growers’ morale. By that time, ripening had become uneven, with some bunches very ripe, others not. By then, the gain in degree was running at 1° per week.

EMMANUEL DARNAUD spoke of being down around 30% on his crop in 2014 against a normal year, and for organic grower LAURENT COMBIER the loss was 10-20%, similar to 2013. LAURENT pointed to a good bout of North Wind over ten days in early September as being extremely helpful. He also pointed to acidity levels, saying, “with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C around late August and the first days of September, acidity levels were encouraged, although towards 9 September it became warmer - nearer 20°C to 30°C, with some more southerly wind.”

From FERRATON PÈRE ET FILS, oenologue and winemaker DAMIEN BRISSET told how the year had been very tiring and worrying: “I left for a holiday of two weeks in the South-West on 30 July, thinking everything had been done to have a good year. Two weeks later I saw we had to recommence all the work – drop bunches, deleaf, work the soils. We had had some hail in early July, and of course the apricots weren’t harvested and rotted on the trees because of the hail.

Then came drosophile fruit flies – the bunches were black with them. We also had mosaic mildew to contend with. Overall, there was rain until 20 July. With the fruit flies, it meant that we had to get two bunches out of eight on a vine, and take them away at maximum speed.”

Referring to all the vineyard travails, ETIENNE POCHON of CHÂTEAU CURSON was clear: “you were in trouble this year if you didn’t master your crop, and keep on top of things in the vineyard.”

Harvesting started around mid-September at the earliest, and was conducted swiftly. GILLES ROBIN summed things up: “hail, summer rain, rot. The cold in August at least halted the rot. I started my Syrah harvest on 22 September, after we had had 120 mm (4.8 in) of rain on 18 September. By then the rot was galloping along. We lost 30% of the crop.” JEAN-CLAUDE MARSANNE, based at MAUVES in the ARDÈCHE fared worse. He related: “my vines in the commune of CROZES-HERMITAGE were hailed on the 23 July, followed by two weeks of rain. I nearly didn’t harvest anything.”

At no stage did growers feel they were “in the clear” – nothing could be taken for granted, but the end results were often an agreeable surprise, even if the wines didn’t reach for the stars. From LARNAGE, the organic grower OLIVIER DUMAINE gave this resumé: “it was a difficult year, with July’s weather rotten. August and September saved the situation. The reds are a little in the style of 2012, but are a bit above them, with a bit more foundation. They are fruited above all, and are earlier drinkers than 2013 and 2015. They will in fact serve as good wines of transition between those two years” – a very fair summary.

The easy drinking nature of the wines has been emphasised by several growers. MARC ROMAK from the relatively recent DOMAINE MELODY explained: “the reds are on the fruit, are very drinkable, soon. It was complicated with the harvest, and we were happy with the result. You had to be in the vineyard in August, and do a lot of discarding. We lost 20-25%, and averaged 30 hl/ha.”

EMMANUEL DARNAUD referred the vintage to one where ripening had been hard to achieve, and when a fine and dry September helped retrieve things from disaster. He said: “those who worked well in 2014 did a good job: the wine is similar to 2004 – a wine I liked to drink, fine and elegant.”

BERNARD ANGE, who has seen decades of vintages was actually pretty happy: “it’s a miracle year – the wine is good but not extraordinary. It is more about fruit and pleasure than structure – the reds are showing well already, after four months. It was a high wire act this year, but we got by - thank goodness for the good weather from mid-August and September. Much of the work was clearing the leaves, and running the vegetation this year.”

FRANÇOIS RIBO of hard core organic DARD & RIBO gave a very realistic take on 2014, when he reported: “the reds are fresh, but lack some richness and depth. We were hit by a lot of July rain, and it also wasn’t very hot in August. We stared our harvest after the 2013 date – it was the first time we had ever started in October.”

Likewise organic, LAURENT COMBIER noted that the wines gave immediate drinking: “the results have been more varied across CROZES than in 2013,” he told me. “The rain of 18 September played a big role – there was a loss of structure after the rain. It is a joyful year that has never suffered from a tricky phase, the wines taste well rather like 2006 and 2007 which are now very good. There has never been a closed period.”

A nuance on the vintage was provided by the experienced ALAIN GRAILLOT, citing a reason for which SAINT-JOSEPH by and large performed better than CROZES in 2014. “The hail on 26 July was bad for the Syrah since it came as the grapes were turning colour (the veraison), and hence the sugars were active. We started the harvest on 22 September, two days after the rain. It is a year for the slope vineyards, which were not affected like the plain vines,” he observed.

Examples of these higher wines come in the shape of the **** DOMAINE BELLE LOUIS BELLE, the **** CAVE DE TAIN GN from GERVANS, the **** JULIEN CECILLON LES MARGUERITES (1940s-1960s Syrah) off granite soils, the **** DARD & RIBO LES BÂTIES from LARNAGE and the **** DOMAINE DES MARTINELLES (1960s Syrah) from GERVANS and LARNAGE.

As I see 2014 CROZES, it can be a very expressive vintage, the best wines lifted and digestible. Some are around 12°, and chaptalised up to 12.5°+, so ripeness was not easy to achieve in the more windy, cool spots. It was a question of exposure – the full sunny sites, with a little elevation, fared best.

However, I am someone who notices chaptalisation, via a littler stickiness in the texture of the wines, the fruit somewhat clouded. GUILLAUME SORREL, son of MARC SORREL, and now associated with MAISON NICOLAS PERRIN, talked about his challenge at DOMAINE LES ALEXANDRINS:  “we were at 12.5° to 13° before the late rain, but after the rain the degree sank to 11.5°, so we had to chaptalise.”

From tasting dozens of 2014s, there is an acidified style here and there, a deliberate aim to make “northern”, immediate, stand at the bar wines: I am not convinced by that approach.

2014 is an excellent year in the granite sector – these are really interesting wines based on the usual tender red fruits, with tannins that add a dentelle, slightly cool and chiselled interest – the result of a gradual, cool ripening season.

2014 gave ace wine from ALAIN GRAILLOT, I am glad to say, something of a return to maximum good form. ALAIN is frequently outside France on consulting missions these days – VENICE being one of his contracts.

One fault I found across a few wines was excess tar on the finish. These wines carry tarry, peppery, assertive moments towards the close.

2014 is therefore a vintage that will do well in the bistrot trade, allowing free drinking, taking the wines on the up. The better examples will show well over seven or eight years, probably not much more. In some cases, there is oak to be absorbed, meaning a delay in drinking until 2018, say.

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE RED 2014s

****(*) Yann Chave Le Rouvre   2022-24 10/15 classy, long, with oak  
**** Domaine Belle Louis Belle   2023-24 04/16 fine freshness, STGT  
**** Dom Les Bruyères/D Reynaud Les Croix 2022-23 10/15 mobile gras, swell wine  
**** Cave de Tain GN Gervans 2022-24 10/15 soft, shapely, intricate  
**** Julien Cecillon Les Marguerites   2019-20 12/15 discreet, charm, interest 
**** M Chapoutier Les Meysonniers   2021-22 10/15 quality fruit, structure  
**** Yann Chave Tradition  2021-22 10/15 delight, precise, w.o.w. 
**** Domaine du Colombier Gaby  2022-23 10/15 body, pace, freshness 
**** Domaine Combier Clos des Grives 2021-22 10/15 classy fruit, complete
**** Yves Cuilleron Les Deux Terrasses   2021-22 10/15 pacy, clear, juicy  
**** Dard & Ribo Les Bâties   2023-25 12/15 STGT, long, thick juice  
**** Delas Domaine des Grands Chemins   2022-24 10/15 expressive, gd structure
**** Delas Les Launes   2021-22 10/15 supple fruit, stylish  
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Le Grand Courtil  2024-26 10/15 style, authority, class  
**** Dom Philippe & V Jaboulet Nouvelère 2022-23 10/15 juicy, good depth  
**** Domaine des Martinelles Les Coteaux   2024-25 10/15 silken fruit, accomplished
**** David Reynaud Beaumont   2021-22 10/15 vibrant, whizzo wine 
**** Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2026-27 07/16 suave gras, cool, character
**** Domaine de la Ville Rouge Cuvée Paul 2023-24 10/15 well juiced, sure hand  
***(*) Aléofane   2021-22 10/15 stylish, neat, joli fruit  
***(*) Cave de Tain AB   2020-21 10/15 fleshy, free, textured  
***(*) Cave de Tain Les Hauts du Fief   2023-24 10/15 pretty rich, broad, oaked
***(*) Cave de Tain LA   2023-25 10/15 stylish gras; savoury, oak
***(*) Cave de Tain La Négociale   2021-22 10/15 savoury richness, good fat  
***(*) Cave de Tain Les Pierrelles   2022-23 10/15 cool, aromatic, oaked  
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2021-22 10/15 cool fruit, smoky; character
***(*) Domaine Les Alexandrins Séduction   2018 10/15 shapely, graceful, fresh  
***(*) M Chapoutier Petite Ruche   2019 10/15 entertaining, deft  
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Varonniers   2022-24 10/15 cool fruit, flashy  
***(*) J-L Colombo Les Fées Brunes   2020-21 04/16 engaging fruit, genuine  
***(*) Domaine Combier   2021-22 10/15 modern, clear, wide  
***(*) Domaine Combier Laurent Combier   2019 10/15 instant Crozes, scented  
***(*) Dard & Ribo   2020-21 12/15 live fruit, peppery  
***(*) Emmanuel Darnaud Mise en Bouche 2021-22 10/15 compact, lip smacking  
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix   2023-24 10/15 solid, square, tight  
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Les Pichères  2022-23 10/15 streamlined fruit, perfumed 
***(*) E.Guigal 2020 06/17 easy, agile, fun, w.o.w.
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Dom de Thalabert 2028-30 12/18 refined, aromatic, sweet
***(*) Domaine Quatre Vents Les Pitchounettes 2020-21 10/15 plenty here, plump  
***(*) Domaine Les Quatre Vents Saint Jaimes 2020-21 10/15 supple, spiced, character 
***(*) Domaine Gaylord Machon Cuvée Lhony 2022-23 11/18 tender fruit, spicing, v sound
***(*) Domaine des Martinelles 2020-21 10/15 wholesome, unforced  
***(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d’Arce 2019-20 10/15 soft, floral, calm  
***(*) Domaine de Murinais Les Amandiers   2019 10/15 neat, joli, w.o.w., V 
***(*) Domaine de Murinais Vieilles Vignes 2019-20 10/15 lively, wholesome  
***(*) Ogier Héritages   2019-20 10/15 neat fruit, tasty  
***(*) Ogier Les Paillanches   2021-22 10/15 direct, fine fruit  
***(*) Maison Nicolas Perrin   2020-21 10/15 gourmand, plump, open  
***(*) Domaine Pradelle Les Hirondelles 2019 10/15 enjoyable, tasty, dashing
***(*) Domaine des Remizières Particulière   2020-21 10/15 expressive, fresh, w.o.w.  
***(*) Gilles Robin Albéric Bouvet   2021-22 10/15 engaging fruit, good style 
***(*) Dom de la Ville Rouge Terre d'Eclat   2021-22 10/15 succuclent, squeezy  
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne Les Palignons   2022-23 10/15 stylish fruit, dark tannin  
*** Etienne Becheras Prieuré d'Arras   2021-22 10/15 smoke, tar, pepper  
*** Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles   2020-21 04/16 supple, rounded  
*** Brunel de la Gardine   2020 04/16 savoury, quite authentic  
*** Dom Les Bruyères/D Reynaud Georges   2021-22 10/15 spiced fruit, stretched  
*** Cave de Clairmont Classique   2020 10/15 dark fruit, salty, clear  
*** Cave de Tain La Grace   2021-22 10/15 tender fruit, easy softness 
*** Domaine du Colombier   2020-21 10/15 black fruit, flattering 
*** Emmanuel Darnaud Les Trois Chênes   2020-21 10/15 clean fruit, but distant  
*** Delas Le Clos   2021-22 10/15 easy fruit, much oak  
*** Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Cornirets   2021-22 10/15 direct, fresh, salted  
*** Fayolle Fils & Fille Sens   2021-22 10/15 gourmand, with oak  
*** J-C & Nicolas Fayolle Cuvée Nicolas   2019-20 12/15 soft fruit, natural, unforced 
*** Ferraton Père & Fils La Matinière   2019 10/15 mature fruit, rounded  
*** Domaine Alain Graillot 2020-21 04/16 bustling fruit, lucid
*** Domaine Habrard Vin Bio   2019 12/15 scented, textured, spice  
*** Domaine des Hauts Chassis Esquisse   2020 10/15 sweet, round, mild  
*** Dom des Hauts Chassis Les Galets   2020 10/15 suave fruit, orderly  
*** Paul Jaboulet Aîné Les Jalets   2020-21 04/16 lithe, supple, rolling 
*** Domaine des Lises   2018 10/15 tasty fruit, aromatic  
*** Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne    2018 12/15 easy, up front 
*** Domaine Melody Étoile Noire   2020 04/16 clear, with oak 
*** Domaine Melody Premier Regard   2019 04/16 soft, lightly sweet  
*** Dom Michelas St Jemms La Chasselière  2018-19 10/15 cassis fruit, lift 
*** Domaine Michelas St Jemms Signature 2018 10/15 red fruits, mainstream  
*** Domaine Mucyn Les Entrecoeurs 2019-20 04/16 medium weight, very clear
*** Domaine Rémy Nodin Le Mazel  2019 12/15 elegant fruit, true  
*** Domaine Pradelle   2019 10/15 clear fruit, bit clinical  
*** Domaine Pradelle Courbis   2022-23 10/15 fresh, tense, time  
*** Gilles Robin Papillon   2019 12/15 floral, soft, suave 
*** Gilles Robin Terroirs de Chassis   2018 12/15 effective, easy  
*** Septentria/Bonserine Les Colonnades 2021 03/18 easy fruits, a steady drop
*** Marc Sorrel   2020 12/15 charming, neat, easy  
*** Domaine de la Ville Rouge Inspiration 2020-21 10/15 soft fruit, time  
*** Les Vins de Vienne   2021-22 10/15 grilled, dark berries  
**(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2019 10/15 soft, workmanlike 
**(*) Colombo & Fille   2019-20 04/16 savoury, supple, fair  
**(*) Laurent Combier Cap Nord   2020-21 10/15

