Login | Subscribe
twitter

2015 NORTHERN RHÔNE CLOSE-UP

MARC SORREL SHOWING ME HIS 2015 CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

2015 is an excellent vintage, and I recommend buying pretty much across the board, with one exception which is CONDRIEU, where many wines are too solar to be stylish. It is excellent in all the main appellations - CÔTE-RÔTIE, CORNAS and notably HERMITAGE, which will live an extremely long time.

The 2015 CROZES-HERMITAGE REDs run with liberal fruit, while the 2015 SAINT-JOSEPH REDs are often compressed, tight wines, some growers getting ahead of themselves in their ambitions with their wonderful harvest. The MARSANNE-ROUSSANNE whites are very successful this year, holding genuine southern glycerol; they will live well. For the individual domaine Tasting Notes - look out for the LVT 2015 sign at each domaine.

INDEX

1. SAINT-PÉRAY

2. CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

3. CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

4. SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

5. SAINT-JOSEPH RED

6. CORNAS

7. HERMITAGE WHITE

8. HERMITAGE RED

9. CONDRIEU

10. CÔTE-RÔTIE

11. VIN DE PAYS, VIN DE FRANCE, CÔTES, LYONNAIS REDS & WHITES

1. 2015 SAINT-PÉRAY

The 2015 SAINT-PÉRAYs run with commendable freedom given that the base matter is rich and compressed – in theory, at least. For on the side of the New Wave Operators, we have restraint, technique, and carbonic gas.

Hence there are two schools of wine led by the hand of mankind, beyond the split between the limestone soils near CRUSSOL versus the granite soils near CORNAS, or the low lying vineyards near the N86 versus the high level, windy vineyards in outcrops leading into the ARDÈCHE, or the further split between the use of MARSANNE or the use of the ROUSSANNE. Lob in recent plantations and their young vines, and there is a pretty good COCKTAIL OF CONFUSION if one wants to spread the SAINT-PÉRAY tablecloth that way.

Backing off from such exercises into simplicity, the theme was ripeness and potentially high degree. Leading light STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL saw it this way: “it is a solar year, very rich, very gras; the wines are more complex and hold more very ripe fruit than 2014, without the same freshness. There is a lot of gras richness, with the mineral side of SAINT-PÉRAY included.”

LAURE COLOMBO makes a good, stylish wine called BELLE DE MAI, a symphonic name, but actually one of the old arrondissements of MARSEILLE, which used to house Italian immigrants and tobacco companies, with an edgy backdrop near the GARE ST CHARLES. I didn’t venture much there in the 1970s, but it has been gentrified to some extent since then. Her father JEAN-LUC is a native of MARSEILLE, donc the name.

LAURE commented on 2015 as follows: “the wines are very ripe, a bit heated, but haven’t fallen into jam-like zones. The wines are honeyed, have floral aspects. The ROUSSANNE didn’t finish its fermentation until mid-May 2016, in fact. The 2015 can age well, and is very different from 2014.”

JACQUES LEMENICIER’s CUVÉE TRADITIONELLE is 90% 1970s MARSANNE from clay-limestone with some granite soils, the clay stemming from the fact that the vines stand on the low part of the slope on TOURTOUSSE: “the degrees are high this year – 14.5° to 14.8°. I included some wines from the heights that were at 11° to help out. The wines are rich but low in acidity.” In achieving a ****(*) wine at 13.5° that is balanced, fresh and elegant, the boy has done very well.

Beyond the LEMENICIER, a good number of wines have managed to summon balance, and, most of all, length. That renders them absolutely suited to la table, and dishes ranging from classic fish such as halibut, hake and sea bass to poultry, noodles, prawns and soft cheeses.

The 2015 vintage packs more power than the free-wheeling 2014s, so can be cellared on that basis for up to six years for many, with a few, such as the DOMAINE GRIPA duo running for eight to 13 years: they will gain complexity, and reward the wait.

LEADING SAINT-PÉRAY 2015s

****(*) Domaine Bernard Gripa Les Pins 2023-25 10/16 scale, structure, gras, purity
****(*) Jacques Lemenicier Cuvée Traditionelle 2021-22 10/16 balance, tight, elegant, fresh
****(*) Domaine du Tunnel Roussanne 2024-26 10/16 weighty, full, long, muscled
****(*) Domaine Alain Voge Fleur de Crussol 2027-29 10/16 concerted, serious, inner strength
**** Julien Cécillon Gemini 2023-24 05/18 genuine, balance, glycerol, fresh
**** M Chapoutier Les Tanneurs  2020-21 10/16 charm, pleasure, dainty length
**** Domaine Clape 2024-25 04/16 balance, nerve, gras
**** Jean-Luc Colombo La Belle de Mai 2024-26 10/16 rich, with salted length
**** Yves Cuilleron Lieu-Dit Biousse 2020-21 10/16 tangy fruit, kind freshness
**** Yves Cuilleron Les Potiers 2020-21 10/16 tasty gras, stylish, carbo gas
**** Domaine Durand 2021-22 10/16 subtle, nuanced, Rouss fineness
**** Laurent & Céline Fayolle Montis  2023-24 10/16 grounded, compact, sustained
**** Domaine Bernard Gripa Les Figuiers    2026-28 10/16 full, solid, stylish 
**** Dom du Tunnel Stéph Robert Marsanne 2019-20 10/16 rolling gras, trim, juicy  
**** Domaine du Tunnel Cuvée Prestige    2020-21 10/16 cool fruit, floral, elegant  
**** François Villard Version    2022-23 10/16 solid richness, spiced, fresh 
**** Domaine Alain Voge Harmonie  2023-24 10/16 liberal fat, savoury, la table  
***(*) M Chapoutier Lieu-dit Hongrie    2021-22 10/16 ripe crop, carbo gas, easy 
***(*) Guy Farge grain de silex    2020 10/16 juicy, fleshy, table, carbo gas  
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Le Mialan   2022-23 10/16 cool, clear, charming  
***(*) Pierre Gaillard   2020-21 10/16 upholstered gras, with grip 
***(*) Julien Pilon les maisons de victor 2021-22 10/16 stylish gras, citrus verve 
***(*) Domaine du Tunnel Pur Blanc  2022-23 10/16 salt, iron, grapiness
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne Les Bialères   2020 10/16 serene, neat, authentic, fresh 
***(*) Domaine Alain Voge Terres Boisées 2021-22 10/16 deep fruits, ripe, oaking  
*** Cave de Tain Fleur de Roc 2020 10/16 peach-pear, light, neutral end
*** Dom des Hauts Châssis Les Calcaires 2021-22 10/16 stubborn, rugged, oak grilled 
*** Vins de Vienne Lieu-Dit Les Faures 2021-22 10/16 smooth, weighty, coated, static 
**(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2019 10/16 low-key, really light for a 2015


2. 2015 CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

PHILIPPE BELLE & OLIVIER DUMAINE ON THE KAOLIN SOILS OF LARNAGE, WHOSE COOL FEATURES MARKED THE WHITES WELL IN 2015

Improvement in white wine making has been notable in the past ten years at CROZES-HERMITAGE. Whereas smashing vintages such as 2004 stood out, nowadays quality is much more even from one year to the next. The 2015 whites here are a most winning collection, with clear definition and a thorough feel that renders them suitable for summer dishes and cold cuts, as well as some of the more usual pairings such as pork and chicken.

In 2015 the crop ripened sometimes quickly but well, meaning that a challenge was posed about whether to go for robust, filled wines or to take the earlier harvesting route and opt for fresher, lighter cuvées.

DAMIEN BRISSET of FERRATON PÈRE & FILS related his experience: “I harvested our 2015 whites based on acidity, not on acidity and sugars as usual. We were already at 12.5° at the end of August, and I worked on that side. Hence our harvesting them in the first week of September, the earliest I have known, which tortured me about whether it was a good decision.”

Such early cropping was also the case for MARC ROMAK of DOMAINE MELODY: “we started our white harvest on 31 August, 10 to 15 days earlier than usual,” he told me. “We finished on 4 September.”

MARC SORREL heaved a sigh of relief this year: “I made 1,500 bottles of white CROZES, against just 600 in 2013 and in 2014. In 2014 I harvested the crop from 16 to 18 September, whereas this year it was between 3 and 5 September.”

FRANÇOIS RIBO signalled the ripeness when reporting: “the degrees were good this year, varying between 12.5° and 14°. We started our harvest on 10 September.”

Home to its kaolin soils, LARNAGE was a good location for white grapes in 2015 given the high heat at times. PHILIPPE BELLE of DOMAINE BELLE put it this way: “a hot year always makes you fearful, but the freshness of the kaolin soils helped its balance. The wines are exuberant and rich, but have an interesting profile this year. Other CROZES whites from outside LARNAGE lack that.”

His neighbour OLIVIER DUMAINE agreed, stating: “we had a good quantity this year, with the kaolin clay playing a role in the wines, which are balanced, low in acidity, around 13.5° to 14°. The wines are sympa, well fruited.”

Alongside the 2015 SAINT-JOSEPH blancs, which I normally regard as superior, better proportioned wines than CROZES, I find 2015 white CROZES possess better, fresher balance, perhaps because they ripened earlier and so have avoided the mass and coating of the ST-JOs. They are certainly digestible for the most part, and come with elegance.

There is a grapey strength in some wines, a commendable number of STGTs, and also real accuracy via à vis the terroir. STGT came in the form of the stylish ****(*) ALÉOFANE, **** DOMAINE CHRISTELLE BETTON, **** OLIVIER DUMAINE LA CROIX DU VERRE, **** DOMAINE PRADELLE, **** DOMAINE LES QUATRE VENTS LA RAGE, and even the sometimes heavily oaked ***(*) DOMAINE DES REMIZIÈRES CUVÉE PARTICULIÈRE. Four of these six wines were made by vigneronnes, by the way.

It’s not just the MARSANNE that performed well in 2015; the ROUSSANNE brought curve to the wines, and textures that were lissom and smooth. The ****(*) DOMAINE GAYLORD MACHON LA FILLE DONT J’AI RÊVÉ [the daughter of whom I have dreamed] was am impressive mini-HERMITAGE based on 70% ROUSSANNE, up from the usual 50%, its content dense, its style sumptuous.

As a footnote on value and pleasure, the 2015 CROZES whites are more enjoyable than many 2015 CONDRIEUs, thanks to their carrying good body, but also freshness and not too high a degree. They are obviously much cheaper, too, although the style of the wines is intrinsically very different. So I am very pleased with white CROZES this year: it’s a bit of a secret success story, and I would recommend purchase of ***(*) wines and above.

In terms of longevity, expect most of these wines to show well until around 2020, with a few holding sufficient density to travel into the mid-2020s. Stock up wherever you can is the advice.

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE 2015s

***** Gilles Robin Les Marelles    2026-28 10/16  big, musky, long, manly 
****(*) Aléofane  2020-21 10/16 trad, la table, STGT   
****(*) Domaine Belle Roche Blanche   2026-28 04/16 strength, elegance, serenity  
****(*) Dard & Ribo   2023-24 12/15 muscled, fresh, long  
****(*) Dom Gaylord Machon La fille   2023-24 10/16 sumptuous, mini Hermitage 
****(*) Dom Les Quatre Vents Pitchounettes 2024-26 10/16 body + freshness ensemble
**** Domaine Belle Terres Blanches 2023-25 10/16 shapely, cool, varied   
**** Domaine Christelle Betton Crystal 2019-20 10/16 lovely finesse, STGT 
**** Yann Chave   2020-21 10/16 charming, fine, sure-footed
**** Domaine Combier   2019-20 10/16 stylish gras, STGT  
**** Olivier Dumaine La Croix du Verre 2021-22 10/16 squeezy, savoury, prime STGT 
**** Domaine Pradelle   2019-20 10/16 inner strength, tuneful, STGT 
**** Domaine Les Quatre Vents La Rage 2020-21 10/16 shapely gras, elegance, STGT 
**** Dom Michelas St Jemms Roussanne 2026-27 10/16 cosy, snug, very joli; Rouss
**** Domaine des Remizières Christophe   2022-23 10/16 sturdy richness, muscular  
**** David Reynaud Aux Bétises Eloise Léa  2022-23 10/16 Marsanne tang, Rouss silk  
**** Marc Sorrel   2028-29 12/15 rich, long, good heartbeat  
**** François Villard Cour de Recré    2021-22 10/16 big, deep set, smooth  
**** Les Vins de Vienne Les Archevêques   2020-21 10/16 long, good grip, variety  
***(*) Cave de Clairmont Classique 2020 10/16 easy, direct, fresh  
***(*) Cave de Tain Les Hauts d'Eole 2020 10/16 soft, restrained, New Wave
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Meysonniers   2021-22 10/16 close-knit; savoury gras  
***(*) Domaine de Chasselvin    2020 10/16 supple gras, cosy, bit tame  
***(*) Domaine du Colombier   2019 10/16 fluid, floral, gentle 
***(*) Domaine Combier Laurent Combier 2019-20 10/16 genuine gras, verve, detail
***(*) Delas Les Launes   2021-22 10/16 tropical fruits, carbo gas 
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix  2020 10/16 cosy, sure gras, wavy  
***(*) J-C & Nicolas Fayolle La Rochette 2025-26 12/18 supple, floral, joli, genuine
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Le Grand Courtil   2022-23 10/16 neat gras, refined 
***(*) Domaine Habrard Vin Bio   2021-22 12/15 stylish, long, delicacte
***(*) Dom des Hauts Châssis L’Essentiel   2020 10/16 suave richness, grapey  
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Dom Mule Blanche  2022-23 11/16 juicy gras, grippy, fresh 
***(*) Domaine Melody Chaos Blanc   2022-24 10/16 firm, resounding, grapey  
***(*) Domaine Melody L’Exception . . .    2019-20 10/16 graceful, quietly full 
***(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Signature 2020 10/16 supple, textured, tangy
***(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Charmeuses    2020-21 10/16 juicy gras, authentic Marsanne 
***(*) Julien Pilon on the Rhône again   2020 10/16 supple gras, creamy, suave  
***(*) Domaine Pradelle Courbis    2020-21 10/16  assertive fruits, kick
***(*) Dom des Remizières Cuvée Particulière 2020-21 10/16 lively Marsanne, STGT, table 
***(*) Domaine Saint Clair un matin . . . 2019-20 10/16 weighty, exotic fruits, la table
***(*) Domaine de la Ville Rouge Nathan   2021-22 10/16 muscled, firm, southern 
*** Cave de Clairmont Cuvée des Pionniers 2019 10/16 tender, straightforward, apero  
*** E. Guigal 2021-22 06/17 serene, fresh, not grab me
*** Paul Jaboulet Aîné Domaine de Roure   2021-23 11/16

facile body, New Wave

**(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2019 10/16 brief, mild, tame
**(*) Ferraton Père & Fils La Matiniere  2019 10/16 tang, bubbly, spritzy gas  
         


3. 2015 CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

2015 is a joyous year at CROZES-HERMITAGE, a vintage that is most expressive and bounding with loads of free-wheeling fruit. The wines are easy to appreciate, deliver in the instant, and will be drunk with plenty of pleasure.

That really defines what CROZES should be, and I rate 2015 at Crozes as not far off the standard of 2010, the latter giving slightly more serious, structured wines. But on the pleasure scale, 2015 rates extremely highly.

PLEASURE IN THE VINEYARD

GUILLAUME SORREL, the son of MARC SORREL, at DOMAINE LES ALEXANDRINS [now part of MAISON NICOLAS PERRIN] commented thus on the ripening season in his vineyards around the southern sector – BEAUMONT-MONTEUX, PONT DE L’ISÈRE and LES CHASSIS: “it was a pleasure to be in the vineyard. There was no rain in July, and we were anxious by mid-August because my young vines had started to block on their ripening. The rainfalls around mid-August helped to release the sugars.

The 12-13 September rain of 45-50 mm (1.8-2 in.) had a big effect also: one week before it, it took 150 kg of Syrah to make 1 hectolitre because the juice was very concentrated. One week after the rain, which helped to lower the degree, it took 130 kg for 1 hectolitre. The wines gave extreme colour this year.”

SUPERB CROP

LAURENT COMBIER of organic DOMAINE COMBIER, also mainly at PONT DE L’ISÈRE, reported as follows: “it’s superb, indeed it would be difficult to do better. The spring was very beau; in July there was some high heat, just before the turning of colour on the Syrah (veraison), which was OK. We had fresh nights in August. There were a few blockages of ripening in the young vines only.”

VITAL TO NOT CHASE EXTRACTION

The crop levels were good, but growers spoke with one voice when saying that it was imperative not to go too far in extracting from the crop, something that growers at SAINT-JOSEPH failed to rein back on in 2015 with their SYRAHs. LAURENT COMBIER again: “the yield was good after the setbacks of 2013 and 2014 (28 hl/ha) – it was 40 hl/ha. Vinifications went like the rest of the year, when the hand of the vigneron was not essential – things did themselves well, and we had good colours immediately.”

SÉBASTIEN CHEVROL of DOMAINE MICHELAS ST JEMMS, where quality has been steadily rising in recent years gave this view: “2015 has been atypical because vinifications went fast, taking less than four weeks, maybe between three and four weeks. You didn’t need to go seeking the wines this year, and it was obligatory not to extract too much. We did no cap punching this year.”

GROWERS CHOSE NOT TO PUNCH CAPS

PHILIPPE BELLE of the accomplished DOMAINE BELLE at LARNAGE, which is northern sector and higher up than the south, concurred, in eschewing cap punching this year. He reported: “we usually do a lot of cap punching during the alcoholic fermentation, but not in 2015. I sought freshness and balance, so did very few pumping overs as well. It’s probably a very great year, so I may extend the cask raising from 12 to 14-15 months on LES PIERRELLES.

It’s a vintage of fainéants – do nothings – you had to absolutely not chase extraction, which would have led to dry and hard tannins. I privileged the tender, fine side of the vintage; we didn’t do much in its preparation, we just overlooked matters more than anything else. Nature was very generous, and we had to find the compromise to express that. On our big two wines ROCHE PIERRE and LOUIS BELLE we did no pumping overs, only soft cap punching.” The LOUIS BELLE comes in at 15°, note.

HIGH DEGREE FROM DROUGHT AT LARNAGE

With side by side vineyards on the white clay at LARNAGE, PHILIPPE BELLE’s neighbour OLIVIER DUMAINE referred to the degree this year, stating: “it has been very atypical – I have never seen degree on the SYRAH of this level, an average of 14°, due to the drought, which was the main factor in that. LARNAGE with its kaolin clay didn’t fear drought, so there is good acidity. The crop is big, 40 hl/ha. The reds will need time, and will be difficult to drink young.”

A young couple who own some precious old vines right next to the HERMITAGE county line with LARNAGE are MARLÈNE DURAND and MARK ROMAK of DOMAINE MELODY, whose wines have a pleasing openness. MARLÈNE was also cautious in the cellar, telling me: “it’s a vintage where had to not extract too much during the vinifactions.”

MARC ROMAK gave this overview: “it’s a great vintage. The reds will demand a bit more raising than usual. You had to be vigilant on the harvest date in order to preserve balance. The wines have fruit, freshness – not far off perfection. I wouldn’t mind three of four more vintages like 2015 in the next 10 years! It was a year of the vinifier – as regards not over-extracting, and keeping alcohol degrees under control. By contrast, 2014 was a year of the vigneron, with a lot of vineyard work required.”

LOW DEGREE OFF GRANITE AT GERVANS

About five kilometres north of LARNAGE at GERVANS, where there is more granite, LAURENT HABRARD, who works organically, also referred to the degree, but in reverse. He explained: “I was surprised by the degree in 2015 – it wasn’t as much we had been told would be the case. My SYRAH ranged from 11.8° to a maximum of 13°. I chaptalised one or two vats at 11.8°. Since I started in 1998, 2015 is my best quality crop, and for a wine from the granite, I am not used to that colour. It’s also concentrated. It was a year of tranquility for vinification, and the wine from it.”

Just about the first organic domaine in the NORTHERN RHÔNE was RENÉ-JEAN DARD & FRANÇOIS RIBO, whose vineyards are largely in the northern sector. FRANÇOIS told me: “I am very content, given a good crop size, and a very belle surprise that the wines are not at all solar. Both the reds and the whites have tension and aren’t over soft, unlike the 2003s and 2009s – we had been worried on that score.

During vinification, I had one or two worries about completing the fermentations on the whites, just a little on the reds. We destemmed the high slopes crop which had small berries which had got very dry. We did less destemming in the 2010 vintage, by the way.”

2015 AND 2010

A question for some will be the relative worth of 2015 alongside 2010. I am in the 2010 camp, although the case for CROZES 2015 is more solid than other northern RHÔNE appellations. PHILIPPE BELLE of DOMAINE BELLE feels this way: “I like 2010 a lot; it is a vintage of balance, power and freshness together. 2015 is a lot more opulent, exuberant, but with freshness. It is a Grand Vintage, one of the three best I have vinified in my career – the others being 1990 and 1999. 2010 would be the fourth behind these years. I find the 2015s Pinote enormously [has an association with PINOT NOIR, a mark of finesse in the wines].”

ALAIN GRAILLOT was very pleased, with a glancing comparison to 2005, when commenting: “there is magnificent balance and good acidity. It is a finer vintage than 2005.” His son MAXIME GRAILLOT who has his merchant business EQUIS as well as the DOMAINE DES LISES, likes to emphasize fruitiness and immediacy. He referred to the sunny side of the year, when stating: “I feared firm tannins since the skins were thick. I find it similar to 2009, a bit different perhaps, but in the same vein.”

2015: "JUST SHORT OF PERFECTION"

FERRATON PÈRE ET FILS own vineyards based on MERCUROL and BEAUMONT-MONTEUX. Their chef de Culture DAMIEN BRISSET spoke with great enthusiasm for the vintage when relating: “CROZES-HERMITAGE RED is exceptional in 2015. It could have been the year of the century, the absolute deal, with 1) 25 mm (1 inch) of rain in mid-August, and without 2) the 80 mm (3.2 inches) of rain on 7-8 September, then a week later another 80 mm. If that rain hadn’t fallen, we could have gone further in refining the tannins. In that case, it would have been like 2010 with more power. 2010 is more northern in tone, elegant, a bit cooler than 2015, which is solar, with a mass of tannin.”