sleek fruit, much oak

**(*) Domaine Courbis 2018 10/15  workmanlike, peppery
**(*) equis equinoxe   2017 10/15 easy, direct, scented  
**(*) Dom des Hauts Chassis Les Châssis  2020 10/15 sweet n’easy. plain 
**(*) Domaine Les Quatre Vents Patchwork    2018 12/15 fig jam flavour, unusual  
**(*) Domaine Melody Friandise   2018 04/16 softly spiced, bit sticky  
**(*) Eric Rocher Chaubayou    2021 10/15 clear, needs gain fat 
         


5. 2014 HERMITAGE WHITE

The main debate point surrounding 2014 for the whites of Hermitage is not so much one about the quality of the vintage, but that of whether more citadels of good, traditional white Hermitage are set to fall, following the lead of maisons such as DELAS.

Having just drunk with great pleasure a 2012 CROZES-HERMITAGE DOMAINE DU COLOMBIER CUVÉE GABY white – a wine that completely works on texture and tenderness – it saddens me that the so-called buzz words such “tension” now appear on the lips of enthusiastic New Wave winemakers. “C’est vachement tendu, vous savez” - “it’s really, really tense,” is a phrase that displeases me, being some form of EDWARD LEAR NONSENSE.

These are wines with sun in their veins, thanks to a marvellous setting – the majestic, multi terroir hillside and its acolyte slopes. Striving to deny what is naturally present in the wine, the richness, texture and glycerol, is a big mistake. I know that the winemakers at DELAS threw up their hands in horror when tasting a LAURENT HABRARD white HERMITAGE that proved controversial. The GREEK, GEORGES L, sells it in his shop on the PLACE DU TAUROBOLE at TAIN, so go along there and enjoy, especially if you accompany it with some butter-based cuisine.

2014 may mark the last vintage of properly rich white HERMITAGES from CHAPOUTIER, as I have tasted three of their 2015s – L’ERMITE, LE MÉAL and de l’ORÉE; the MÉAL has certainly been made in a more fresh style since 2009, a gradual increase in that approach every year. Now it is a wine that settles on complete restraint rather than stimulating fullness.

The vintage is an excellent one, though, whatever the style, since there was richness to be attained coupled with a becoming freshness. Acidity levels were good, and the wines are well balanced. 2014 does not possess the punch and wheel spinning depth of 2013, however. It is a little looser and less concentrated – yields were much better than in 2013, much to the relief of all growers.

From the New Wavers this year – even LAURENT FAYOLLE of FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE has entered their camp - the wines can be too light too light and of passing interest, not real grabbers of attention.

A wine that is coming forward as the vineyard matures is that of the redoubtable, hard-core organic duo RENÉ-JEAN DARD & FRANÇOIS RIBO. This is made from 100% ROUSSANNE planted in 1996 on LA CROIX, near FRANÇOIS's house, the alluvial soils there allowing freshness and elegance. It is the only pure ROUSSANNE white HERMITAGE.

MARC SORREL was delighted, telling me: “my ROCOULES is very rich, has a lot of gras this year. It is a Great Vintage for the white Hermitage.” Certainly his ****(*) ROCOULES holds locked-up potential, with what I term “bubbles” of fat present.

BERNARD FAURIE gave this detailed account of the year for his white, a **** wine which I term upright and demanding, a wine requiring time toi open and blossom: “the ripeness was good, above 14°, at 14.3° precisely. The weather was poor between 14 July and 15 August, but from mid-August until mid-September it was very beau, so some ground was caught back up. The grapes were small, and the wine is quite rich. The advantage this year was I was able to have degree with acidity from the rain before in the summer, and we never went near over-ripeness. I had a normal yield, as well, around 40 hl/ha.”

Thanks to this balance, therefore, the wines will live well, and at least twenty years of life awaits for the leading offerings.

LEADING HERMITAGE WHITE 2014s

***** M Chapoutier Chante-Alouette 2028-32 10/15 precise, delicious, noble
***** Ferraton Père & Fils Le Reverdy 2029-31 10/15 subtle gras, precise, v long
****(*) M Chapoutier Le Méal 2029-33 10/15 squeezy richness, strength
****(*) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2039-42 12/15 style, length, flair
****(*) Marc Sorrel Les Rocoules 2032-34 04/16 classy gras, good heart
**** Domaine Belle 2027-28 04/16 clean, traditional, textured
**** Dard & Ribo  2029-31 10/15 pure, natural, dentelle
**** Bernard Faurie 2033-35 12/15 upright, fresh, very Marsanne
**** Paul Jaboulet Aîné Chev Stérimberg 2033-35 11/16 expressive, stylish, local
**** Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet 2026-28 10/15 firm, intricate, salty
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2024-26 10/15 deft, soft, supple
**** Marc Sorrel 2031-33 04/16 low-key gras, freshness
**** Tardieu-Laurent 2030-32 07/16 supple gras, flesh; sound
***(*) Cave de Tain Au Coeur des Siècles 2026-28 10/15 graceful, smooth, serene
***(*) Domaine du Colombier 2025-27 11/15 joli juice, medium weight 
***(*) Delas Domaine des Tourettes 2024-26 10/15 neat gras, supple, orderly
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Les Miaux 2024-25 10/15 rounded, textured, charming
***(*) Domaine des Remizières Émilie 2026-28 10/15 secure richness, smooth
*** Dom Fayolle Fils & Fille Dionnières 2024-25 10/15 tidy, but New Wave


6. 2014 HERMITAGE RED

I rate 2014 at Hermitage as a generally good vintage for the reds. It was aided by being warmer than those areas to the north such as SAINT-JOSEPH around CHAVANAY, and also CÔTE-RÔTIE. The incidence of fruit fly attacks was also less than in some of the worst affected zones.

The wines group around stylish, soft content, with trim, even prim, tannins that can be just on the lean side. The role of the top climats is important this year – the higher, best exposed zones on sites such as L’HERMITE, LES BESSARDS, LE MÉAL, LES GREFFIEUX. However, the wines from these top places are not profound this year, and for a really good HERMITAGE, you need the sunswept depth of MÉAL, and the rocky intricacy and spine of BESSARDS. I find both these contributors are low-key this year.

An account of the ripening season was given with his usual eye for detail by BERNARD FAURIE, who recounted on 9 September, 2014: “the period between 14 July and 15 August was particularly difficult, even chaotic. It was rainy, cloudy and not hot. There was some acid rot, while early August hail hit my VIN DE TABLE vineyards, and the east side of HERMITAGE, the Alpine side towards LARNAGE [these are the lesser vineyards compared to the west of BESSARDS, MÉAL etc]. To the eye, the SYRAH looks well; last week their skins were thin, but they have gained thickness thanks to the North Wind and recent heat.

Our last rain of consequence was about 15 August; we aren’t now quite suffering from a drought stress, but 10-15 mm (0.2-0.6 in) of rain would be ideal. There have been two routes to take this year – work against rot, which would mean less rot and would limit the speed of ripening; or allow more rot, discard crop, and have a faster ripening. That has been a dilemma for the growers.”

After BERNARD’s report, rain fell, heavy rain – 100 mm (4 inches) on 17-18 September, “but as it hadn’t rained for the previous month, it didn’t end up too badly,” he continued. “I harvested my GREFFIEUX-BESSARDS crop before the rain, and my BESSARDS-MÉAL crop after the rain. I reckon I lost 0.2° due to the rain.”

From the CAVE DE TAIN, the President XAVIER GOMART gave this account: “we started to harvest on 17 September, then rain came a day later. The rain provoked fast Syrah ripening in two days, and we had all the crop in the cellars within ten days. We needed to, since there was a lot of rain in the last week of September. We have a new €10 million set of vats which allowed us to receive the crop in fast and furious fashion. Without that, we would have been like 2004 and 2008.”

With ripening the SYRAH tricky, degrees were low in places; MARC SORREL admitted “it was the first time in 30 years that I had to some chaptalisation.”. Yields were affected, as well – with all the sorting, that was no surprise. DAMIEN BRISSET of FERRATON PÈRE & FILS told me: “we were 33 hl/ha”, while JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE informed me: “my yield was 25 hl/ha, a bit better than the very small 22 hl/ha of 2013. 2015 was 38 hl/ha.”

BERNARD FAURIE did a little better: “we were at 35 hl/ha this year. I find that 2014 lies between 2012 and 2013; like 2012, it is Nordic. When the year is less solar, you get elegance.”

JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE pointed to the differences across the appellation, when he discussed 2014. His account ran as follows: “there was a wide difference in ripeness between the grands climats such BESSARDS, MÉAL and L’HERMITE this year- their Syrah was 14°, but the less good sites came in at 11° to 11.5°. 2014 is a year for the best terroirs; there are small wines and good wines this year – the usually not great wines aren’t good at all this year.”

When tasting the wines after about a year, I find pretty good strength in them, more than the vintage might have suggested. Pro rata, there was greater depth and quality than features across CÔTE-RÔTIE in 2014. Some wines were pretty punchy.

Growers were left with intricate blending decisions this year; in the absence of sunny fat, it became a question of coaxing out a harmonious tune, allowing a steady fusion of acidity and tannin, and accepting that this is a PINOT-esque vintage, favouring a gradual, steady, aromatic development.

I have every confidence that the 2014s will be stylish and pleasing around eight years old and onwards. They will be open wines, with cool fruit purity at the helm. It is a vintage for lovers of finesse, and connects with the great region to the north, Burgundy, in its shape and profile. Allow lives of over twenty years for the leading wines.