2015 HAS GOOD BALANCE

In praising the vintage here, I would signal two exemplary features. The first is the balance of the wines. Balance is so much a derivative of accurate, but also instinctive, winemaking, and it was gratifying that human beings didn’t spoil the crop they brought into the cellar.

FULL MIDDLE PALATES IN 2015

The second was the mid-palate depth; this is impressive this year, when there are very few wines that attack, then dip, then finish. There is a completeness to them that marks this out as an exceptional vintage. They are more forward and all together than the 2010s were at the same stage, with the tannins more integrated and more obviously ripe from the debut.

HIGH QUALITY FRUIT

Fruit quality is also high, with purity and clarity allowing attractive engagement with the drinker. There are several w.o.w. wines, all **** standard: the names are often those who produce freely fruited wines, which is a hallmark of BEAUMONT-MONTEUX notably – the CAVE DE CLAIRMONT and DAVID REYNAUD of DOMAINE LES BRUYÈRES consistently proven in this regard, and also DOMAINE DE CHASSELVIN from that location.

w.o.w. 2015s, BEAUMONT-MONTEUX TO THE FORE

**** CAVE DE CLAIRMONT CLASSIQUE  [B-M]

**** DOMAINE BELLE LES PIERRELLES 

**** DOMAINE DE CHASSELVIN LES LIÈVRES  [B-M]

**** DELAS LES LAUNES

**** DAVID REYNAUD BEAUMONT [a perfect picture of BEAUMONT]

**** DAVID REYNAUD GEORGES [B-M]

SNUG TANNINS

Meanwhile, across 2015 CROZES-HERMITAGE, the tannins are über snug, really fitting in well on the whole. In that respect, 2015 doesn’t have the profile of a wait a long time vintage that is backed by dark and demanding tannins – 2005, say. Often up to 10 years of life is in view, with many very gourmand and open already. It was enjoyable to taste them.

On the debit side of the page, there were one or two where I felt raising could have been prolonged, for a second winter, for example, to allow more oak fusion and general aid for the length and completion of the wine. Instances were the **** YANN CHAVE ROUVRE, ***(*) DOMAINE GUILLAUME BELLE and *** DOMAINE LES QUATRE VENTS.

These are slight drawbacks, however, in what is a top rate vintage. However, change is afoot at CROZES-HERMITAGE, big change. The liberalisation of planting rights has meant that many of the previously arable lands stretching east into the DRÔME département are being bought by big players with access to capital, CHAPOUTIER, for one, DELAS also rumoured to be active.

The consequent raising of the price of land excludes young growers lacking funds, and also assumes that these soils will give wine of commensurate quality to the existing appellation. I sense a Klondyke style rush, a free for all. For an appellation that already allows the use of chips in raising the wine, CROZES must tread carefully.

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE RED 2015s

***** Alléno & Chapoutier Guer-Van 2027-29 10/16 stylish, mini Hermitage
***** Domaine Belle Roche Pierre 2036-38 04/16 sensuous, classy, Grand Vin
***** Delas Dom des Grands Chemins 2028-30 10/16 complex, balanced, mini Hermitage
****(*) Aléfoane 2023-25 10/16 sleek fruit, fresh, fine  
****(*) Domaine Les Alexandrins  2024-26 10/16 classy fruit, fine, long  
****(*) Domaine Belle Louis Belle     2024-26 10/16 neat gras, grace, elegance
****(*) Domaine Combier Clos des Grives 2030-32 03/18 solid, sustained, silk, fragrance
****(*) Dom Combier Laurent Combier 2023-24 10/16 generous, fresh, nuanced  
****(*) Delas Le Clos    2027-29 10/16 style, polish, authority, oak 
****(*) J-C & Nicolas Fayolle Cuvée Fayolle  2025-27 10/16 authentic granite wine, STGT 
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Le Grand Courtil 2031-34 10/16 stylish gras, packed in 
****(*) Domaine Alain Graillot La Guiraude 2037-39 12/18 muscular, properly complete, iron
****(*) Dom des Hauts Châssis Les Chassis  2024-25 10/16 fine, discretion, cool fruit  
****(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2025-26 10/16 delightful, pure fruit, stimulating 
****(*) Domaine Melody Étoile Noire 2024-25 10/16 great style, texture, fine
****(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Cuvée N°29 2035-37 10/16 tasty, full, very long  
****(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Entrecoeurs    2023-25 10/16 stylish gras; abundant, deep 
****(*) Domaine Pradelle Les Hirondelles 2024-25 10/16 juicy, fresh, complete  
****(*) David Reynaud Les Croix V Vignes  2025-26 10/16 interesting fruit, serious tannin 
**** Etienne Bécheras Lhony 2024-26 10/16 sinewed content, inner strength 
**** Cave de Clairmont Classique   2022-23 10/16 generous, engaging, w.o.w.  
**** Cave de Tain Epure 2036-38 12/18 rich, ground force, dark, charged
**** Cave de Tain La Grace 2026-28 10/16 subtle, sustained, intricate
**** Cave de Tain Les Hauts du Fief 2027-28 10/16 savoury, well fuelled, balanced
**** Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles   2022-23 10/16 v fine nose, charm, w.o.w.   
**** M Chapoutier Les Meysonniers   2024-25 10/16 thorough, fresh, juiced gras 
**** M Chapoutier Les Varonniers   2030-32 04/16 plump gras, rocky texture  
**** Domaine de Chasselvin  2023-25 10/16 style, depth, balance  
**** Domaine de Chasselvin Les Lièvres  2020-21 10/16 crunchy fruit, panache, w.o.w.   
**** Yann Chave    2023-24 10/16 muscle, firmness, knit  
**** Domaine du Colombier   2024-25 10/16 solid, wholesome, energy 
**** Domaine du Colombier Cuvée Gaby  2023-25 10/16 fine juice, ample, sleek  
**** Domaine Combier 2025-27 03/18 flair, floral, cool, balance, w.o.w.
**** Laurent Combier Cap Nord 2026-27 03/18 tasty, finesse, freshness, beau
**** Dard & Ribo   2025-26 12/15 punchy fruit, fresh, STGT 
**** Dard & Ribo Les Bâties   2025-27 12/15 up-tempo, good richness  
**** Dard & Ribo Pé du Loup   2025-26 12/15 muscular, fine, interesting  
**** Emmanuel Darnaud Au Fil du Temps  2027-28 10/16 streamlined content, structure 
**** Emm Darnaud Les Trois Chênes  2023-24 10/16 polished, clean, oaked  
**** Delas Les Launes    2021-22 10/16 instant fruit, cool, w.o.w.  
**** Olivier Dumaine La Croix du Verre    2027-29 10/16 intricate fruit, dark, demanding 
**** Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix    2025-26 10/16 ample juice, engaging, vigour
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Calendes   2030-31 10/16 vigour, structure, good crunch  
**** Ferraton Père & Fils La Matinière    2027-29 10/16 handsome fruit, complete  
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Pichères   2030-32 10/16 serious depth, polished gras 
**** Domaine Alain Graillot   2030-32 11/17 rich, thick, mineral, crunchy length
**** Domaine Habrard Vin Bio 2023-25 12/15 stylish, weighted, fresh  
**** Dom des Hauts Châssis Les Galets 2024-25 10/16 style, purity, lithe content
**** Phil & Vincent Jaboulet Nouvelère  2022-23 10/16 stylish, juicy, bright 
**** Domaine Melody Premier Regard    2024-25 10/16 broad, fluid, tight, clear 
**** Dm Michelas St Jemms Terres d'Arce 2028-30 10/16 spherical, full, juice fest
**** Domaine Pradelle   2024-26 10/16 handsome, refined; fruit purity 
**** Dom des Remizières Christophe    2024-26 10/16 stylish fruit, tasty, oaked 
**** David Reynaud Beaumont   2023-24 10/16 sensuous, appealing, w.o.w.  
**** David Reynaud Georges    2020-21 10/16 exuberance, fun, w.o.w.  
**** Gilles Robin 1920    2023-24 10/16 polished, trim, modern, oak  
**** Saint Cosme 2025-27 10/16 jaunty, free, engaging 
**** Marc Sorrel   2027-29 12/15 gusto, balance, length  
**** Domaine de la Ville Rouge Paul 2031-33 11/18 wide gras, lots here, enjoyable
**** Les Vins de Vienne Les Grappiats 2024-25 10/16 savoury, style, well founded  
***(*) Matthieu Barret Et la bannière . . . 2021-22 10/16 suave, upfront, smooth 
***(*) Etienne Bécheras Le Prieuré d’Arras 2022-23 10/16 liqueur depth, chunky  
***(*) Domaine Guillaume Belle 2023-24 10/16 blue fruit, cool, raw
***(*) Louis Bernard    2021-22 10/16 dark fruit, oak, fine 
***(*) Christelle Betton Caprice  2019-20 10/16 juicy, perfumato, naked  
***(*) Christelle Betton Espiègle    2022-23 10/16 gras, sinew, perfume 
***(*) Cave de Clairmont Immanence    2023-24 10/16 compressed juice, fine freshness 
***(*) Caves Saint-Pierre   2021-22 10/16 mild content, stewed fruits 
***(*) Cave de Tain BM 2024-25 10/16 sweet, easy fruit; mild tannin
***(*) Cave de Tain Les Pierrelles 2027-28 10/16 crucnhy content, hearty, oaked
***(*) Domaine de Chasselvin 1942 2021-22 10/16 stylish, easy juice, sound
***(*) Yann Chave Le Rouvre    2023-24 10/16 quality fruit, oaking  
***(*) J-L Colombo Les Fées Brunes    2022-23 10/16 soft, unctuous, straightforward 
***(*) Domaine Courbis Au Beau Séjour 2022-23 11/17 shapely richness, dense, textured
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Lieu-dit Les Chassis 2023-25 10/16 closed, fresh, needs time
***(*) Dard & Ribo C’est le Printemps  2020 12/15 fresh, zingy 
***(*) equis equinoxe   2021-22 11/16 exuberant black berry, up front 
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Sens    2023-24 10/16 clear fruit, crisp close 
***(*) Domaine Jeanne Gaillard    2021-22 10/16 neat gras, juicy, easy   
***(*) E Guigal 29-31 03/19 steady fruit, suave feel, florality
***(*) Dom des Hauts Châssis Esquisse    2020 10/16 cool fruit, fine tannin  
***(*) Domaine des Lises   2021 10/15 bright fruit, good brio 
***(*) Dom Gaylord Machon Cuvée Lhony 2031-33 11/18 rich, rolling, genuine, dispersed
***(*) Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne 2027-28 03/18 black fruits, well crunched
***(*) Domaine Melody Friandise    2023-24 10/16 gourmand, full; direct content 
***(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Chasselière 2025-26 10/16 broad, generous, munchable
***(*) Domaine Pradelle Courbis    2022-23 10/16 neat fruits, floral, low-key 
***(*) Dom Les Quatre Vents Pitchounettes  2021-22 10/16 squelchy fruits, energy  
***(*) Dom Les Quatre Vents Saint Jaimes  2023-24 10/16 savoury content, oaking 
***(*) Ravoire & Fils Olivier Ravoire    2024-25 10/16 tight-knit, rugged  
***(*) Dom des Remizières Particulière    2022-23 10/16 lithe fruits, cool, fluid  
***(*) Gilles Robin Albéric Bouvet   2023-24 10/16 juicy, spice, quiet muscle  
***(*) Eric Rocher Chaubayou    2023-24 10/16 stylish gras, exuberance 
***(*) Domaine Saint-Clair étincelle   2022-23 10/16 bold, rugged, crisp tannin  
***(*) Frnçois Villard Comme une Evidence  2022-23 11/16 live fruit, fresh tannins  
***(*) Dom de la Ville Rouge Inspiration  2022-23 10/16 gourmand, fleshy, expressive  
***(*) Dom de la Ville Rouge Terre d'Eclat 2027-29 11/18 dark fruit, fat, southern, oaked
***(*) Maison Bouachon La Maurelle    2022-23 10/16 red fruits, reserved 
***(*) Maison Nicolas Perrin    2021-22 10/16 pure fruit, juicy, neat  
*** Cave de Tain Vin Biologique 2021-22 10/16 juicy, smoky, plump content
*** Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin    2022-23 10/16 cool fruit, taut, wired 
*** Emmanuel Darnaud Mise en Bouche  2021-22 10/16 stewed fruits, workmanlike  
*** Gaylord Machon Ghany    2022-23 10/16 plump, obvious, extraction 
*** Gabriel Meffre Saint-Pierre    2020-21 10/16 swell fruit, spice, steady  
*** Dm Michelas St Jemms Fleur Syrahne 2019 10/16 easy, direct fruit, soft
*** Domaine Les Quatre Vents    2021-22 10/16 kirsch, bite, tight, raw 
*** Ogier Les Paillanches    2022-23 10/16 spiced, bite in tannins  
*** Gilles Robin Papillon   2020-21 10/16 soft, plump fruits, easy 
**(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2021 10/16 dark fruit, spartan, workmanlike
**(*) Maison Denuzière Les Terrasses    2022-23 10/16 lush style, extraction, dry 
**(*) Domaine Philippe Michelas    2019-20 10/16 low richness, fair length 

 

4. 2015 SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

CELEBRATED HILLSIDE VINEYARD OF CÔTE SAINTE-ÉPINE AT SAINT-JEAN-DE-MUZOLS, SHARING THE SAME GRANITE SEAM AS THE WEST END OF THE HILL OF HERMITAGE. IT PERFORMED VERY WELL IN 2015, THE LOWER VINEYARDS GIVING RICHER THAN USUAL WINES [DELAS], THE HIGHER VINEYARDS A COOL, CLEAR TENOR [DOMAINE MICHELAS ST JEMMS]

2015 SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

The 2015 vintage was saved by its ability to deliver packed wines, both red and white, with all-important freshness. That is why the SAINT-JOSEPH whites have done well, combining both good depth of content and an alert feel. They are always that bit deeper and more intricate than the whites of CROZES-HERMITAGE, and give good value for money as wines that can light up a good lunch or dinner, and also age and vary with that age over several years.

The crop wasn’t abundant everywhere, with YVES GANGLOFF telling me: “we had very little this year – 1,500 bottles instead of 4,000.” Which is why he had none left to taste with me when I visited him.

There was marked ripeness at times on the ROUSSANNE, which plays a sometimes prominent role at SAINT-JOSEPH, with its ability to give wine that is enjoyably deep even when the vines are young. Handling that ripening policy has to be executed with care, though, to prevent the wines failing to deliver fresh length.

FRANÇOIS RIBO of hard core organic DARD & RIBO is keen on the ROUSSANNE taken from sanded granite soils: “our ROUSSANNE from PITROU this year was 15.5°, as it was in 1999 and 2000,” he told me. Their ROUSSANNE was planted in 1995, and the duo like to produce their SAINT-JO PITROU white when September and October have been fine.

Within the global tasting, I was struck by the following wines, which represented the ROUSSANNE well.

****(*) PIERRE GAILLARD (100 R, 1994-99)

**** GILLES FLACHER LOESS (60 R, late 1980s)

**** CATHERINE & PASCAL JAMET VIGNOBLE DE LA TOUR D’ARRAS (100 R, 1993-94)

**** DOMAINE MUCYN LES CARATS (100 R, 2002-03, STGT)

**** DOMAINE DES PIERRES SÈCHES (100 R)

**** PIERRE-JEAN VILLA SAUT DE L’ANGE (100 R, 1988, 2009)

**** VIGNOBLES CHIRAT LES CÔTES (80 R, 2005-06)

Very much to my taste this year was the presence of a glycerol-formed richness in some of the wines. I would say that glycerol was the leading factor this year in forming the wines and defining their character. A marvellous example of this was the DOMAINE GRIPA LE BERCEAU, a 100% MARSANNE that dates back to the 1920s for the oldest vines. This will live and thrive for at least 15 years.

The presence of exotic fruits such as mango indicates the ripeness and the sun ray-filled nature of the crop. 2015 SAINT-JOSEPH whites are therefore table wines, with decanting often advised. When the balance is top notch – as it was with YVES CUILLERON’s outstanding LYSERAS, there will be flair and nuance in the glass, those pleasures delivered without hesitation over the life of the wine.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE 2015s

***** Yves Cuilleron Lyseras  2024-25 10/16 savoury, stylish, tremendous 
***** Domaine Bernard Gripa Le Berceau  2028-31 10/16 glycerol-rich, broad, kingly 
****(*) Domaine Boissonnet    2022-23 10/16 rich, vigour, long, STGT 
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Les Oliviers  2027-29 10/16 handsome, balance, provocative 
****(*) Pierre Gaillard  2024-26 10/16 muscular, concentrated, long 
****(*) François Villard Fruit d’Avilleran  2024-26 10/16 scale, fat, character 
****(*) Les Vins de Vienne L’Elouède  2023-25 10/16 savoury, engaging, long 
**** Louis Chèze Ro-Rée    2022-23 10/16 thick juice, muscle, knit 
**** Domaine Courbis Les Royes 2026-27 11/17 warm richness, firm grip, oak
**** Yves Cuilleron Le Lombard  2023-25 10/16 thick content, genuine, STGT 
**** Dard & Ribo  2024-26 12/15 fresh, stylish, pure 
**** Dard & Ribo Pitrou  2025-26 12/15 big, profound, coated 
**** Dard & Ribo Les Opateyres  2024-25 12/15 solid foundation, very long 
**** Delas Saint-Épine  2024-27 10/16 intricate, mineral, firm
**** Gilles Flacher Loess  2022-23 10/16 subtle gras, body, freshness 
**** Domaine Pierre Gonon Les Oliviers  2030-32 04/16 solid, packed, tight grip 
**** Domaine Bernard Gripa  2024-26 10/16 elegant gras, compact, fresh 
**** Catherine & Pascal Jamet Tour d’Arras  2022-23 10/16 fleshy, genuine, hearty 
**** Domaine Jolivet Clef de Sol 2020-21 10/16 stylish, neat, pretty 
**** Domaine Mucyn Les Carats  2022-23 10/16 rich, smooth, balanced, STGT 
**** André Perret 2022-23 04/18 joli, engaging, good heart
**** Christophe Pichon    2023-24 10/16 interest, nourishing, strength 
**** Domaine des Pierres Sèches 2024-26 10/16 thick, wide, fuelled 
**** Julien Pilon dimanche à lima   2022-23 10/16 suave richness, composed 
**** Domaine Richard Charmen   2021-22 10/16 stylish gras, elegant, balance 
**** Vignobles Chirat Les Côtes  2020-21 10/16 discreetly full, complexity 
**** Verzier Chante-Perdrix Granit  2021-22 10/16 cosy gras, grapey, long 
**** Pierre-Jean Villa Saut de l’Ange 2020-21 10/16 style, balance, charm
***(*) Domaine Emmanuel Barou le Sud  2020-21 04/16 quietly rich, likeable 
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Granits   2024-27 10/16 fresh fruit, spritz 
***(*) Aurélien Chatagnier 2020-21 10/16 rich, jungly, early wine 
***(*) P & Jérôme Coursodon Paradis Pierre  2022-24 10/16 compact juice, cool, authority 
***(*) Pierre & Jérôme Coursodon Silice 2021-22 10/16 cosy gras, fluid, trim  
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Lieu-dit Digue 2022-24 10/16 suave gras, bit rugged  
***(*) Delas Les Challeys   2020 10/16 gentle, neatly plump  
***(*) Guy Farge vania   2020-21 10/16 fine gras, carbo gas
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils La Source   2023-25 10/16 Regular Guy, inner muscle 
***(*) Pierre Finon Quatuor 2020 07/17 fine gras; cool, fresh
***(*) E. Guigal Lieu-Dit St Joseph 2026-28 06/17 soft gras, upright, oaked
***(*) J-François Jacouton Souvenirs d’André  2020-21 10/16 soft, neat, light freshness 
***(*) Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne 2022-23 11/17 snugly rich; smooth textured
***(*) Eric Rocher Mayane    2019-20 10/16 gentle, floral, aperitif  
***(*) Stéphane Ogier Le Passage    2020 10/16 juicy, plump, silken fat 
***(*) Domaine Anthony Vallet Méribets   2020-21 10/16 rich fruits, trim  
***(*) François Villard Mairlant   2022-24 10/16 bulky, table wine 
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2020 10/16 high fruit, rounded, perlant
*** Cave de Tain Terre d'Ivoire 2020-21 10/16 fresh, arm's length, gas
*** M Chapoutier Les Granilites    2021-23 10/16 citrus fruit, gas distraction  
*** Domaine Courbis 2020 11/17 medium weight, New Wave
*** Domaine Durand    2021-22 10/16 compact, compressed 
*** Lionel Faury 2019-20 10/16 fresh before drift, gas 

 

5. 2015 SAINT-JOSEPH RED

The most testing group of 2015 Northern Rhônes I tasted were the SAINT-JOSEPH reds, which annoyed me. Unlike most journalists, especially those from the USA, as well as some British newcomers, I taste blind. I was brought up that way, and regard it as the best test of not only educating a palate, but also of keeping as much objectivity as possible in the whole exercise.

Of course, visits to domaines and their vineyards (next time you meet a whizzo wine journalist, from Paris, for example, ask him/her how many vineyards they have visited this year) remain extremely important, and in those instances one has to be on guard not to become too enraptured.

EXCESS EXERTION IN CELLARS

There I am, sitting in TAIN, tasting dozens of ST JO 2015 reds – and it is incredibly hard work, unlike all the other appellations in 2015. This vexes me. It appears that too many growers in this straggling appellation seized upon 2015 as the chance to make a BIG WINE, a BOLD STATEMENT. In those instances, the tannins are demanding, and the sense of extraction hangs around. 

When purely struck, Syrahs from the ARDÈCHE (07) granite should be wines of finesse, grace. They have a crispness running through them, and an attached, winsome florality, blue flowers often prominent. They are not naturally souped up wines of scale. They are intricate, understated, evocative.

In 2015 the original SAINT-JOSEPH zone from the 1956 decree has performed best, with the more stylish wines, and less exerted wines, than from the later attached region of the LOIRE département (42) around CHAVANAY. Hence the red fruits of MAUVES, the silky notes of the south of TOURNON, the feline crackle of TOURNON near the town, the reserved poise of SAINT-JEAN-DE-MUZOLS’s granite are all on display, and those are the wines to concentrate upon, bar some of the northerners that I will point out.