LEADING HERMITAGE RED 2014s

****(*) Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche 2031-33 10/15 style, pedigree; pure fruit
****(*) M Chapoutier Les Greffieux 2029-32 10/15 suave, stylish, potential
****(*) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave  2037-40 12/15 clear-cut, tight, gainer
****(*) Delas Les Bessards 2030-33 10/15 tasty, crunchy, detailed
****(*) Bernard Faurie Bessards-Méal 2035-37 12/15 bold, inner strength, character
****(*) Bernard Faurie Greffx/Méal/Bessrds 2037-39 12/15 sealed, long, manly
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Le Méal 2030-32 10/15 genuine Méal gras, long 
****(*) E Guigal Ex-voto 2033-36 12/15 stylish, manly, healthy punch
**** Cave de Tain Vin Biologique 2025-27 10/15 serene, v charming, Pinote
**** M Chapoutier Le Méal 2029-32 10/15 coated, square, punchy
**** M Chapoutier Monier Sizeranne  2029-32 10/15 lively fruit, true, STGT 
**** Dard & Ribo 2030-32 10/15 rocky fissures, smoke, clarity
**** Delas Domaine des Tourettes 2029-31 10/15 free wheeling, has gusto
**** Bernard Faurie Greffieux-Bessards 2033-35 12/15 neat, stylish, Pinote
**** Ferraton Les Dionnières 2028-30 10/15 suave red fruits, curvy
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Miaux 2027-29 10/15 solid, genuine, intense
**** JMB Sorrel Le Vignon 2027-28 11/17 charm, freshness, belle clarity
**** Marc Sorrel Le Gréal 2032-35 04/16 peppery, clear, Pinote
***(*) Domaine Belle 2027-28 04/16 suave; attractive elegance
***(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2028-30 10/15 broad, quite rich, true
***(*) M Chapoutier Le Pavillon 2030-33 10/15 assertive, sturdy, full-on
***(*) Yann Chave 2023-25 10/15 clear fruit; quiet, gentle
***(*) Domaine Alain Graillot 2027-29 11/17 fleshy, en finesse, quiet year
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle 2027-29 11/16 finesse, easy, bit light
***(*) Marc Sorrel 2027-29 04/16 crisp fruit, unhurried, sympa
***(*) Tardieu-Laurent 2033-35 07/16 spiced, grippy, raw; time
**(*) J-C & Nicolas Fayolle Dionnières 2024-25 12/18 red fruit, oxidative

 

7. 2014 CÔTE-RÔTIE

THE BASSENON HILLSIDE, SOUTHERN SECTOR OF CÔTE-RÔTIE IN THE COMMUNE OF TUPIN-SEMONS. EXCELLENT QUALITY VIOGNIER IN 2014, AND GOOD RESULTS FOR JEAN-MICHEL STÉPHAN’S COTEAUX DE BASSENON. NOTE VIN DE FRANCE VINES ON THE RIVER RHÔNE PLAIN IN THE FOREGROUND

Trying, testing, taxing: all three adjectives apply to a grower’s lot at Côte-Rôtie in 2014. It was a year of difficult weather conditions, and the appellation’s position as the most northerly vineyard played a role in subduing the free ripening of the largely Syrah crop. In those circumstances, the results are pretty good.

It was certainly a bumpy rife for the growers, since the year had started well, even too precociously for comfort. GILLES BARGE explained: “winter was particularly mild, with just a bit of frost in the first two weeks of December 2013. The season started with an advance of one week by 8 May; we had got off to a very fast and early start in March, maybe two weeks ahead at that stage. We had a lot of rain in February, which is normally a dry month, so water reserves were never threatened during the year! That rain delayed our working of the soils into the first two weeks of March, a bit later than usual. By May I could see the buds of the 2015 harvest already.”

JEAN-PAUL JAMET also emphasized the fast start to the season: “the year was very, very precocious, with flowering on 15 May, three weeks ahead of 2013. The vegetation grew rapidly until mid-June, when we were close to have drought stress in the vineyards.

We all prayed too much for rain which then kept on coming, more than usual, more than double the normal amount. Until mid-June it hadn’t been very hot, and there were moderate temperatures during the second half of June, July and August. It finally stopped raining around 20 August.

The fruit flies went for the grapes, around early September, depending on the ripeness of the grapes – they went for the ripe grapes at that stage. They had developed because the weather was neither too hot nor too cold – we didn’t go past 30°C and didn’t go below 15°C – that was the perfect storm for their coming, with hatching in the warm spring and then onwards from there. They hit especially when the grapes are very ripe.”

PATRICK JASMIN took this approach to the fruit fly meance, telling me: “this year wasn’t easy, with the drosophile fruit fly attack – August vineyard work was required. We avoided acid rot, applied a siliceous mixture, which left the bunches white, meaning the fruit flies went more for red colours elsewhere."

The yo-yo between wet vineyards and dry vineyards – an extreme at both ends of the scale – was an unusual feature of this vintage. BERNARD BURGAUD talked about these conditions to me in the second week of July 2014: ““the vineyard is magnificent, with perhaps a ten day advance now. The period of drought – pretty much in May and June (unlike 2013, which were the opposite – very wet) – could have given problems if it had gone on further. The recent rain has really got things going; it fell softly to nourish the vines and to allow the grapes to expand.

There was a little rain in May and June, but the drought was aggravated by a lot of wind, both North and South. Just now we have had a tranquil rain fall of around 30 mm (1.2 inches) a couple of times, and that water entered the soils well. Things are extremely healthy, with neither mildew nor oïdium. As for yields, the budding was partial in some of the precocious zones, so they may have less crop later on.”

CHRISTOPHE PICHON, who also makes a leading CONDRIEU, spoke to me of a healthy crop, but low quantity during August, 2014: ““the crop is healthy, in very good shape, but the quantity is only average, due to a poor formation of the bunches and coulure (flowers not converting into fruit),” he told me. “Flowering was after the VIOGNIER’s at CONDRIEU, in a period when the weather was colder.”

FRANÇOIS MERLIN, also more situated in the south of the appellation like PICHON, reported a similar story: “there was a good colour and maturity on the crop; I lost 25-30%, making my yield around 30-33 hl/ha – but the main reason was the poor budding in the spring; there was light rot as well. My SYRAH degrees for both CÔTE-RÔTIE and SAINT-JOSEPH are 12.7° to 13°. I harvested both mostly around 25 September.”

GILLES BARGE pointed out the late gains in the vineyards this year, when telling me: “the very beau September saved the situation, but there was the problem of the fruit flies, meaning a lot of sorting and discarding was necessary. Our 2014 yield was 33 hl/ha, against 32 hl/ha in 2013. The 2013 crop loss was due to a poor budding, by contrast with 2014. I rate 2013 superior to 2014 (and to 2012). 2013 was magnificent.”

The Syrah had been slow to gain degree until mid-September this year, so harvesting was naturally more like a date in the 1980s than in the 2000s. The talented XAVIER GÉRARD gave this report on 9 September, 2014: “the SYRAH is at 10.5°, so can be OK in two to three weeks’ time. The quantity is variable from one slope to another. The southern sector is a bit more advanced than the north, with yields lessened by early August rain. The moment when we had the most threat of rot was early July because of the rain then, but that humidity has dried off thankfully thanks to the past month of dry and good weather from mid-August until now.”

Fruit fly attacks featured more at CÔTE-RÔTIE than at HERMITAGE or CORNAS, and added to the challenges confronting growers. The wise veterans such as AUGUSTE CLAPE have always told me that the single biggest decision faced by a grower in any year is the date of harvest – “there is no turning back after that, whereas the chef who spoils the sauce can trot back into the kitchen and make another one.”

JEAN-PAUL JAMET summed up this dilemma for 2014 as follows: “so this year you had to find a compromise between good ripeness and good discarding of crop. It is a year of tenderness more than power. The grapes had a certain dilution, since they were a big size after all the humidity. It was thankfully dry during the harvest; we started the first plots on 12 September, to finish on 10 October.

I started on the plots that were ripe enough to go, perhaps not perfect, but to get round the fruit fly challenge. Vinfications went well, the fermentations started very easily, the wild yeasts worked well -  a day after picking, off they went. As it turns out, flowering on 15 May plus 100 days [the rule of the ripening season from for ever] brings you to 23 August for harvesting. The wines aren’t dense, have attractive tannins and a dentelle (toothsome) quality. The 2013s are more massive.”

JEAN-PAUL also referred to the need to let the wines come to the grower, rather than forcing the issue the other way round. “I used 85% of the stems this year,” he told me, “but the wines didn’t need new oak.”

CHRISTOPHE BONNEFOND admits that he lost 30% of his crop to the fruit flies and also coulure (flowers not converting into fruit) this year: “it was probably about half and half between the two problems. I have never used insecticides, and I didn’t this year. The drosophile attacks came in early to mid-September. As the September weather was good, we harvested into late October. We bottled the 2014s earlier than usual, a few weeks – the wines are not about power, are en finesse, elegance, are rather gourmand.” There was a little chaptalisation on his COLLINE DE COUZOU, which ended at 12.7°.

Young XAVIER GÉRARD also went carefully in the cellar, but found the stems a problem: “you had to be careful with the extraction this year,” he declared. “The stems were dangerous, and could give too much green pepper. It is a tender vintage.”

A tender year, thus, for what crop made into the vats. And a year with a late harvest date, similar to 2013, but a year of a much different profile – a looser vintage, with streamlined fruit, not a lot of density.

PATRICK JASMIN gave this appraisal, pointing to the pleasure on offer from the wines this year: "it’s a better year than 2002 and 2008, has a bit of structure along the lines of 2011 and 2012. Friand (lively), pleasure wines were possible in 2014.”

PHILIPPE GUIGAL described 2014 thus: “it is a heterogeneous vintage with all levels of quality. It is marked by fruit, a lot of fruit. Its structure is very different from the very tight 2013 which was very concentrated, and had cut, profile. 2014 is ample, holds good richness, and it is a generous year.”

RENÉ ROSTAING is gradually handing the reins to his son PIERRE; he remains watchful, though, and sighed as he told me: “what a difficult year. I lost the last of my black hairs this year. We had the fruit fly, and I lost all my LA LANDONNE crop and half my CÔTE BLONDE. That’s why I am only making one wine, the AMPODIUM. My total bottles are down to 15,000, instead of around 40,000 in a normal vintage.”

Growers’ comments cluster around the easy drinking style of the vintage, although I find that some wines are capable of gaining a little content over time, in the manner of Burgundies. BERNARD CHAMBEYRON’s 2014 view was this – he is up on the plateau at BOUCHAREY with his son MATTHIEU: “I am happy enough; the wines are well fruited, en finesse, give agreeable drinking. We didn’t have too much fruit fly attack – it hit the lower slopes zones. We didn’t have any oïdium either, which was a big influence this year, since the oïdium served as the entry post for the drosophile fruit flies.”

More completely centred on the northern sector, STÉPHANE PICHAT is influenced by Burgundy and its habits, with clear-cut fruit and at times liberal oaking on the agenda. He stated: “I am relatively content; the wines have drink young qualities. I find that the even number years give fruit, and the odd number years give tannins from 1999 on. The worst years – 2002, 2008 were even numbers, note.”

The properties of the schist in the northern sector caught the attention of young KÉVIN GARON this year: “the schist, the very filtering soil, played a big role this year,” he commented. “The grapes had joli levels of sugar, and the vines didn’t suffer. In August and September we had grey days, but not the rain of 60 km (37 miles) south. Our LA SYBARINE for example, is more structured than usual – the grapes ripened late in 2014, and the crop was riper than usual.” The DOMAINE GARON LANCEMENT, from the BLONDE end of the appellation, is my top 2014, incidentally - a cracking ***** wine.

PATRICK JASMIN was one grower to observe that the wines were gaining as they were raised in cask. He told me: “2014 may be a bit ahead of 2012 – it is gaining as we raise it, and will be both gourmand and clear-struck (friand). The quality was uneven across 2014 – with the Suzukii fly eating the crop, there was a lot of damage, and we were down to 25 hl/ha, with the old vines hit.

For example, we usually pick 4 tonnes off our 0.78 hectare of 1970s Syrah on the CÔTE BLONDE, but this year it was just 1.5 tonnes. If you waited to harvest, there was rain damage to contend with as well. I started harvesting on 18 September, and finished a week later.”

Being up on the plateau at BOUCHAREY helped the DOMAINE GALLET to avoid some of the fruit fly problem this year. VALÉRIE GALLET commented: “we weren’t hit by the fruit flies, so could afford to wait longer for ripeness as a result. Our yield was 36 hl/ha, much better than the 27 hl/ha in 2013.  It has gained length with its raising, but I fear will lie in the shadow of 2015.”

VIOGNIER CONTRIBUTION BETTER THAN USUAL IN 2014

Close neighbours in the south at TUPIN are FRÉDÉRIC BERNARD and the hardcore organic JEAN-MICHEL STÉPHAN. FRÉDÉRIC BERNARD observed that the high quality of the VIOGNIER had been put to good use, when he stated: “the year was poor, but we caught up in September; we had some Suzukii fruit fly trouble, and our yield was 34 hl/ha. On our COTEAUX DE BASSENON, we included 8% VIOGNIER, up from 5-6%, because the quality was sublime.”

JEAN-MICHEL STÉPHAN termed 2014 as “very crystalline,” adding “I had fruit fly problems: I lost 15% on BASSENON, but as much as 30% on my VIN DE FRANCE SYRAH because it is next to the River Rhône.”

JEAN-MICHEL’s COTEAUX DE BASSENON contains a little over 15% VIOGNIER, and for once this has handled that very well – it is a leading 2014, a ****(*) wine, the VIOGNIER better integrated than it was in the same wine in 2013.

Several growers provided comparisons with 2013, which is generally regarded as a superior vintage, with which I fully agree. 2013 is notably intense and crunchy, and the wines have a brooding complexity. 2014s are much more serene, and sing-along.

STÉPHANE MONTEZ, the racy proprietor of DOMAINE DU MONTEILLET gave this opinion: “2014 is more gourmand, tender with a higher pH than 2013, the latter more on acidity, therefore. Because it is a tender year, I used 600-litre oak casks on LES GRANDES PLACES – the usual 228-litre Burgundian casks would usually round the tannins more than the demi-muid size of 600-litres, but there wasn’t much tannin present in 2014.”

BERNARD LEVET, with classic, hands-off winemaking in his traditional style wines gave this opposing view: “2014 is above 2013 in expression, and is more ample than 2013. The structure of the two vintages is similar. 2014 has more charm and will live longer.”

I find many of the 2014s uncomplicated, with pretty open book characters all the way along. That is in part due to their relative lack of depth, but some of the better wines have been well made by growers knowing how to accentuate their open pleasure fruit –  examples being STÉPHANE PICHAT LÖSS (a wine STÉPHANE deliberately makes for early consumption), the YVES CUILLERON LES TERRES SOMBRES and the PIERRE GAILLARD ESPRIT DE BLONDE – all **** wines.

The fruit of 2014 comes with freedom, the tannin comes with finesse. This makes for balanced wines that can be dainty, even delicate, but highly enjoyable. There is just one STGT wine this year – the ****(*) JAMET CÔTE BRUNE - perhaps because of this lack of depth and real grip on the terroir handle across the appellation. It is a tribute to the rocky properties of the wonderfully situated BRUNE that it can perform so well. I also note a lack of degree this year, with wines coming in at 11° in some places.

However, this is a vintage where there is some uncertainty: the wines can be tentative as they stand, and will benefit in several instances from time - time that will bring a gradual expansion. A downright good, full wine that holds up on the second half of the palate and runs truly to the finish can be a rare sighting, but I would signal the BENJAMIN & DAVID DUCLAUX ****(*) LA GERMINE and **** MAISON ROUGE – both their cuvées – the DOMAINE BARGE ****(*) CUVÉE DU PLESSY and the CLUSEL-ROCH **** LES GRANDES PLACES as leading examples of the best virtues of the vintage.

CÔTE-RÔTIE is now an expensive wine – in Britain, it is often £500 a case or more, and in a tricky vintage such as 2014, I would buy only very selectively - **** and upwards wines that were at the lower end of the price range. CORNAS in 2014 broadly offers better value at around £100 or so less per case. There will be a big hullabaloo around the 2015 vintage, so I’m afraid prices can only rise if anything. Keeping an eye on auction rooms or bin end offers for older vintages would be one way of approaching buying at present, therefore.

Within France, where the economy has been so stagnant, sales of Côte-Rôtie outside the biggest, wealthiest areas have been slow. With restaurant mark-ups at at least three times, it is a bold diner who liberally launches into a bottle. CHRISTOPHE PICHON is admittedly probably better known for his CONDRIEU, but he told me the following: “CÔTE-RÔTIE is not that easy to sell at present – the economy here is poor, and demand for expensive wines is wobbly. The restaurant trade in LYON is much more quiet than that in PARIS, for example.”

LEADING CÔTE-RÔTIE 2014s

***** Domaine Garon Lancement 2032-34 04/15 admirable, long, rockabilly
****(*) Domaine Barge Cuvée du Plessy 2027-30 10/15 full, genuine, traditional
****(*) Benjamin et David Duclaux La Germine 2027-28 10/15 stylish, serene, Burgundian
****(*) Domaine Garon Les Rochins   2031-33 04/15 lucid fruit, good tension  
****(*) E Guigal La Landonne   2036-39 12/15 joli fruit, serene, accomplished
****(*) Corinne, J-Paul & Loïc Jamet Côte Brune 2043-45 04/16 rocky fisssure, long, STGT  
****(*) Stéphane Pichat Les Grandes Places   2029-31 10/15 style, nuance, classy fruit  
****(*) Christophe Semaska Lancement 2030-32 04/16 bold, scented, sustained
****(*) Jean-Michel Stéphan Cotx de Bassenon   2027-28 12/15 brisk, juicy, precise  
**** Domaine Barge Côte Brune   2028-30 10/15 crunch, brisk, assertive 
**** Domaine Bernard Côte Rozier   2028-29 04/15 honest, trad; clear fruit  
**** P & C Bonnefond Côte Rozier 2029-30 04/16 cool, tight, style, grace
**** Domaine Chambeyron L’Angeline   2027-28 10/15 serene, charming, deep  
**** M Chapoutier Les Bécasses   2027-30 10/15 density, good tannin fit  
**** M Chapoutier La Mordorée   2027-29 10/15 cool, quality fruit, promise 
**** Clusel-Roch Les Grandes Places   2027-29 10/15 cool fruit, sound weight  
**** Clusel-Roch La Viallière   2027-28 10/15 lucid, lively, will gain  
**** Yves Cuilleron Terres Sombres   2025-26 10/15 energy, pleasure, w.o.w.  
**** Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin   2026-27 10/15 lucid, Nordic, neat 
**** Benjamin et David Duclaux Maison Rouge 2028-29 10/15 stylish, long, authority  
**** Lionel Faury Reviniscence   2026-28 10/15 genuine, trad, tasty  
**** Pierre Gaillard Esprit de Blonde   2024-25 11/15 fine, tasty, local  
**** Yves Gangloff La Barbarine 2027-29 10/16 style, perfume, spice
**** Domaine Garon La Sybarine   2029-30 04/15 elegant potential, freedom
**** Domaine Garon Les Triotes   2030-31 04/15 charm, delicacy, balance  
**** E Guigal La Mouline   2034-37 12/15 airborne, tender, direct  
**** E Guigal La Turque   2034-38 12/15 steely inner, long  
**** Corinne, Jean-Paul & Loïc Jamet   2034-36 12/15 elegant, sensuous  
**** Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Côte Rozier   2026-28 10/15 heart, length, dude wine 
**** Vignobles Levet La Péroline 2033-35 04/16 tasty, expressive, needs time
**** Dom du Monteillet Les Grandes Places   2032-34 10/15 v pure fruit, v elegant  
**** Cédric Parpette Le Plomb 2027-29 04/16 firm, good pulp, authentic
**** Stéphane Pichat Champon’s   2029-31 10/15 superior gras, savoury  
**** Stéphane Pichat Löss   2027-28 10/15 sunny, gourmand, tasty  
**** Maison Christophe Pichon Rozier   2027-28 10/15 stylish, true, potential  
**** Domaine de Rosiers Besset 2029-31 10/16 silky, persistent, genuine
**** Jean-Michel Stéphan   2025-27 12/15 spiced, saline, interest  
**** Tardieu-Laurent 2032-34 07/16 scented, coated, gourmand
**** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Terrasses 2028-29 03/18 tinkly fruit, much charm
***(*) Domaine Barge Le Combard   2026-27 10/15 enjoyable, scented  
***(*) Maryline & Christophe Billon Les Élotins 2024-26 04/16 savoury, round, honest
***(*) P & C Bonnefond Colline de Couzou 2026-28 04/16 clear, gain content with time
***(*) P & C Bonnefond Les Rochains 2028-29 04/16 approachable, squeezy
***(*) Domaine de Bonserine La Garde 2030-32 03/18 delicate, iron, floral, good grip
***(*) Bernard Burgaud 2028-30 04/16 jolie gourmandise, bonny
***(*) Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine  2027-29 10/15 good depth, cool noted  
***(*) Nicolas Champagneux La Dédicace 2023-24 10/16 lucid, Nordic, very drinkable
***(*) Vignobles Chirat Côte Rozier   2024-25 10/15 open, tasty, uncomplicated  
***(*) Clusel-Roch Classique   2026-28 10/15 breezy, Nordic, will gain fat  
***(*) Clusel-Roch La Petite Feuille   2024-26 10/15 gourmand, supple, open  
***(*) Delas La Landonne   2027-28 10/15 jolly, juicy, gentle  
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Rose Pourpre   2025-27 11/15 free, insistent fruit, plump 
***(*) Yves Gangloff La Sereine Noire 2027-28 10/16 shapely gras, peppery tannin
***(*) Jean-Michel Gérin Champin le Seigneur 2028-30 11/17 tasty gras, musky, spiced
***(*) Domaine Jasmin 2026-27 07/17 naked; clear fruit, fine tannin
***(*) Jeantet Laurent Les Filles de Maugiron 2026-28 10/15 med weight, stylish  
***(*) Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy JYL   2023-25 10/15 style, clarity, freshness  
***(*) Vignobles Levet Améthyste 2029-30 04/16 naked, raw; tight juice
***(*) Vignobles Levet Maestria 2030-32 04/16 stylish, floral, traditional
***(*) François Merlin 2023-24 10/15 pure fruit, clear style
***(*) Domaine du Monteillet Fortis   2028-29 10/15 aromatic fruit, tight 
***(*) Domaine Mouton   2027-29 10/15 grilled, sealed, intensity  
***(*) Stéphane Ogier Réserve 2028-30 04/16 generous quantity, charming
***(*) Stéphane Ogier Village 2026-27 04/16 tasty, fluid, clear, w.o.w.
***(*) Cédric Parpette Montmain 2026-27 04/16 dark, salted tannin, go-go
***(*) Dom Christ Pichon Comtesse en Blonde 2025-27 10/15 supple, naked, agreeable  
***(*) Maison Christophe Pichon Promesse    2026-27 10/15 tasty, immediate, open 
***(*) Domaine de Rosiers Coeur de Rose 2028-30 10/16 compact, thorough, hearty
***(*) Domaine de Rosiers Drevon 2026-27 10/16 plump, floral, traditional
***(*) René Rostaing Ampodium   2029-31 10/16 med weight, Nordic, crisp
***(*) Jean-Michel Stéphan Coteaux de Tupin   2025-26 12/15 lucid, pure, slow gainer
***(*) Dom Grges Vernay Blonde du Seigneur 2030-32 10/16 tight, tenacious, peppery
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques   2027-28 10/15 enjoyable, harmonious 
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne Les Essartailles   2026-27 10/15 bonny abundance, authentic 
*** Domaine Bernard Coteaux de Bassenon 2022-23 04/15 liqueur fruit, crunchy tannin 
*** Dom de Corps de Loup Corps de Loup 2024-25 10/15 savoury, wee bit weak  
*** Domaine de Corps de Loup Paradis   2024-25 10/15 open, easy, floral  
*** Delas Seigneur de Maugiron   2027-29 10/15 scented, supple, roasted  
*** Domaine André François Gerine   2024-25 10/15 open, uncomplicated  
*** Domaine Gallet   2023-24 10/15 bright, elegant 
*** Pierre Gaillard   2024-25 11/15 clean, crunchy, scented  
*** Xavier Gérard   2022-24 10/15 pure, delicate, med depth
*** Ogier La Serine   2026-28 10/15 tense, can expand  
**(*) Domaine Bernard Les Méandres   2026-27 04/15 cooked, off-key  
**(*) Domaine Louis Clerc 2024-25 10/15 floral, bit thin
**(*) Domaine de Corps de Loup Marions-Les! 2024-25 10/15 mulled fruit, competent
         

 

8. 2014 CORNAS

JÉRÔME DESPESSE: "2014 IS A VINTAGE WITH POTENTIAL"

I would most certainly recommend 2014 CORNAS to subscribers. You can’t get a clearer statement than that. The wines are superior, grosso modo, to CÔTE-RÔTIE, and they are cheaper. HERMITAGE 2014 reds are good, but they cost a lot more.