A MIXED BAG OF STYLES

That is not to say that 2015 isn’t successful for SAINT-JOSEPH as a whole; my reports are in-depth, not trimmed by large corporate publishers, so I can point out such nuances in the composition of the wines in 2015, and their ability to satisfy the most discerning and questing of palates. However, it is certainly the case that there is a mixed bag of styles and outcomes in the wines this year, which makes life a little tricky for buyers.

RIPENING SEASON

The ripening season followed the path of the whole region, blessed by brilliantly timed rainfalls. However, by September, things were getting close to the limit, as pointed out by JEAN GONON: “we had heat in June, July, early August, then 200 mm (8 inches) in two storms during the week of the harvest,” he related. “We had had hail on 14 July, so the 120 mm (4.8 ins) of rain in September brought rot.”

VINIFICATION RESTRAINT VITAL IN 2015

2015 required care during vinifications, and not getting too carried away in extraction. ANDRÉ PERRET, my wise old owl friend, declared: “in 2015 you had to extract the Syrah softly to avoid hard tannins. We worked a lot on freshness.”

Up on the plateau above CHAVANAY, go-getter STÉPHANE MONTEZ of DOMAINE DU MONTEILLET, a man who has put his foot down in the cellar in the past, gave this summary on 2015: “the grapes were superb, healthy, allowing me a five week maceration. Not much work was needed in reality, which was welcome after the hard work of 2012, 2013 and 2014, when a lot of effort was demanded in the vineyard.

Very little intervention was required in the vinifications – you had to go carefully – with the immersed cap I use, I did a few light pumping overs, a couple of cap punchings only. 2015 is our seventh vintage in the Northern Rhône with no screwing up, making beaus vins.”

MAUVES AND THE SOUTH

From the southern sector, first of all at MAUVES, JEAN-CLAUDE MARSANNE, whose wines is wonderfully traditional and unforced, stated: “the Syrah crop had very thick skins, and we needed two pressings to get through it.”

STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL, whose vineyards are at GLUN, TOURNON and MAUVES, the oldest dating from the 1920s, was very content with results this year: “ST JOSEPH in 2015 is close to CORNAS for me,” he told me; “the red wine is powerful, has a dark colour, is full, with some floral touches.”

I have divided the 2015 SAINT-JOSEPH reds into certain categories, to try to assemble themes that might be useful.

STYLISH, INVITING, including w.o.w.

Starting with those that have good style and are inviting, some of them in the w.o.w. [what one wants] bracket. This covers wines that are overtly enjoyable to drink. Here we have the following:

****(*) DOMAINE MUCYN LES SALAMANDRES

****(*) LES VINS DE VIENNE L’ARZELLE

****(*) DOMAINE JOLIVET L’INSTINC

**** ALÉOFANE

**** DOMAINE LES ALEXANDRINS

**** ALLÉNO & CHAPOUTIER LA COURONNE DE CHABOT

**** GUILLAUME CLUSEL w.o.w.

**** PIERRE & JÉRÔME COURSODON L’OLIVAIE

**** LIONEL FAURY HEDONISM w.o.w.

**** PASCAL & CATHERINE JAMET VIGNOBLES DE LA TOUR D’ARRAS

**** GABRIEL MEFFRE LAURUS

**** MAISON NICOLAS PERRIN

STGT WINES

There are some STGT [Soil to Glass Transfer] wines this year. The granite spoke loudly in some instances, with the dry conditions favouring mature vines with long roots. Relaxed winemaking is also a requirement for this category; the contrast between the M CHAPOUTIER LES GRANILITES, the “little brother” of the M CHAPOUTIER LES GRANITS was marked, the latter exerted and requiring leaving until 2020-21.

***** M CHAPOUTIER LES GRANILITES

****(*) GUY FARGE PASSION DES TERRASSES

****(*) PHILIPPE MICHELAS LES GOUTELLES

**** ÉTIENNE BECHERAS LE PRIEURÉ D’ARRAS TOUR JOVIAC

**** DOMAINE DURAND LAUTARET

***(*) DOMAINE EMMANUEL BAROU UN AUTRE MONDE

SUCCULENCE, GOURMANDISE

There were some wines that emphasized ripeness or even extreme ripeness, with power attached: weighty wines. I would be a little wary of these wines, though they will appeal in a flashy manner.

**** VINCENT PARIS LES CÔTES

***(*) CAVE DE SAINT-DÉSIRAT SEPTENTRIO

***(*) PIERRE & JÉRÔME COURSODON LA SENSONNE

***(*) PIERRE GAILLARD LES PIERRES

CELLAR EXERTED WINES

Now I turn to the muffled applause, or downright boos extended to certain naughty wines. This group come with a warning – they are exerted, striving to be more than they really are. Some of them have received four stars or even ****(*), but those require patient cellaring to allow a better equilibrium to emerge over time. Wines of *** I would generally avoid.

****(*) M CHAPOUTIER LES GRANITS

**** LES VINS DE VIENNE LE BIEZ

***(*) DOMAINE DU CHÊNE ANAÏS

***(*) GILLES BARGE CLOS DES MARTINETS

***(*) JEANTET-LAURENT LES ÉCHELAS À JO

***(*) GILLES ROBIN ANDRÉ PÉLEAT

*** CAVES SAINT-PIERRE

*** DELAS LES CHALLEYS

*** JEAN-FRANÇOIS JACOUTON PIERRES D’ISSERAND

*** MARTINE ROUCHIER LA CHAVE

*** VIGNOBLES CHIRAT LES CÔTES

OAK ON THE RAMPAGE

An oak alert is issued on these wines. Where they rate ****, for example, I expect the oak to integrate over time. The oak imposition was much stronger at SAINT-JOSEPH than it was at CORNAS in 2015, by the way.

**** FERRATON PÈRE & FILS LIEU-DIT PARADIS

**** DOMAINE RICHARD LES NUELLES VIEILLES VIGNES

**** DOMAINE RICHARD MÊVERIE

***(*) PIERRE GAILLARD CLOS DE CUMINAILLE

*** MARTINE ROUCHIER LUC

*** VIGNOBLES VERZIER LA MADONE

**(*) CAVE SAINT-DÉSIRAT COEUR DE ROCHEVINE

Taking a step back for an overview, there is some liaison with 2009 via the solar intensity present in some of the wines, although cellar work may have contributed to that. 2015 is a terrestrial vintage rather than an airborne one, obviously, and most are absolutely not bistrot or zinc counter drinking wines in style: bring on the 2014s for that!

AGEING POTENTIAL

It would also be foolish to drink most before mid-2018. A lot will actually be very good around 2024 or so, when they will be more complex and much more fused. Many will still be good in the late 2020s, some beyond that.

There we are, then: there are jewels at SAINT-JOSEPH in 2015, but please read the small print closely and be sure of what style of wine you are signing up for when placing your orders.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH RED 2015s

***** Julien Cécillon Babylone 2034-36 05/18 fine, sensuous, silk, balance
***** M Chapoutier Les Granilites 2028-30 10/16 intricate, natural strength, STGT
***** Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2036-38 03/18 v pleasing fullness, mineral
***** Domaine Pierre Gonon 2036-38 04/16 vigour, aromatic, STGT
***** Domaine Pierre Gonon Vieilles Vignes 2041-43 04/16 effortless gras, complete
***** E Guigal Vignes de l'Hospice 2043-45 03/19 stylish, silky, suave certainty
***** André Perret Les Grisières 2032-34 07/17 wholesome, depth, balance
****(*) Pierre Amadieu Les Capelets  2028-30 10/16 shapely, modern, clean, balance
****(*) M Chapoutier Le Clos 2035-37 04/16 full charge, thick juice
****(*) M Chapoutier Les Granits 2032-34 10/16 dense, big, charged
****(*) Dom Jean-Louis Chave Clos Florentin 2039-41 03/18 silken, big, dense, southern
****(*) Domaine Courbis La Cotte Sud 2030-33 11/17 tasty, gd life, gd heart, boom
****(*) Domaine Courbis Les Royes 2028-30 11/17 sturdy, thick, long, southern
****(*) Yves Cuilleron Les Serines  2028-30 10/16 packed, southern, bold style
****(*) Delas Sainte-Épine  2031-34 10/16 thick juice, slow burner
****(*) equis, Maxime Graillot 2034-35 11/17 authentic, fresh, pedigree
****(*) Guy Farge Passion des Terrasses 2026-28 10/16 crunchy, finesse, STGT
****(*) Lionel Faury La Gloriette  2028-30 10/16 elemental, strength, real drive
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Lieu-Dit Bonneveau 2030-33 10/16 inner force, granite content
****(*) Domaine Gripa Le Berceau 2035-38 11/17 oily, inky, rich, southern
****(*) E Guigal Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph 2041-43 03/19 gusto, concentration, very fresh
****(*) Pascal & Catherine Jamet Les Traverses 2024-26 10/16 grapey depth, big, character
****(*) Domaine Jolivet L’Instinct  2026-28 10/16 harmony, detail, slinky fruit
****(*) Philippe Michelas Les Goutelles 2025-27 10/16 silky, fresh, energy, STGT
****(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Sainte Epine 2030-32 10/16 peppery, complex, true granite
****(*) Dom du Monteillet Cuvée du Papy 2036-38 03/18 v gd balance, foundation, yes!
****(*) Domaine Mucyn Les Salamandres 2025-27 10/16 lovely fruit, detail, delight
****(*) Domaine Anthony Paret 420 Nuits 2035-37 11/17 rich, generous, grounded, racy
****(*) Saint Cosme Tramontane 2028-31 10/16 plunging content, ample, v long
****(*) Les Vins de Vienne L’Arzelle  2026-28 10/16 curvy, interest, serious length
**** Aléofane  2028-29 10/16 stately, impressive; clear end  
**** Alléno & Chapoutier Couronne Chabot 2029-31 10/16 well juiced, style, tuneful 
**** Domaine Les Alexandrins  2029-31 10/16 sleek, v elegant, Burgundian 
**** Étienne Becheras Tour Joviac 2023-25 10/16 tasty, natural fruit, STGT 
**** Domaine Belle Les Rivoires   2025-26 04/16 shapely, rounded, s zone 
**** Maison Bouachon Roquebrussane    2026-26 10/16 thorough; enjoyable gras, fresh
**** Cave de Tain Esprit de Granit 2027-29 10/16 stylish, charming softness
**** Cave de Tain SE 2033-35 12/18 tight juice, rocky offer, time
**** Aurélien Chatagnier La Sybarite    2026-27 10/16 plush gras, buzzy end 
**** Guillaume Clusel    2022-23 10/16 peppery, fresh, w.o.w.  
**** Jean-Luc Colombo Les Lauves  2026-27 10/16 shapely gras, character 
**** Domaine Courbis 2026-28 11/17 fresh, upright, will expand
**** Pierre & Jérôme Coursodon L’Olivaie  2026-28 10/16 suave, drinkable, fresh 
**** P & Jérôme Coursodon Paradis St Pierre 2030-33 10/16