The first observation to bear in mind is the one that is easily forgotten or overlooked about Cornas. The vineyard is relatively sheltered, buttressed from the worst of the North Wind by being a little inset away from the main Rhône corridor. It is warmer on a given early summer day – say Ampuis at Côte-Rôtie is 23°C, then Cornas might well be 24.5°C. The vineyard ripens earlier as a result.

There was also less drosophile suzukii fruit fly in 2014 at Cornas than further north. This meant that growers could pretty much decide on their harvesting with a relative degree of calmness, whereas growers in the north of Saint-Joseph and at Côte-Rôtie were sometimes having to stampede their crop in to save what they could.

A COMPLICATED YEAR IN THE VINEYARD

The year was complicated, of course, but the wines have resulted with appealing fruit that strikes a real bell. There is pleasure to be had, but also wines that have some genuine Cornas depth and late mineral crunch. That said, there are several that are distinctly New Wave – very light by traditional Cornas standards, with drinkable Syrah seemingly more on the agenda than Cornas de Terroir. I obviously hope that this does not become a trend.

A warm spring and fine weather started the growing season, so much so that by the end of June an advance of two weeks on normal years had built up. There was some coulure (flowers not converting into fruit), but less than in 2013.

At the time, PIERRE CLAPE reported the following to me: “the vegetation is quite abundant, and two weeks ahead, as it is with the apricots. It has been getting a bit dry, so the 25 mm (1 in) of rain on 28 June was welcome – fine rain then more heavy – that particularly helped the rocky zones.”

GUILLAUME GILLES, however, did experience a little coulure, and a much reduced yield from the heart of his vineyard – his 2.3 hectares of 1976 and 1978 SYRAH on CHAILLOT. He told me: “the year was precocious at first, but a lot of rain and freshness during the growing season delayed ripening. CHAILLOT got going early in April, but a cold snap in May led to coulure on the old vines there, the yield down to 25 hl/ha, thanks as well to some acid rot later on. In fact, the crop was so small this year and in 2013 that I didn’t destem it.”

HUMID WEATHER, ROTTED APRICOTS

Setbacks started to occur around the region as the weather turned humid, wet and mild. Across the river on the plains of the Drôme, the apricot crop was suffering from rot – bad enough for the fruit to be left on the trees, or on the ground, with unfortunate later consequences for the viticulteurs via the fruit fly invasion.

With its hills and raft of little valleys, Cornas was spared some of the worst tendencies for rot, although the low lying vineyards this year struggled to produce wines with a semblance of intensity, especially if the grower wasn’t completely rigorous in selecting and discarding crop. The spectre of the low yield of 2013 still hung in people’s minds, and the last thing many wanted to do was endure another very small crop. The outcome of some of these forces was always going to be dilution in some of the wines from the more watered areas.

A YEAR FOR THE HILLSIDE VINES

The sodden July weather served to dramatically change growers’ optimism, but the hillside, free draining vineyards remained in pretty sound shape. As VINCENT PARIS remarked to me, when we were discussing his vineyard, where I own a few vines: “ripening was difficult to achieve this year, but not with LA GENALE, which is full south facing.” Hence the triumvirate of old or mature vines, noble hillside terroir and good exposure were the axis around which the vintage turned.

There was one other accessory factor on which the quality of the vintage turned, however, and that was the very heavy third week of September rain. It ended a near miraculous four or five weeks of fine, stable weather, a period which undoubtedly aided the vines to regroup.

ESSENTIAL TO HARVEST BEFORE SEPTEMBER RAINS

PIERRE CLAPE put it this way: “for me, you had to harvest before the third week of September - the first big September rain was 100 mm (4 in) on the 20th, when only 15 mm (0.6 in) had been announced. Two days later there was another 60 mm (2.4 in). We started the harvest on 11-12 September on PATOU in the south, and ended on 18 September. Hence there is a divide this year between those who harvested before and those who harvested after the rain. We harvested just in time; I know that THIÉRRY ALLEMAND also harvested before the rain, but not ALAIN VOGE.

Those with later vineyards up at SAINT-PIERRE such as PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ also had hail to contend with on 28 September, and you would expect their degrees to be around 11.5° in the first instance,” he stated.

GUILLAUME GILLES also completed his harvest before the heavy rainfalls. He related: “I harvested CHAILLOT before the September rain on 20-22 September, and it was my most beau crop since 2007. The wines are very aromatic, took on colour very quickly, and were intense and long straight away. I like to taste one berry per bunch at the reception of the cellar just to check, and 20 minutes later back in the vineyard I still had the taste of the grape.

The foot of the slope at CHAILLOT was tricky this year, and in 2013, due to the high rainfall. 2014 was less ripe than 2013. The colour went from strawberry to purple after two weeks, but the wines are not deep – we had too much rain,” he concluded.

OLIVIER CLAPE estimated that there was a loss of 1° after the rains – “a large difference”. Also harvesting before the rains this year was VINCENT PARIS, who subsequently told me: “the GEYNALE wine is more accessible than usual. July was very rainy and cold, so tannins this year are supple, the wines are fruited and aromatic, and suited to drinking young.”

PIERRE CLAPE was happy with yields, though: “our yield was up to the maximum – 40 hl/ha. There were very fat grapes due to the humidity, a lot of juice in them. You could say it has been a year of fat bunches and fat grapes. On the wines finished already, our degrees are 12.8° to 13.5°, the total acidity 3.4 to 3.8, near a normal vintage; the pH is 3.8 on the old SYRAH. It’s been a very complicated year, with a lot of weeds, and all the rain in July. We have had more rain than HERMITAGE, in fact.”

BALANCED, AGREEABLE WINES

Referring to the finished wines, PIERRE commented: “the wines have fruit, gourmandise and a little depth. They are balanced and agreeable. The old vines wine has some strength; the tannins are quite supple.”

Son OLIVIER CLAPE’s view ran as follows, when we talked in December 2015: “levels of malic acidity, tartrate acidity and potassium were raised this year, but they fell as the wines relaxed, so you have ripe wines with genuine, not acidic freshness. It remains a year of open, gourmand style wines, a vintage that fits very well between 2013 and 2015. It is similar to 2004 and 2011 in that way.”

Certain growers adapted their rasing this year in the light of the relative lack of big depth. LAURE COLOMBO explained: “we would normally bottle the TERRES BRÛLÉES (the starter Cornas of their four) in early September 2016, but this will be bottled early June 2016 – it is a year on the fruit. Our LA LOUVÉE (the second wine up) will receive only 18-19 months of raising, against the 23 months of the 2013.”

BEWARE NEW WAVE STYLE CORNAS

As I tasted around CORNAS, it was generally accepted that the relative quality had come as an agreeable surprise. I informed JOHANN MICHEL that I found his *** classic cuvée rather light, to which he responded: “my classic Cornas was held back by the flat, foot of the slope vineyards and their lack of depth. The vintage is similar to 2012 – the wines are fresh, live, on their fruit and elegant, and are more easy than 2011 or 2013.” By contrast, his superior wine, the ***(*) JANA holds shapely gras, pure fruit and came with some Cornas depth.

Similar in style to JOHANN’s regular level Cornas was that of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL of STÉPHANE ROBERT – I found his *** wine lightweight, modern, easy drinking; I am not sure I would pay €25 for it. By contrast, his **** VIN NOIR (€32) was rich, fine, rather Burgundian -  exactly what could be achieved this year by an able hand, and a better buy for the extra €7. STÉPHANE described the vintage thus: ““2014 is a super year for Cornas; the wines are gourmand, and the tannins are less aggressive than the 2013s. There is good content with rich black fruits.”

CONCENTRATE BUYING ON THE SUPERIOR CUVÉES

As a buying rule this year, I would advise that you gave the second wines (or the entry level wines) a miss, and concentrated on the major wines of any given domaine, except for the very top names. Examples of this divergence, noted above, also exist at the CAVE DE TAIN: a *** mild, "pleasant" GRAND CLASSIQUE, against a ***(*) VIN BIOLOGIQUE (organic, first produced in 2013) and a **** ARÈNES SAUVAGES. Likewise, the VINCENT PARIS GRANIT 30, which admittedly is always pretty light - it is *** quality, against the ***(*) (perhaps I am a little mean with this rating, it is pretty good indeed) GRANIT 60 and the ****(*) LA GEYNALE.

Another young grower with a tiny plot, the talented JÉRÔME DESPESSE was also content; he had worked around the problem of dilution on vines standing on the flat lands. He stated: “I am very happy with 2014; there was belle matter, with good, tight tannin present; it is a vintage with potential. I was helped a lot by keeping apart the wine from my young, fourth year SYRAH vines on the flat lands, and selling it in bulk.”

I am always pretty rigorous in my judgment of VINCENT PARIS’ top wine, LA GEYNALE, since I own one or two rows on that sun-kissed site. Having tasted it twice, in October and December 2015, I have to admit to be very happy with it this year, a ***(*) wine, with proper depth. VINCENT commented: “the GEYNALE wine is more accessible than usual. July was very rainy and cold, so tannins this year are supple, the wines are fruited and aromatic, and are suited to drinking young.”

COMPARISON WITH 2004

MATTHIEU BARRET of DOMAINE DU COULET has been making progress recently, the wines less exerted than previously. His take on 2014 ran thus: “it is a surprising vintage; the grapes were very ripe, and gave a lot of aroma, though it was marked down as a high acidity, very low degree (12°) and not big wines vintage. My average this year is 13°; the wines are fresh and elegant, and also have the aromatics of ripeness. The closest comparison is 2004, while 2001 has similar aromatics.”

This description slightly understates the final quality of his two cuvées – they are led by the handsome, STGT ****(*) BILLES NOIRES, and the **** BRISE CAILLOUX - steady depth and good style present.

In agreement with MATTHIEU about the 2004 comparison was FRANCK BALTHAZAR, who reported: “we had hail on the young vines two days before the harvest, around 20 September, and my young vine cuvée CASIMIR lacks a bit of structure. It is a standard year – the summer was normal, not unusual. The wines are notably fresh, have attractive attacks. I compare it to 2004.”

LUDOVIC IZÉRABLE of the organic DOMAINE LIONNET had reason to worry this year, given the constraints of treating the vineyard through that status. He said: “we had very low yields this year, similar to 2013 at 30 hl/ha, and a lot less than the 35 hl/ha of 2015. The year was more precocious than 2013 – the wines are more gourmand than 2013, which started out as a strict wine.” I found his **** 2013 a classic Cornas vintage, the 2014 a more tender wine, at ***(*).

A VINTAGE OF GENEROUS FRUIT, BETTER THAN 2004 FOR ME

My overriding recollection of this vintage after pretty thorough inspection of it is that of the generous fruit; in the cases where that is backed by good stuffing and lightly crunched tannins, one has VRAI CORNAS, true Cornas, in the glass. I also regard the vintage as holding better quality fruit than 2004, the vintage mentioned in comparison by some gorwers.

One of my comments on what is a top wine this year, THIÉRRY ALLEMAND’s REYNARD, sums this up. I wrote about this ***** wine: “he has cut to the purity and filling of the fruit from old vines, and managed to conserve both freshness and density. A major player in this vintage where some of the wines may just be a little light.”

The leading, better shaped wines this year are therefore open and sunny, with lots of dash, and abundant, free wheeling fruit. The tannins are notably mild, so such wines can be drunk really young for a Cornas – from three years old. They can also offer some aromatic detail and surprises.

As for drinking and longevity, the top wines are going to show well over 20+ years. But many will be rocking well around six to eight years’ old, no doubt lost amidst the euphoria of the very impressive 2015 vintage. So, for that reason alone, walking more on the wild side than along the main highway, I would recommend buying the best of the crop and giving friends some wonderful surprises in a few years’ time.

LEADING CORNAS 2014s

****** Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 2037-39 07/16 vital, deep, bold, Mighty
*****  Thiérry Allemand Reynard  2036-39 04/16 Pinote; gracious, floral
****(*)  Matthieu Barret Billes Noires  2031-33  10/15  length, style, beau  
****(*)  Domaine Clape   2035-38  12/15  classy touches, fine  
****(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Les Ruchets 2030-32 10/15 stylish, bright, very joli
****(*)  Domaine Courbis La Sabarotte  2029-31  10/15  v gd heart, long, supple 
****(*)  Dumien-Serrette Patou   2026-28  10/15  unbridled, punchy, clear  
****(*) Guillaume Gilles Chaillot 2034-36 12/18 delightful, serene, Burgundian
****(*)  Vincent Paris La Geynale   2026-28  12/15  pedigree, finesse, gd gras 
****(*)  Maison Nicolas Perrin   2026-29  10/15  genuine depth, fine  
****  Thiérry Allemand Chaillot   2032-35 04/16 crisp fruit, floral, sparky
****  Franck Balthazar sans soufre   2024-25  12/15  v clear fruit, good detail  
****  Matthieu Barret Brise cailloux   2027-29  10/15  elegant, aromatic, depth 
**** Cave de Tain Arènes Sauvages 2025-17 10/15 suave, packaged, stylish
**** Jean-Luc Colombo La Louvée 2027-29 10/15 free, supple, graceful
****  Domaine Courbis Champelrose 2025-27  10/15  savoury, elegant, mild  
****  Domaine Durand Empreintes  2026-28  10/15  compact strength, sturdy 
****  Domaine Durand Prémices   2027-29  10/15  tight, rocky, potential 
****  Guy Farge harmonie   2025-26  10/15  tasty fruit, sunny wine   
****  Ferraton Père & Fils Les Eygats  2027-29  10/15  grounded, Cornas heart  
****  Ferraton Père & Fils Patou   2025-26  10/15  open, welcoming, cosy fruit 
****  Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet   2023-24 10/15 life, unbridled, w.o.w. 
**** Tardieu-Laurent Coteaux 2033-35 07/16 tight, clear juice, natural
****  Domaine du Tunnel Vin Noir   2025-27  12/15  refined, fine richness 
****  Alain Voge Les Chaillés   2027-30  10/15  grounded, firm, genuine 
****  Alain Voge Les Vieilles Vignes   2026-29  10/15  insistent fruit, shapely 
***(*)  Franck Balthazar Chaillot   2027-28  06/15  aromatic, spherical  
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique 2023-25 10/15 inner strength, Cornas notes
***(*)  M Chapoutier Les Arènes   2024-26  10/15  lively fruit, enjoyable 
***(*)  Domaine Clape Renaissance   2029-31  06/15  sound depth, grainy tannin 
***(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Terres Brûlées 2024-26 10/15 cool, fruit, easy drinking
***(*)  Domaine Courbis Les Eygats   2024-26  10/15  fruit dash, light tannin  
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Les Vires 2027-28 10/15 dark fruit, punchy tannin
***(*)  Delas Chante Perdrix   2023-25  10/15  suave fruit, fresh tannin 
***(*)  Jérôme Despesse   2025-26  12/15  beau vin, quiet style   
***(*)  Domaine Durand Confidence   2023-24  10/15  supple, open, on the go 
***(*) equis, Maxime Graillot 2028-30 10/15 spinal, direct, crunchy
***(*)  Domaine Lionnet Terre Brûlée   2030-32  12/15  fresh, grainy, vigour  
***(*)  Maison Lombard   2025-26  04/15  naked quality, very clear  
***(*)  Dom Johann Michel Cuvée Jana   2025-26  12/15  shapely gras, pure fruit  
***(*)  Dom Michelas-St Jemms Murettes 2025-26  10/15  stewed fruits, sweetness  
***(*)  Vincent Paris Granit 60   2026-27  12/15  wholesome, stylish 
***(*)  David Reynaud Rebelle   2022-23  10/15  modern, tasty, immediate  
***(*)  Vins de Vienne Les Barcillants   2026-27  10/15  fruit streams, full-on 
***  Franck Balthazar Cuvée Casimir  2025-26  06/15  easy appeal, charm  
***  Bernard Blachon   2020-21  12/15  direct, spare, true  
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2022-23 10/15 soft, accessible, pleasant
***  Guillaume Gilles La Combe Chaillot  2024-25  06/15  fine, suave, neat  
*** P Jaboulet Aîné Grandes Terrasses 2031-33 12/18 straightforward, squeezy, gummy
***  Jacques Lemenicier   2022-23  12/15  low-key depth, tender  
***  Domaine Johann Michel   2022-23  12/15  soft, floral, light  
***  Remy Nodin Les Eygats   2022-23  12/15  prune fruit, fine tannin  
***  Vincent Paris Granit 30   2020-22  12/15  direct fruit, bistrot vin 
***  Domaine du Tunnel    2022-23  12/15  lightweight, modern  
**(*)  Stéphan Chaboud   2020  12/15  supple fruit, fresh tannin 
**(*)  Louis Sozet   2020-21  12/15  puckish gras, not 100 clear 
         

 

THOMAS SCHMITTEL [L] AND MAXIME GRAILLOT [R] OF EQUIS AT CROZES-HERMITAGE. MAXIME HAS HIT THE GROUND RUNNING WITH HIS DOMAINE DES LISES WHITE CROZES FROM THE MARVELLOUS SLOPE OF LES PENDS AT MERCUROL

9. 2014 CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

Following straight on from the excitement of the 2013 white wine vintage at Crozes-Hermitage comes another very impressive year. White Rhônes have suddenly caught the imagination of drinkers after years of neglect; I have been the only writer to consistently explain their character and to extol their quality, and have often felt like a lonely prophet in decades gone by.

A rise in standards of care in the vineyards and improved winemaking have contributed to the rise in quality. Just as I may lament the New Wave tendencies to lighten wines such as Condrieu, so these factors count less at Crozes-Hermitage, where the wines are usually lighter and less able to give a profound, thrilling experience. Hence an airborne approach that limits the depth of the wines through early harvesting and low-key lees contact matters less at Crozes.

There are some very good locations, as well; not necessarily the Chassis plain, the southern area, but the slopes that fringe it to the north. The sweet curve of Les Pends at Mercurol, as perfect a south facing spot as one could imagine, is an excellent source. The LES PENDS of DOMAINE DES ENTREFAUX has been a long standing favourite, while MAXIME GRAILLOT of DOMAINE DES LISES now works a precious 0.4 hectare there with a mix of Marsane and Roussanne planted in 2009.

Then there is the kaolin, the white clay, of Larnage, so good for making ovens, and with slopes and good exposure again to the fore. OLIVIER DUMAINE makes his CROIX DU VERRE from Marsanne dating between 1955 and 1970, while MARC SORREL produces an excellent white Crozes from the La Bouvate et Les Rennes site also at Larnage; this is made up of 60% 1945 Marsanne and 40% 1945 Roussanne, with replacement vines lowering the age a little overall. Olivier forgot to send me his white to taste this year, while I am visiting Marc in December, 2015.

To make a good tiercé from Larnage comes the DOMAINE BELLE; their 2014 ROCHE BLANCHE is excellent; it is made from 1940-1950s Marsanne, is an STGT wine.

On the grounds of value for money, I would therefore much more happily stock my cellar with white Crozes than I would Condrieu; perhaps it is not a like for like comparison, but the former is a food-friendly or aperitif wine at under half the price. It will also live for around five years, or more in the classiest examples such as those from Larnage.

One of the drawbacks this year, though, was the shortage of crop. For NATACHA CHAVE at ALÉOFANE, the yield was a mere 23 hl/ha. YANN CHAVE, her brother, produced only 8,000 bottles instead of 15,000 usually, the CAVE DE CLAIRMONT in hail-hit BEAUMONT-MONTEUX 10,000 instead of 16,000 bottles.

Growers are very taken with this vintage, across the board. From GERVANS in the northern, hilly sector, LAURENT FAYOLLE of FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE told me: “2014 is better than 2011 and 2012, not as opulent as 2013, though. They are very aromatic, are balanced, fresh but less intense than the 2013s.”

At LARNAGE, OLIVIER DUMAINE commented: “the 2014s are more taut and tight, fresher than the 2013s. The vintage effect is less strong this year on the whites than it was with the Syrah.”

Freshness and acidity were commented upon by two other growers. With great old vines at LARNAGE, MARC SORREL observed: “I only managed 600 bottles this year, the same as 2013. At least 2015 gave me 1,500 bottles! Ripening was relatively late this year – I harvested the white Crozes crop between 16 and 18 September at a very satisfactory 13°, against the 3- 5 September for the 2015. The 2014s may have more acidity than the 2015s. 2014 is a vintage of great white wines. The reds were hurt by the rain that fell between the white harvest and the Syrah harvest.”

The dedicated organic grower with northern sector vineyards, FRANÇOIS RIBO of DARD & RIBO told me: “it was a year for good acidity on the whites; we harvested the crop very late. We spent al of August in the vineyards this year, and had rot, Suzuki fly problems. We destemmed the most sorted, discarded plots, but left the more robust plots with their stems.”

Near PONT DE L’ISÈRE, in the south, LAURENT COMBIER of DOMAINE COMBIER remarked: “the 2014 whites are superb, the crop size good as well. They are airborne and well fruited.”

Over at LES CHASSIS, the now nearly veteran ALAIN GRAILLOT observed: “it’s a very good year for the white. The hail we had on 26 July didn’t hurt the white crop.” From his neighbours, the recently started and enjoyable DOMAINE MELODY, MARC ROMAK stated: “we lost 10% of the crop, averaging 39 hl/ha, but they hold very good fruit and also freshness.”

Along at CHANOS CURSON, the most easterly point of the appellation on the way to the old shoe making town of ROMANS–SUR-ISÈRE, the measured ETIENNE POCHON gave a restrained assessment: “it is a sound year for the white, though 2013 was better because it was riper. A lot of rain up until mid-August hurt the ripeness this year.”

In my view, this is a very good vintage, with no holds barred on that comment. The wines have lots of style, and a very high lowest common denominator, indicating the progress achieved in looking after the white grape vines and in vinifying their fruit.

They all drink well, and have the body for la table. Elegance is often foremost, which is in tune with the New Wave of restrained white Rhônes. In the case of Crozes, the elegance of this style fits with the natural profile of many of the wines, the Crozes terroir not being as accomplished for table wines as SAINT-JOSEPH or SAINT-PÉRAY, and their granite with limestone influences.

I heartily recommend that readers buy this vintage, therefore, even if it means pestering your wine merchant to import some if you live outside France. Otherwise drink them in restaurants when visiting the Rhône.