very juicy, very modern

**** P & Jérôme Coursodon La Sensonne 2031-33 10/16 ripeness, density, power 
**** Emmanuel Darnaud    2026-28 10/16 wavy fruit, genuine, long 
**** Delas François de Tournon    2028-30 10/16 sensuous, floral, perlant  
**** Maison Denuzière Secret de Blacieux  2027-28 10/16 inky content, inner strength 
**** Domaine Durand Les Coteaux    2029-32 10/16 cool fruit, serious, structured 
**** Domaine Durand Lautaret   2024-26 10/16 smooth fruit, relaxed, STGT 
**** Ferme des Sept Lunes Chemin Faisant 2027-28 02/18 clear fruit, packed, wide, virile
**** Ferraton Père & Fils La Source  2028-30 10/16 cosy richness, supple  
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Lieu-Dit Paradis  2031-33 10/16 big richness, sun baked  
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Lieu-Dit St Joseph 2032-35 10/16 determined strength, big scale 
**** Gilles Flacher Terra Louis 2029-31 10/16 thick juice, deep, long 
**** Yves Gangloff 2027-29 10/16 discreet intensity, attractive
**** Xavier Gérard Le Blanchard   2025-26 10/15 scrumptious fruit, long 
**** Roland Grangier Côte Granits    2024-26 10/16 neat gras, tight, crisp 
**** Domaine Gripa 2029-31 11/17 thorough, dark, good mass
**** E Guigal 2034-36 03/19 buoyant juice, length, gd granite
**** Domaine Habrard Bio  2025-27 12/15 handsome fruit, bright, true 
**** Pascal Jamet Vignoble Tour d’Arras  2023-24 10/16 perfumed, fleshy, nourishing 
**** Domaine Jolivet Vieille Vigne  2025-27 10/16 entertaining gras, floral 
**** Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne 2031-33 03/18 running fruit, darkness, STGT
**** Pascal Marthouret   2030-31 04/16 stylish fruit, neat tannins 
**** Pascal Marthouret Coup de Foudre   2032-33 04/16 enjoyable richness, spice 
**** Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2025-27 10/16 stylish gras, intricate, oaked 
**** François Merlin   2027-28 10/15 long, racy, good gras 
**** François Merlin Les Grands Ducs  2026-27 10/15 fine, long, energy 
**** Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d'Arce 2030-32 10/16 vigorous, rich gras; oak
**** Domaine Monier-Perréol 2032-34 11/17 grounded weight, salty, long
**** Maison Ogier Baligant    2028-30 10/16 bold, charged chunky, oaked 
**** Stéphane Ogier Le Passage  2029-31 04/16 fine fruit, elegance 
**** Vincent Paris Les Côtes    2024-25 10/16 fat, fleshy, open 
**** André Perret 2028-30 07/17 dense, insistent, good heart
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin   2026-28 10/16 rich, meaty, hearty 
**** Domaine des Remizières   2027-29 10/16 swishy gras, intense, oaked 
**** Domaine Richard Mêverie  2027-29 10/16 quiet authority, juicy 
**** Domaine Richard Les Nuelles V Vignes  2027-29 10/16 cool, crisp, fresh, oaked 
**** Dom Georges Vernay La Dame Brune 2036-38 12/19 flowing fruit, tension, freshness
**** Pierre-Jean Villa Tildé  2025-27 10/16 gusto, freshness, tang 
**** François Villard Reflet 2029-31 11/16 tight, intricate, concentrated
**** Domaine de la Ville Rouge Potier 2032-34 11/18 restrained, packed, authentic
**** Les Vins de Vienne Le Biez  2029-30 10/16 assertive fruit, oaking, scale 
***(*) Sylvain Badel Promesse  2023-24 10/16 glistening, peppery, genuine 
***(*) Gilles Barge Clos des Martinets  2026-27 10/16 grounded, peppery, clear 
***(*) Cave Saint Désirat Septentrio  2025-26 10/16 weighted, coated, obvious 
***(*) Cave de Tain CH 2034-36 12/18 cool fruit, sinew, smoky
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique 2026-27 10/16 supple, aromatic, fresh
***(*) Dom Emmanuel Barou un Autre Monde  2025-26 04/16 juicy, mineral, STGT 
***(*) Dom Emmanuel Barou terra Nostra  2023-24 04/16 upright, direct, cool 
***(*) Domaine Boissonnet  2026-27 10/16 full, obvious, thick, perfumed 
***(*) Domaine du Chêne Anaïs  2028-30 10/16 assertive, packed, grounded 
***(*) Domaine Louis Chèze Ro-Rée 2026-27 12/19 direct, mineral, style in the gras
***(*) Pierre et Jérôme Coursodon Silice  2029-31 10/16 tight, sinewed, time 
***(*) Dauvergne Ranvier Vin Rare    2027-28 10/16 good fruit, oaked, cool 
***(*) Guy Farge Terroir de Granit    2025-26 10/16 fat, sweet, honest 
***(*) Lionel Faury Hedonism  2021-22 10/16 liberal fruit, tasty, w.o.w. 
***(*) La Ferme des Sept Lunes Pleine Lune 2027-28 02/18 smoky, crunchy, live, rocks on
***(*) Ferme Sept Lunes Premier Quartier 2025-26 02/18 dark, feisty, good foundation
***(*) Gilles Flacher Les Reines  2025-27 10/16 heart, punch, sleek fruit 
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille  2025-26 10/16 shapely fruit, sleek, clear 
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Les Pierres  2028-29 10/16 supple, succulent, squeezy 
***(*) Jeantet-Laurent Les Échalas à Jo  2023-24 10/16 suave, shapely, oaked 
***(*) Domaine Lionnet Terre Neuve   2026-27 12/15 clear fruit with density 
***(*) Domaine des Martinelles 2031-33 11/18 thick red juice, munchy tannin
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Saint-Etienne  2024-25 10/16 swishy fruit, oaking 
***(*) Julien Pilon rue des poissonniers Paris  2024-25 10/16 rounded, soft, flattering 
***(*) Domaine Pradelle  2024-25 10/16 suave gras, road tar 
***(*) Gilles Robin André Péleat  2027-29 10/16 bounty, tannin force, exertion 
***(*) Benoit Roseau Patagone  2023-24 10/16 defined fruit, carbo gas 
***(*) Septentria/Bonserine Les Ediles 2025-26 03/18 enjoyable fruit, wavy tannin
***(*) François Villard Poivre et Sol 2026-27 11/16 stealthy depth, elegant
*** Cave Saint Désirat Tradition 2021-22 10/16 cool, crisp, bit techno 
*** Caves Saint-Pierre  2022-23 10/16 broad, scaled up, thick 
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2024-25 10/16 steady dark fruit, supple
*** Delas Les Challeys  2023-25 10/16 crunchy fruit, spice, cellar 
*** Pierre Gaillard   2024-26 10/16 soaked fruit, obvious 
*** Roland Grangier Reflets de Syrah  2021-22 10/16 muscled, sultry, traditional
*** J-François Jacouton Pierres d’Isserand 2024-26 10/16 weighty, coated 
*** Maison Christophe Pichon   2022-23 10/16 swish fruit, bit commercial 
*** Martine Rouchier La chave  2023-24 10/16 raw, chunky, cellar-led 
*** Martine Rouchier luc  2024-25 10/16 suave content, much oak 
*** Martine Rouchier vin nature  2022-23 10/16 easy fruit, coarse tannin 
*** Domaine Anthony Vallet Méribets  2022-23 10/16 ample, mulled, liqueur 
*** Vignobles Chirat Les Côtes    2027-29 10/16 dark fruit, dry close 
*** Vignobles Verzier La Madone  2023-24 10/16 stretched, dry tannin, much oak 
*** Domaine Alain Voge Les Vinsonnes  2024-25 10/16 tight, savoury, supple 
**(*) Cave St Désirat Coeur de Rochevine 2027-28 10/16 glistening fruit, much oak 
**(*) Didier Morion Les Echets 2026-27 12/18 smoky fruit, tight, excess oak
**(*) Eric Rocher Terroir de Champal  2021-22 10/16 rough & ready, bit dry 


6. 2015 CORNAS

THE VILLAGE SEEN FROM LA SABAROTTE

CORNAS has delivered wines of bounty and fat content in 2015. In that respect, this extremely good vintage is more influenced by its climate than by its terroir. It therefore follows precedents such as 1999, which was also a year of abundant crop. 2015 will be popular with occasional drinkers of Cornas – my friend JANCIS R, for example?! - for whom some years assert their tannins more than is desirable.  

The snug fit of the CORNAS vineyard – at least its traditional zone near the village – means that it ripens earlier than most in the Northern Rhône. HERMITAGE, for example, is more windswept, and would usually be harvested seven to 10 days after CORNAS. Lying in the lee of the Bise, the North Wind, there are sites such as PATOU that can be veritable suntraps, as can the full-south REYNARDS hillside. In 2015, the leading locations, including LES CÔTES, GENALE and TÉZIER, all performed really well, their harvest rich and good-looking.

LOVELY RIPENING SEASON

As occurred elsewhere in the Northern Rhône in 2015, there were no real moments of trouble during the ripening season, which set off at pace. In mid-June, PIERRE CLAPE told me: “we have a tiny bit of oïdium, and have powdered one part and treated the other part. There has been no coulure this year – flowering went well. The bunches aren’t that large, but there are enough of them. We are nearly two weeks in advance, with an early September target now. The weekend of 13-14 June saw 60 mm (2.2 in) of rain, and the weekend before 20 mm (0.8 in). After each rainfall we had a healthy North Wind.”

At the same time, FRANCK BALTHAZAR was also hopeful: “it is very joli at present, and we are capable of harvesting 35 hl/ha. The accumulated rainfall for the weekend of 13-14 June was 45 mm (1.8 in), and the vines look in great shape now. We had high heat, some days in the 30°sC, in May, but the start of June was cooler. There has been a good lot of wind this year, helping fight against blights.”

FRANCK’s neighbour, GUILLAUME GILLES gave this mid-season news: “we are in advance if you respect the 100 day rule [flowering to harvest], since some spots flowered as early as mid-May. We had storms in early June, with 100 mm (4 in) accumulated, the storms 20-30 mm each. There is a bit of oïdium. The vines moved very quickly after the hot April, and in mid-May we also had days around 33°C. By the third week of June we were around 22-23°C.”

HIGH HEAT, BUT GREAT TIMING FOR THE RAIN

As the year entered July, so the heat intensified, with higher temperatures than further south. OLIVIER CLAPE recalled: “we then had drought stress, but only in young vineyards on shallow, rocky soils. There were two key moments – rain at the start of June, at the end of flowering, just as the grapes were starting – lovely timing.

We then had the start of drought, but that situation was saved by 45 mm (1.8 in) on 13 August, just at the right moment. From 15 August until the start of the harvest the weather was very fine. We also did a full yield of around 39-40 hl/ha; we didn’t green harvest since the vineyard was so healthy and flourishing; in 2001 all went well in similar manner.”

It might have been easy to expect an over-blown vintage after so much sun and heat, but that wasn’t the case, fortunately. Back to OLIVIER CLAPE: “what we had from the climate – including days when it was reading 40°C in my car a lot - and what the wines emerged as were two different things. The wines have super fruit, with belles acidities. They are deeply coloured, have a good strength, but no hard edges. Our degrees this year were 13.5° to 14°. In the vinification there was just a little stubbornness – around 2.5 gm of sugar – from LA CÔTE and LA PETITE CÔTE.”