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE 2014s

****(*) Domaine Belle Roche Blanche 2027-28 10/15 joli gras, sinew, STGT
****(*) Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet 2022-24 10/15 fresh, balance, STGT 
****(*) David Reynaud, Bruyères Aux Betises 2020-21 10/15 full, gd weight, classy
**** Aléofane 2019-20 10/15 beau gras, smooth, v long
**** Domaine Belle Les Terres Blanches 2021-22 04/16 saline, accurate, STGT
**** Cave de Tain Les Hauts d'Eole 2019-20 10/15 nicely filled, complete
**** Delas Les Launes 2021-22 10/15 gutsy, fresh, good grip
**** Domaine Alain Graillot 2021-22 10/15 stylish, fine, good grip
**** Domaine des Lises 2019-20 10/15 precise, lovely finesse
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2020-21 10/15 stylish, balance, gd body
**** Dom des Remizières Cuvée Christophe 2021-22 10/15 smooth, entertaining, fresh
**** Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques 2020-21 10/15 full, consecutive, smooth
***(*) Cave Clairmont Classique Clairmont 2019 10/15 modern, airborne, tangy
***(*) M Chapoutier Petite Ruche 2020-21 10/15 lively, delicate, w.o.w.
***(*) Domaine des Entrefaux Les Pends 2020-21 12/15 squeezy, rounded, precise
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Sens 2018-19 10/15 tidy gras, stylish
***(*) Ferraton La Matinière 2020-21 10/15 tasty, long, authentic
***(*) E.Guigal 2021-22 10/15 comfortable gras, grace
***(*) René-Jean Dard & François Ribo 2019-20 12/15 gd body for table, fresh
***(*) R-J Dard & F Ribo Cuvée K 2021-22 12/15 steady gras, gd tight grip
***(*) Domaine Habrard Vin Bio 2020 12/15 gentle, true, sparky
***(*) Dom des Hauts Châssis L’Essentiel 2020-21 10/15 rich, free , light step
***(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Charmeuses 2019-20 10/15 wide gras, smooth
***(*) Domaine du Murinais Marine 2019-20 10/15 expressive, tangy, stylish
***(*) Domaine Pradelle 2018-19 10/15 elegant, open, w.o.w.
***(*) Domaine Pradelle Courbis 2019-20 10/15 elegant, precise, fresh
***(*) Dom des Remizières Particulière 2020-21 10/15 good gras, weight, texture
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne 2020-21 10/15 stylish gras, grip
*** M Chapoutier Les Meysonniers 2019 10/15 sound ,bit light
*** Yann Chave 2019 10/15 tidy fruit, orderly
*** Domaine du Colombier 2020 10/15 supple gras, bit high wire
*** Domaine des Entrefaux 2018 12/15 restrained gras, floral
*** JC & Nicolas Fayolle La Rochette 2018 12/15 spiced, quiet, round
*** JC & Nicolas Fayolle La Rochette fûts 2018 12/15 supple, tidy, beau
*** Etienne Pochon Château Curson 2019 11/15 light, graceful, quiet grip
*** Julien Pilon on the Rhône again 2019-20 11/15 tangy Marsanne, assertive
*** Gilles Robin Les Marelles 2018-19 12/15 cosy gras, plump; bitter end
*** Vidal-Fleury 2018 10/15 stylish, airborne, tame
**(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2017 01/15 supple, soft; clear end 
         

 

THE POPULAR LOCAL GOAT CHEESE, THE RIGOTTES OF CONDRIEU. ALL NORTHERN RHÔNE WHITE WINES ACCOMPANY THIS WELL

10. 2014 CONDRIEU

I feel 2014 at Condrieu leaves a sense of unfinished business. It is a good vintage, and the best wines are fresh and graceful, with a genuine depth. But when I taste a lot of them at one sitting, and look at the prices, I feel there should be more wines at four stars rather than the safe 3.5 stars – that extra piece of flair, of engagement that should give drinkers excitement when they open and try a bottle.

With not enough wines really singing an uplifting tune, 2014 fruit flavours can be subdued; here and there one feels that certain growers never quite had the harvest quality to go for it and really hit the heights. For these wines, it is a “make and do” vintage, rather cobbled together: when tasted en masse, no real single picture emerges across the group. Degrees also run from 12.5° to 15° - an extremely wide range.

The undercurrent that does not please me also is what I call the New Wave school: where growers, often I suspect encouraged by their oenologues, aim to make light and easy wines, rather jumping into bed with aperitif styled wines. Here we have a sharp retreat from the days of waiting for over-ripeness and the consequent musky exoticism of the Viognier, harvested on the cusp before its descent into low acidity and a flabby style.

NEW WAVE, LIGHT WINES

These wines leave me pretty indifferent, since I know that the Viognier should give more than a feeling of neutrality, having drunk it for longer than anyone I know. DELAS have fallen into these ways lately (their 2014 duo are the inoffensive LA GALOPINE and the vastly oaked CLOS BOUCHER, poles apart), as has FRANÇOIS VILLARD for some of his wines - he who used to pick super late. His trio of 2014s lack the level of gras and interest that could make them genuine and good, as if his mind is elsewhere. We are talking about wines at £30 or US$50 plus, as well. I want depth and a true Condrieu Viognier statement for that high amount of money.

Other domaines at which I noticed this style were DOMAINE STÉPHANE PICHAT (he mainly makes Côte-Rôtie), JEAN-LUC COLOMBO (Cornas the main wine), RÉMI NIÉRO with his entry wine of LES RAVINES, rather like DELAS with their entry wine LA GALOPINE, and DOMAINE GILLES BARGE (Julien enjoys his white winemaking, and they, too are mainly Côte-Rôtie).

TOP 2014 PERFORMERS

Those who have the target well and truly achieved in 2014 are the GUIGAL LA DORIANE – it’s always full, but their 2014 is wonderfully elegant as well – and ANDRÉ PERRET with his CHÉRY, which has bags of style and real detail in its juice. André’s classic cuvée is also an improver, a deeper wine recently thanks to its Viognier vines growing up. The top terroirs speak well this year, too – we see CHANSON with its mineral purity coming through, the robust CÔTE CHÂTILLON and of course CHÉRY right up the top of the leaderboard.

It is something of a triumph that the wines are this good, given the amount of work that was required in the vineyards. While the SYRAH was being attacked by the fruit flies, and growers were scrabbling to save the fast degrading situation, the VIOGNIER was pretty abundant thanks to a successful flowering.

THE YEAR THROUGH THE GROWERS' EYES

As CHRISTOPHE PICHON expressed it, “budding and flowering went very well – the bunches formed well, and there were lots of them. As a result, we had to drop grapes this summer. It was very dry by the end of June, but the July rain meant that the vineyards held a great green colour. The crop is healthy, with some spots of oïdium, but strangely no mildew. The small crop in 2013 has meant that some plots have rebounded this year, with large yields.”

The lack of extreme heat played an important role in investing the wines with balance – good water reserves and heat that wasn’t often above 30°C, backed by a fresh wind meant that the grapes had a northern ripening profile – a little at a time.

FRANÇOIS MERLIN was happy: “it’s very good, both on ripeness and quantity, with harvesting between 15 and 25 September,” he told me. “I didn’t want to chase extreme maturity this year, and fermentations turned out to be long. It’s a good vintage, the degree 13.8° to 14°. There is more charge in the VIOGNIER than the SYRAH this year, and it is perhaps more rich than 2013, maybe a little gourmand. The wines are rich and come with good gras.”

Working on the precocious and esteemed CÔTE CHÂTILLON above Condrieu, XAVIER GÉRARD gave me this summary: “2014 is very, very good, with the best acidities since 2000. These are pure, floral wines with a balance of freshness. The cool summer contributed, and vinifications went easily. On the other hand, there was a lot of work in the vineyard: I de-leafed all my Viognier in August, and took no holidays; that went OK since temperatures were 25-26°C, not higher, so the bunches were never in risk of being burnt.”

Other growers who are very happy include ANDRÉ PERRET, who summarised his year thus: “I harvested in mid September, with very low yields on the old Viognier vines, only around 25 hl/ha. The wines are well balanced, and the vintage is very beau. They have fruit, moderate levels of alcohol, and good structure.” While FRÉDÉRIC BERNARD, whose domaine at TUPIN is more versed towards Côte-Rôtie felt that “2014 is more fine than 2013 – it is a very, very good year. There is more minerality than usual. The crop quality was sublime, and we had a full crop.”

PHILIPPE GUIGAL was appreciative of the clarity in the wines this year. He told me: “the wines are very precise. It is quite an expressive vintage, a year to discover Condrieu with good balance in the wines.”

Referring to a quality that I like this year in the best wines, RENÉ ROSTAING told me: “it’s a super vintage – it has structure, muscle, is tight and very good.” His LA BONNETTE will take its time to unfurl, with great promise for a stylish delivery when served in a large glass around 2018.

A couple of newcomers to note this year are the DUCLAUX brothers, BENJAMIN and DAVID, from the southern sector of CÔTE-RÔTIE, and STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL at SAINT-PÉRAY. Stéphane has in fact done a vineyard swap with STÉPHANE MONTEZ of DOMAINE DU MONTEILLET at SAINT-JOSEPH and CONDRIEU: a 0.17 hectare of his CORNAS for a similar vineyard of the Montez holding on the prized site of CHANSON. The Tunnel whites are always very well made and extremely elegant, and his 2014 Condrieu is no exception. More domaines are planting white varieties as demand for white Rhônes continues to climb.  

BUY THE BEST

So, the advice is to certainly buy 2014 Condrieu, but target those domaines that have achieved interesting, expressive wines. I feel that four stars should be the entry point at the very least. I would always prefer to drink Condrieu à table, unless I had backed the winner of the Melbourne Cup, for example, in which case the aperitif might be on the agenda. However, at the highest quality level, these are intricate, noble wines that deserve fine cuisine and more study than they would be accorded when drinking before the repas.

LEADING CONDRIEU 2014s

***** E Guigal La Doriane   2024-26  10/15  graceful, super elegant  
*****  André Perret Chéry   2025-27  10/15  stylish gras, good juice  
***** Dom G Vernay Coteau de Vernon 2032-34 10/16 beautiful balance, gt finesse
****(*)  Xavier Gérard Côte Châtillon   2023-24  10/15  character, nuance, v long 
****(*)  Domaine du Monteillet Chanson   2023-24  10/15  stylish, ace detail, purity 
****(*)  André Perret   2024-25  10/15  racy fruit, really bright  
****(*)  André Perret Clos Chanson   2025-27  10/15  stylish ensemble, free  
****(*) Dom G Vernay Chaillées de l'Enfer 2026-28 10/16 crystalline, super elegant
****  Domaine Boissonnet   2019  10/15  full, lively  
**** P & C Bonnefond Côte Châtillon 2023-24 04/16 thorough, elegant, STGT
****  Dom Bernard Chambeyron Vernon   2019  10/15  elegant, delicate acidity  
****  M Chapoutier Invitare   2020-21  10/15  weight, truth, muscle  
****  Yves Cuilleron La Petite Côte   2019  10/15  smooth richness, fresh  
****  Lionel Faury La Berne   2019-20  10/15  shape, inner strength, spice 
****  E Guigal   2020-21  10/15  fine richness, pedigree  
****  Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Aux Ruses   2020  10/15  full, stylish, vivacious 
****  François Merlin Jeanraude   2021-22  10/15  firm, interest, slow gain  
****  Rémi Niéro Chéry   2019  10/15  refined depth, good flow  
****  M & S Ogier Ampuis Combe Malleval 2019-20  10/15  compact gras, handsome 
**** M & S Ogier V Vignes Jacques Vernay 2023 04/16 rich, cool, good grip
****  Dom Alain Paret Les Ceps du Nebadon 2019-20  10/15  stylish, fresh  
****  Domaine Alain Paret Lys de Volan   2025-27  10/15  solid, knit, also fresh  
**** René Rostaing La Bonnette 2022-23 11/15 stylish, understated, long
****  Domaine du Tunnel, S Robert   2019  10/15  good flow, nice length  
****  Vignoble du Monteillet La Grillette   2025-27  10/15  sturdy, solid gras  
***(*)  Nicolas Badel   2021-22  10/15  sturdy, sealed, tight  
***(*)  Domaine Gilles Barge La Solarie   2018  10/15  light flavour, New Wave  
***(*)  Louis Chèze Brèze   2018  10/15  obvious, fat, smooth  
***(*)  Domaine Louis Clerc   2019  10/15  ball of gras, fresh 
***(*)  Jean-Luc Colombo Amour de Dieu   2019-20  10/15  precise, New Wave   
***(*)  Yves Cuilleron Les Chaillets   2019  10/15  coated, full, assertive  
***(*)  Dauvergne Ranvier Vin Rare   2018  10/15  savoury, smooth, fat  
***(*)  Delas Clos Boucher   2022-23  10/15  gras but mucho oak  
***(*)  Lionel Faury Tradition  2018  10/15 