THIÉRRY ALLEMAND takes each vintage on its merits when it comes to the date of harvest, and he was quick off the mark this year. In early September, 2015, he related: “I started my harvest on Saturday 29 August, and did another two days in the first week of September, ending on 8 September. The maturity was good – around 13° all over. I haven’t done any cap punching yet, but the colour in the vats is black and joli. The yield matches 2011 more or less – around 28-29 hl/ha.

The last rain was three weeks ago – we had 11 mm (0.4 in), and the grapes aren’t large due to the dry conditions. We have another two weeks with no rain forecast as well. The technicians such as the oenologues say this year will be like 1989 – hard and not balanced. I say it is a beau year, like 1999. One of the challenges is to extract only softly or to go slowly this year in the cellar. I am one of the few to have harvested here, and I know that if people go for a very, very ripe crop they risk overdoing the extraction and having wines that lack freshness and balance.”

2015 CARRIES FRESHNESS

Indeed, the freshness of 2015 certainly came as a pleasant surprise to growers. As LAURE COLOMBO told me: “we didn’t expect much acidity this year, but it turned out OK – our Cornas had total acidity of 3.60 and the pH was 3.40.” VINCENT PARIS also pointed to the life in the wines, when stating: “tannins are present, but there is good balance and freshness in the wines. I started my harvest on 17 September, after rain. My vines on REYNARDS had been blocked on 13° for two weeks, and after the rain they went to 14°.”

JOHANN MICHEL commented upon the cellar work, that required care: “this was a difficult vintage to vinify, and the wines could be comparable to 2009 in being robust, or maybe 2005, in holding a lot of tannin. The challenge was to keep freshness.”

Different growers took different steps to work alongside the harvest, with JACQUES LEMENICIER reporting: “I did one vat with whole bunches to break up the must, as I did in 2011 also. 2015 is balanced and very powerful; I harvested very, very ripe Syrah. The wines may be similar to the 2005s – they will take a lot of time to open – I fear that.”

HIGH YIELDS

NICOLAS SERRETTE, whose STGT 2015 PATOU I liken to a Freight Train, so thick and big is it, spoke about his full yield: “there are good yields, good quality this year. I achieved 50 hl from 1.3 hectares, and destemmed half the crop, against 60% in 2014.” To achieve such a full, dark wine from such a large per hectare crop is a significant pointer to the quality this year. Chez CLAPE, it’s also remarkable that the yield was 38 hl/ha this year, and the wine so brimming with richness. 2014 was 24 hl/ha, 2013 18 hl/ha for them, by contrast.

DEGREES ARE QUITE HIGH, THE WINES MORE SOLAR THAN TERROIR

The style this year is informed by the sunshine, undoubtedly, but that is not the Alpha and Omega of the future for these wines. LUDOVIC IZÉRABLE of the organic, hands-on DOMAINE LIONNET talked about 2015 in the following terms: “it is a gros, big wine this year, dense, the degree 14.5° against the usual 13° to 13.5°, and it has a lot of matter. “We had a decent yield of 35 hl/ha.”

For now, 2015 is a climate, solar year, while 2013 is a terroir year,” he continued. “The young vines were the ones that suffered this year because they grow on very rocky ground at SAINT-PIERRE – their bunches were small, the grapes were small and the degree was low – 12.7°. The storms in August helped avoid sucrosity, and freshened the wines.

We harvested between 8-12 September before the rains that were announced, and arrived for the weekend of 12-13 September – there was 80 mm (3.2 in) in two days.”

An observation by LUDOVIC is important for the future at CORNAS – the role of the high vineyards being planted in something of a stampede out of sight of the village on the way up to SAINT ROMAIN-DE-LERPS, a winding road that takes you into the true, hill and dale ARDÈCHE country. The area is broadly known as CHABAN, named after the principal CORNAS stream that feeds into the RHÔNE after rising up here.

TWO-TIER CORNAS COMING YOUR WAY

These vineyards lie within the commune of CORNAS, and technically can be planted, but they are creating a two-tier CORNAS. To illustrate: if in a vintage so good and so bold as 2015 the crop reaches just 12.7° at SAINT-PIERRE – not as high up as some of the recent plantations - what is going to happen – as I saw in 2016 – when ripening is a struggle, and harvesting takes place around three weeks after the central, lower, better sites? In 2014, there were cases of wines at 11.5° from these high zones, where organizations such as CHAPOUTIER have been busy rapidly clearing pasture land, and using a team of Ecuadorians to plant at speed.

The village of CORNAS stands at 125 metres above sea level, while CHABAN is at 350 to 400 metres. As OLIVIER CLAPE put it to me when we discussed this recently: “On CHABAN, acidity comes from the weather, whereas on REYNARDS and the other main sites, acidity comes from minerality in the soils.”

The free for all in planting with looser controls on planting rights is going to change Cornas in the coming years: be prepared for that. Whether that results in a two-tier pricing as well as wine remains to be seen. At present the appellation covers 135 hectares across 55 to 60 producers. The largest domaines run a little over 10 hectares – JEAN-LUC COLOMBO (12 ha) and MATTHIEU BARRET of DOMAINE DU COULET (11+ ha). The CLAPE holding is 5.5 hectares, while THIÉRRY ALLEMAND works five hectares.

NEWCOMERS, FLESHY WINES

There is also a trend towards easy going Cornas, based on fat and ripeness rather than overt declarations of rocky terroir. It’s noticeable that Cornas is now hot property – easy to sell, pretty high profile, so that is bringing in new entrants. Recent newcomers include JULIEN PILON with his **** L’ÉLEGANCE DU CAILLOU (silken, shapely), **** AURÉLIEN CHATAGNIER (bountiful, very tasty), ****(*) GILLES ROBIN (rocky, oaky) and LES VINS DE VIENNE with their ****(*) SAINT-PIERRE (swell gras). A leaning towards fleshy content is on the go, with the use of destemmed crop, and low-level risk taking.

ANY SIMILAR VINTAGES??

Vintage comparisons for 2015 lead to acclaimed years among the growers: 2010, being one.

For MICHEL TARDIEU of TARDIEU-LAURENT, “2015 is a fabulous vintage, better than 2010.” STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL feels the same way: “the 2015 could be superior to 2010; all the plots in 2015 were good, be they at the foot of the slopes or high up – they all really delivered. It is a structured, tannic year - tannins are present, are not at all dry, have velvet and much extra length, which makes the wines genial. Because we have good quantity this year, prices don’t have to rise sharply.”

OLIVIER CLAPE also spoke about the unexpected and welcome style of the 2015 tannins when stating: “2015 saw very hot weather, with the rain in early June and mid-August (when the veraison was half completed) at just the right times. We expected tight, firm tannins, but the berries were full and round. If we’d had a tiny bit less yield, 2015 would have been like 2010, which is a notch superior for me. But the low zones and difficult places were all very good in 2015.”

2015: THE INDESTRUCTABLE VINTAGE

JÉRÔME DESPESSE, who makes his own hand-crafted CORNAS while earning his main living selling corks for AMORIM declared: “2015 is grandiose. I’ve never seen smiles like that on the faces of the vignerons I have visited for my job with the corks, especially in the Northern Rhône. Some are calling it the Indestructable Vintage, since the grapes were so robust and solid, whatever nature threw at them.”

The DURAND brothers did very well with their ***** 2015 EMPREINTES (70% granite, 30% clay-limestone) – it was both balanced and fresh. ERIC reported: “2015 has the sucrosity of 2003, but also a rare freshness, very fine tannins, and the aromas are also fresh. The wines may be rapidly drunk because of their style.”

THIÉRRY ALLEMAND often favours the supposedly lesser vintages, having a soft spot for 2014, for example. When weighing up 2015 in October 2016, he told me: “I haven’t yet blended it. It’s a large [gros] wine that everyone will seek, but is not a wine style that really pleases me – it’s like 1990. Vinfications went very well. I am more a 1991 man than a 1990 one, and I also like 2014 as a style perhaps more than 2015.”

2015: ENORMOUS APPEAL, BUT I RATE 2010 A LITTLE AHEAD OF IT

From my point of view, 2015 is not yet on a par with 2010, but I heartily salute its enormous appeal. The two vintages are different in shape, too, with the cooler, slightly stricter 2010 holding a classic Cornas structure. There is very good style in the fruit, while the tannins are fresh and well ripened. It is a top vintage across the board, the quality spread high and low, far and wide.

There is also sweetness in the wines, which can be disconcerting for hard core granite imbibers. Certainly there is a sudiste leaning in some - damp features, very ripe fruits, prune present. Hence it doesn’t immediately conform to many other vintages of the last 20 years, and 1990 would be one I would consider. The richness is more abundant than 1999’s, I consider.

The great rarity this year is of course what I wrote in my notes tasting in cellars in April, 2016, just one winter after the harvest: “it’s very rare to have a young vintage tasting so well – it usually takes a year and more.”

I am sure that Cornas 2015s will be started on not long after release, but that would be a mistake, with their puppy fat on top. I would expect a period of pause, tightening, perhaps a little more darkness to come forward. But their balance is good, so this isn’t a vintage that is going to go missing for any extended period.

CORNAS 2015 = enjoyment, depth, sunshine, therefore. They should mostly live for up to 20 years, with the top notchers such as CLAPE and ALLEMAND running for 30-plus years.