rich, open, some cool 

***(*)  Xavier Gérard Marmouzin   2021  10/15  charming, fine detail  
***(*)  François Merlin Les Terroirs   2018  10/15  serene, easy  
***(*)  Dom Christophe Pichon Caresse   2018-19  10/15  coated, fat, spiced  
***(*)  Jeantet-Laurent Le Secret de Pline   2019  10/15  solid, thorough  
***(*) Pascal Marthouret 2020-21 04/16 firm, has structure
***(*)  Domaine Mouton Côte Châtillon   2018  10/15  smooth, pretty full   
***(*)  Rémi Niéro Les Ravines   2018  10/15  refined, New Wave  
***(*)  Ogier Antoine Ogier Côte Chéry   2019-20  10/15  coated, sturdy gras  
***(*)  Maison Nicolas Perrin   2018  10/15  supple gras, some style  
***(*)  Domaine Richard Vieilles Vignes   2018  10/15  delicate outer, local stamp 
***(*) Christophe Semaska Lys d'Or 2022-23 04/16 profound, squeezy, strength
***(*) Dom G Vernay Terrasses de l'Empire 2022-23 12/15 musky, also fresh; sound
***(*)  Vignoble Monteillet Grandes Chaillées  2019-20  10/15  neat, restrained  
***(*) Vignobles Chirat Clos Poncins 2019-20 10/15 full-on, muscle, oak
***(*)  Vignobles Chirat Les Chays   2019  10/15  quite stylish, fresh  
***(*)  Vignobles Verzier Chante-Perdrix   2019  10/15  weight, style, fullness  
***(*) François Villard De Poncins 2019 11/15 small gras, quiet grip
***(*)  Les Vins de Vienne   2019  10/15  rich, sturdy, bit tannic 
***(*)  Les Vins de Vienne Archevêques   2018-19  10/15  depth OK, but covert   
*** Domaine Emmanuel Barou imagine 2020 04/16 quietly stylish, food best
*** Maryline & Christophe Billon Les Matisses 2020-21 04/16 suave, easy, bit unclear
***  Louis Chèze Pagus Luminis   2018  10/15  direct, bit plain  
*** François Corompt 2017-18 12/15 gentle, natural, bonny
***  Domaine de Corps de Loup   2018  10/15  coated, sturdy  
***  Yves Cuilleron Vertige   2020-21  10/15  body to live, patchy now 
***  Delas La Galopine   2018  10/15  New Wave; soft, easy  
***  Benjamin & David Duclaux Les Caillets  2018  10/15  tropical fruits, salty  
***  Dom André François La Maladière   2018-19  10/15  solid, smoked  
***  Domaine Mouton Côte Bonnette   2017-18  10/15  coated, buttery  
***  Domaine Pichat La Caille   2018  10/15 

New Wave, tame 

***  Domaine Christophe Pichon   2018-19  10/15  shapely, clear 
*** Domaine Julien Pilon lône 2019 12/15 broad, spiced, static
***  Domaine Richard l’amaraze   2018  10/15  sound, supple, fleshy  
*** GAEC Gisèle Vernay Vernon 2018 12/15 smooth, tender
***  Vidal-Fleury   2019-20  10/15  grounded, robust  
*** François Villard Le Grand Vallon 2018 11/15 neatly bundled, fair length
*** François Villard Terrasses du Palat 2018 11/15 only a brief impression
***  Les Vins de Vienne La Chambée   2019  10/15  quite rich, but wanders   
**(*)  Domaine Clusel-Roch Verchery   2018  11/15  creamy, modest, fades  
**(*)  Guy Farge Grain d’Émotion   2019  10/15  pine-oak, not settled  
**(*)  Ferraton Père & Fils Les Mandouls   2018  10/15  light, direct  
**(*)  Eric Rocher, Dom Champal La Coste  2018  10/15  tight, compact, quiet 
         

 

11. 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE RED

THE VIEW FROM BRÉZÈME, THE DRÔME VALLEY

JULIEN MONTAGNON, DOMAINE LOMBARD: “2014 was a year both of the vigneron and the vinifier – there was big rot pressure all through the year, so you had to drop leaves, drop bunches, air the remaining bunches, turn the bunches away from their wire trainers so they were facing outwards. There was also a lot of malic acidity, and it wasn’t until three months after the vinifications that the wines started to get going. There are very precise aromas this year.”

**** Dom de Peyraud E Texier Brézème V Vignes 2032-34 02/19 chunky, gt structure, fuelled
***(*) Domaine Clape 2023-25 05/16 naked, beau, clear
***(*) Jérôme Despesse 2019 12/15 excellent, STGT 
***(*) Dom de Peyraud E Texier St Julien V Vignes 2030-32 02/19 cool fruit, racy length
*** Corinne, J-Paul & Loïc Jamet 2020 12/15 expressive, authentic, w.o.w.
*** Dom Georges Vernay Ste-Agathe 2019 12/15 fresh, peppery, unadorned
*** Dom Alain Voge Les Peyrouses 2019 10/15 bright, neat, direct fruit
*** Vignoble J-Luc Jamet Hautes Vignes 2022 03/18 spartan; decent, genuine

 

12. 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE WHITE

***(*) Matthieu Barret Brise cailloux 2019-20 10/15 good heart, soft, tasty
***(*) Corinne, J-Paul & Loïc Jamet 2019 12/15 tasty, good gras, character
***(*) Domaine Lombard Brézème 2020-21 04/15 comely gras, fresh length
***(*) Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet 2020 03/18 aromatic; gd fresh finish
**(*) François Corompt 2018 12/15 rounded, fair length 
*** Domaine Alain Paret Valvigneyre 2017 10/15 light, easy, aperitif
         


13. 2014 VIN DE PAYS/VIN FRANCE RED

**** Stéphane Ogier Seyssuel L’Âme Soeur 2028-29 04/16 complexity, style, fine
***(*) René Rostaing Vdp Coll Rh Lézardes Syrah 2022-23 10/16 naked, refined, beau
***(*) Hervé Souhaut VdFr Gamay La Souteronne 2018 03/16 delicate, stylish, w.o.w.
*** Cave de Tain Vdp Coll Rhodaniennes Syrah 2018-19 10/15 juicy, aromatic, neat
*** Dom Les Alexandrins Vdp Coll Rh Gamay 2017 10/15 fresh, neat, w.o.w.
*** Dom E Barou Vdp Coll Rh tombée Ciel Merlot 2018 04/16 rounded, clean
*** M & Christphe Billon VdP Coll Rh Les Corendies 2021-22 04/16 supple, light grip 
*** M & Christophe Billon VdP Viennae La Bâtie 2022-24 04/16 quiet style, plump
*** Mikaël Bourg VdFr La Démarcante 2018 12/15 natural, wild, genuine
*** N Champagneux Vdp Coll Rh La Rémise Syrah 2020 10/16 aromatic, clear, w.o.w.
*** Dom du Chât Vieux Vdp Drôme V Vignes Syrah 2020 12/18 gentle, aromatic, gummy
*** Domaine Clape VdFr Le Vin des Amis 2022-23 12/15 lively, traditional
*** Jean-Luc Colombo Vdp Medit Laure Syrah 2018 10/15 direct, peppery
*** J-F Jacouton Vdp Ardèche Tentation Syrah 2019 04/16 juicy, easy to like
*** Dom Jasmin Vdp Coll Rh La Chevalière Syrah 2020-21 04/15 direct, clear, w.o.w.
*** Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Vdp C Rhd Alliance Syrah 2018 10/15 clear, juicy, w.o.w.
*** Stéphane Ogier vdp Coll Rh La Rosine 2022-23 04/16 buoyant, fresh, with iron
*** André Perret VdP Coll Rhodaniennes Syrah 2018 10/15 easy, joli, w.o.w.
*** Jean-Michel Stéphan  VdFr Syrah 2019 12/15 spiced, up tempo, long
*** Dom Grges Vernay Vdp Coll Rhod De Mirbaudie 2018 04/15 low-key depth 
*** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Coll Rh Valine Syr 2022-23 03/18 gd nose, tight, wire palate
**(*) Dom E Barou Vdp Coll Rh Cuvée Vernes Syrah 2019 04/16 supple, dips midway  
**(*) Domaine Gallet vdp Coll Rh Gallet.Jade Syrah 2018 10/15 tender, bit light 
**(*) Domaine Garon Vdp Coll Rhodaniennes Syrah  2020-21 04/15

peppery, bit stiff

**(*) Dom Chrls Helfenbein Vdp Coll Rh La Syrah 2017 04/15 clear, scented, easy  
**(*) Corinne, J-Paul & Loïc Jamet Vdp Coll Rh Syrah  2019 12/15 soft fruit, bit skimpy 
**(*) Dom Alain Paret Vdp d’Oc Le Cinquet Syrah  2018 10/15 clear, direct fruit  
**(*) Maison Nicolas Perrin VdFr Syrah Viognier  2017 10/15 free fruit, taut 
**(*) Dom Grges Vernay VdP Coll Rhod Fleurs Mai 2017 04/15 easy, clean, solo  
**(*) François Villard VdFr l’appel des Sereines    2018 11/15 quite bright fruit 

14. 2014 VIN DE PAYS/VIN FRANCE WHITE

***(*) C & Pascal Jamet Vdp Coll Rhod Viognier Botrytisée 2020 12/15 nutty, grip, character
***(*) Pascal Marthouret VdP Coll Rhod Viognier 2019 04/16 fresh, firm, gd grip
***(*) Dom du Monteillet VdP Coll Rh Hauts Monteillet 2020 10/15 structure, character
***(*) André Perret VdP Coll Rhod Viognier 2018 10/15 stylish, fresh, w.o.w.
***(*) J-Claude Raspail Vdp Drôme L Blanche Chardonnay 2019 04/16 gras, brio, la table
***(*) Dom Grges Vernay VdP Coll Rhod Pied Samson 2018-10 04/15 lots to appreciate
*** Dom E Barou Vdp Coll Rh Rebel Rebel Chardonnay 2018 04/16 secure gras, style
*** Dom E Barou Vdp Coll Rh Bonne étoile Viognier 2019 04/16 fresh, firm, gd grip
*** Matthieu Barret Vdp de la Drôme Petits Ours 2017 10/15 gentle, drinks well
*** Domaine B Chambeyron VdP Coll Rh Viognier 2017-18 10/15 tender, aromatic
*** Xavier Gérard Vdp Coll Rh Viognier 2018-19 10/15 supple, attractive
*** Dom Pierre Gonon Vin de France Chasselas 2021-22 06/15 texture, quiet gras
*** J-F Jacouton Vdp Ardèche Marsanne-Chasselas 2018 04/16 fresh, length & nerve
*** Catherine & Pascal Jamet Vdp Coll Rh Viognier 2018 12/15 nice style, supple
*** Stéphane Montez Vdp Coll Rh Le Petit Viognier  2018 10/15 neat gras, fresh 
*** M & S Ogier Vdp Coll Rhod Viognier de Rosine 2018 04/16 direct drinking  
*** Pascal Marthouret Vdp Coll Rhod Marsanne   2019 04/16 rich, supple, spiced  
*** Pascal Marthouret Vdp Coll Rhod Roussanne   2019 04/16 supple, round, gras  
*** André Perret Vdp Coll Rhod Marsanne   2017 10/15 smooth, easy, soft 
*** Maison Nicolas Perrin VdFr Viognier 2017 10/15 expressive, w.o.w.
*** Stéphane Pichat Vdp Coll Rhod Verenay Viognier   2018 10/15 live gras, wholesome 
*** Julien Pilon Vdp Coll Rh gd père limonadier Viognier 2018 11/15 creamy, nice length  
*** François Villard VdeFr Contours Deponcins Viognier 2017 11/15 buttery, light, apero
**(*) Dom Les Alexandrins Vdp Coll Rh Viognier Poupées 2017 10/15 easy gras, round  
**(*) Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Vdp Coll Rh Viognier  2018 10/15 bright but malic  
**(*) François Villard VdFr Contours Mairlant Mars-Rouss  2017 11/15 light wine 
** Cave de Tain Vdp Coll Rhodaniennes Marsanne  2017 01/15 simple, supple