LEADING CORNAS 2015s

****** Thiérry Allemand Reynard 2046-50 04/16 very pure fruit, stylish, long
****** Thiérry Allemand Spécial Reynard 2054-56 12/19 resolute, intense, major wine
***** Thiérry Allemand Chaillot 2039-41 04/16 full, promise, flair
***** Franck Balthazar Chaillot 2038-40 03/18 layered, profound; ace length
***** Domaine Clape 2046-49 11/17 great concentration, lithe, tight
***** Dom du Coulet, Matthieu Barret Gore 2034-37 11/16 bright, inner fuel, very long
***** Domaine Courbis Les Eygats 2032-35 10/16 striking, character, bounty
***** Domaine Courbis La Sabarotte 2036-39 11/17 silk, balance, delight, STGT
***** Dumien-Serrette Patou  2035-37 10/16 freight train, full, STGT
***** Domaine Durand Empreintes 2034-37 10/16 muscular, impressive, delightful
***** Guy Farge Harmonie 2031-33 10/16 long, impressive, genuine
***** Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet 2033-35 10/16 full charge, generous, modern
***** Vincent Paris La Geynale 2035-37 07/17 packed, thorough, very long
***** Vincent Paris Granit 60 2033-35 07/17 drive, punch, flair, time
***** Pic & Chapoutier Bio 2032-34 10/16 stylish juice, tannic drive
****(*) M Chapoutier Les Arènes  2031-33 10/16 vigourous, very engaging 
****(*) Maison Denuzière En Sauman  2030-32 10/16 red-blooded, long, decisive 
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Les Eygats  2033-35 10/16 fine, structured, true Cornas 
****(*) Guillaume Gilles Chaillot 2042-44 12/18 sturdy, dense, spinal freshness
****(*) Gilles Robin   2032-34 10/16 salted fruits, rocky, oaky 
****(*) Les Vins de Vienne Saint-Pierre  2029-32 10/16 swell gras, bounty, style 
****(*) Alain Voge Les Vieilles Fontaines  2033-36 10/16 inky fruit, interest, complexity 
****(*) Alain Voge Les Vieilles Vignes  2033-36 10/16 complete, long, dazzling 
**** Aurélien Chatagnier  2029-31 10/16 bountiful, polished, v tasty 
**** Cave de Tain Arènes Sauvages 2029-31 10/16 tight packing, cool intensity
**** Cave de Tain Vin Biologique 2026-29 10/16 compact, muscular, authentic
**** Domaine Clape Renaissance  2036-38 11/17 juice intensity, fresh, clear
**** Jean-Luc Colombo Les Ruchets  2032-34 10/16 sparkly fruit, solid length 
**** Domaine Courbis Champelrose  2029-31 10/16 cosy, tasty, fine fruit 
NR Dom du Coulet, M Barret Billes Noires 2038-40 12/19 wrong; usual sturdy, solid,
**** Yves Cuilleron Lieu-dit Les Côtes  2031-33 10/16 cool fruit, stark tannin 
**** Delas Chante-Perdrix  2031-33 10/16 juicy, oaked, modern 
**** Domaine Durand Confidence   2029-31 10/16 interest, nuanced, tight 
**** Ferraton Les Grands Mûriers 2034-36 01/18 suave, tasty, modern, broad
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Patou  2031-34 10/16 stylish fruit, liberal gras 
**** Pierre Gaillard  2032-34 10/16 fruit purity, close-knit 
**** Jacques Lemenicier  2032-34 10/16 grounded, inky, trad, STGT 
**** Domaine Lionnet Terre Brûlée  2035-37 10/16 lot of gras, full wine
**** Vincent Paris Granit 30 2029-30 07/17 mineral, concentrated, firm
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin  2030-33 10/16 genuine, convincing, free 
**** Christophe Pichon Allegorie  2030-32 10/16 polished, svelte, Burgundian 
**** Julien Pilon L’Élegance du Caillou  2029-31 10/16 silken content, shapely 
***(*) Franck Balthazar Casimir Balthazar 2035-36 03/18 structured, backward, raw
***(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Terres Brûlées  2031-33 10/16 spicy gras, upholstered 
***(*) equis, Maxime Graillot 2033-35 11/17 firm richness, chunky, unmade
***(*) La Grande Colline  2020 10/16 savoury, perlant, Vin Nature 
***(*) Domaine Durand Prémices  2034-36 10/16 well juiced, rugged 
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Grandes Terrasses 2037-39 12/19 sleek, expressive fruit, polished
***(*) Domaine des Remizières 2027-30 10/16 suave, easy fruit, modern 
***(*) Louis Sozet 2032-34 12/18 oily textured, gd heart, genuine
***(*) François Villard Jouvet 2029-32 11/16 well bundled, steely tannins
***(*) Alain Voge Les Chailles  2029-32 10/16 fat, supple, pliant 
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2024-25 10/16 curvy, plump, mild, low terroir
*** Alain Verset 2031-33 11/18 mineral, iron, tough with air

 

7. 2015 HERMITAGE WHITE

AND IN THE BLUE CORNER, THE CHAMPION, BY A KNOCK-OUT, IS ..... THE CHAPOUTIER DE L’ORÉE

2015 HERMITAGE WHITE

I consider 2015 WHITE HERMITAGE, and think of legendary wines of the nineteenth century, the ones that were found to live longer than the reds. The shape and composition of the 2015s are such that this is a vintage to buy, and then exercise the greatest patience imagineable. That way, you have a chance of tapping into complexity, a complexity that will trump all the early and impressive flourishes of richness and texture.

The vintage is a triumph for the MARSANNE, and should put paid to all those who have written or still write that it is a common grape variety. The MARSANNE  has spectacularly outperformed the VIOGNIER this year, by the way, with the setting of the mighty hill of HERMITAGE bringing forth virtues of great depth and smouldering potential in its wines. The fact that there are vineyards dotted around with many MARSANNE vines of 50 to 100 years, albeit in tiny holdings, has been a boon in 2015.

DAVID VIALE of DOMAINE DU COLOMBIER makes his Hermitage from a tiddly vineyard of 0.2 hectare of 1942 MARSANNE on the west end of the prime white wine site of MAISON BLANCHE, which is higher than the other two very good sites in the middles to easterly reaches, LES MURETS and LES ROCOULES – their whites are richer than MAISON BLANCHE. Also owners of miniscule holdings here are the DESMEURE family of DOMAINE DES REMIZIÈRES (0.52 hectare, part clay-limestone, part loess) and PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ (0.7738 hectare, clay-limestone).

MAISON BLANCHE stands in the commune of LARNAGE, and the mainly loess with some limestone soils give freshness to the wine. However, the climate trumped the soil this year, aided by the age of the vines, and DAVID commented: “the 2015 white Hermitage may lack balance – the wine is powerful, partly from the small crop, which came from drought and a poor flowering. It is sunbathed, but not solar.”

The biggest question facing the growers this year was how far to go with the ripeness, which of course reflects the paradigm of the day. Had the 2015 conditions come along thirty years ago, all the white Hermitages of 2015 would have been muscular, deep, sturdy wines. Nowadays, even the most experienced growers feel to some extent that they must join in with the prevailing orthodoxy, which right now is for freshness.

I have talked about this at some length with JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE, who posed this rhetorical question as we went along: “why would anyone want to drink what is a Grand Vin, and find that it is skinny, not rich? Whites have drastically changed,” he maintains – “how people talk about them, using Burgundian vocabulary, words like “tight, tense,” words that used to be “honey-like, soft, rich.”

It is JEAN-LOUIS’ firm belief, based on precedent and respect for place, when he resolutely maintains that white Hermitage is a wine based on glycerol, suited to la table. As he declares, “to like white Hermitage, you have to be a gastronome – you can’t disconnect it from food.”

Hence even my old friend BERNARD FAURIE told me this about his **** white HERMITAGE in 2015: “the white is dense this year, the degree 13° to 13.5°. I harvested quite early – I wanted support acidity.” He has made three casks, and of the first he said: “it is super good, has extremely good finesse,” and of the third, he stated: “it may not be very ample, but I wanted to keep freshness.” BERNARD, by the way, has always felt more confident in his handling of the SYRAH than of his MARSANNE, which dates from 1960 on LES GREFFIEUX.

There are some New Wave wines this year: chez DOMAINE BELLE, for example. In April, 2016, I found a silken roundness and gave it *****. However, in October, 2016, it was drinking easily, skimming along, the finish tame. It hadn’t intensified, in other words. I gave it ****. Then I recalled what PHILIPPE BELLE had told me: “I didn’t chase ripeness this year, in order to conserve elegance and balance. We started the harvest on 4 September, quite early.”

In similar vein, which one finds with all his whites, came JULIEN PILON – his **** PRISME –was airborne, trim wine, also skimming. The CAVE DE TAIN whites were generally disappointing in 2015, and I felt that the crop there had been harvested too early. Hence my comment about lack of body and breadth in the ***(*) COEUR DES SIÈCLES, while the CAVE's GRAND CLASSIQUE was a pleasant, softly rounded *** wine, low on inspiration. At 30,000 bottles, it is the largest volume white wine at Hermitage, by the way. Against that, when there is true elegance combined with depth in 2015, the result is striking: witness the ***** MAISON NICOLAS PERRIN.

The problem with New Wave is that these wines cock too much of an eye towards what is perceived as The Market’s needs and desires, instead of the grower capturing the essence of what an amazing year can bring. In all their careers – say 40 harvests if we are liberal – I bet these growers will only have two or three to rival 2015 in quality of crop. Carpe diem, Messieurs et Mesdames!

Apart from New Wave, my other and growing bugbear is the increased use of carbonic gas in attempts, yet again, to freshen the wines. I discussed this with DAMIEN BRISSET of FERRATON PÈRE & FILS, part of the CHAPOUTIER empire, with CHAPOUTIER’s whites more and more showing the spritz or “perlant” tremble on the palate.

DAMIEN told me: “we do all we can to conserve the carbonic gas from the fermentation on the whites, so we limit rackings, and during the rackings we actually do, we inject gas to avoid the movement resulting in the loss of CO2. On our SAINT-PÉRAY, for example, there would be 1,300 mg per litre in 2015 – in 2010, it was 1,000-1,200 mg per litre. You have to wait six months for the effect to enter in – from six months to two years, you are amazed by the freshness and minerality of the wine.”

Now, I cannot but help thinking that this is 1) an unnecessary intervention, far away from wines being left alone, the vineyard on top, the wines natural in the true sense of that word; 2) the current fashion, therefore a distortion in the long and truthful view of matters; 3) serving to reduce the longevity of the wine in favour of an early flourish, faster sales, quicker drinking.

MICHEL CHAPOUTIER himself described what amounted to the desired effects of carbonic gas when talking about his white HERMITAGE 2015s. He said: “it’s interesting that there are airs such as acacia flowers or orange blossom rather than apricot, which are more usually noticeable in cooler vintages.” The New Wave policy has been responsible for some of that, I would retort.

I find that I am the about the only journalist to have posed such questions to the makers in the Rhône, but in doing so, came across one known ally: CAROLINE FREY of PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ, who also finds it a distortion and distraction. ALLEZ CAROLINE! A shared view!

The glycerol that I applaud is properly present in some of the 2015s, however. Allow the MARSANNE to ripen fully, and off you go. Such was the case with the **** ARPÈGE from CHRISTELLE BETTON, made from 1982-1985 MARSANNE  growing on a tiny 0.14 hectare patch on L’HOMME  right in the east of the appellation.

Another 2015 that is a classic companion for butter-based dishes is the ****(*) DELAS DOMAINE DES TOURETTES – texture a winning card: here again, 95% MARSANNE, some of it 1910s, also 1950s.

A pleasant surprise has come in the shape of the 100% MARSANNE GABRIEL MEFFRE LAURUS – this holds true sunny year richness, and is an STGT ****(*) wine. Also STGT was the ***** FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE LES DIONNIÈRES, made from 1944-45 MARSANNE – it is completely in tune with classic French cuisine, and happily is a stronger, deeper version of the wine they can sometimes produce.

I place it a little ahead of the also ***** PHILIPPE & VINCENT JABOULET STGT wine, grounded and authentic, still charging along as it finishes, a wine you can get your teeth into. It is rare in being made from 100% ROUSSANNE, on two small plots on MAISON BLANCHE and BEAUMES. PHILIPPE JABOULET commented: "the ripeness was very good this year, so there is a belle richness, a little over-concentrated, perhaps, but it will age well."

There was one other STGT wine in this great vintage, namely the ****(*) DOMAINE HABRARD, bearer of handsome content and top finesse, rooted in MARSANNE that is partly pre-World War One, and partly 1950s on LES ROCOULES.

For the champion this year, the M CHAPOUTIER DE L’ORÉE is utterly brilliant, a ****** wine, even with the curse of carbonic gas along its path: it’s complex and provocative, a magnificently rich wine. However, their LE MÉAL held gas that went against the grain of the mighty, sun-filled slope or origin, while the CHANTE ALOUETTE, so majestic in 2013, was undermined by the gas distraction – meaning the finish was airborne, and not a real Road Runner.

Longevity is extended for these wines. I would be disappointed to buy any bottle and then see it wither after 10 to 15 years. Many of the most compelling will live for 30 years, especially if you can turn up some magnums. MICHEL CHAPOUTIER likes the Jereboam size, so perhaps he is putting his DE L’ORÉE in such a vessel. See you in heaven, readers!

LEADING HERMITAGE 2015 WHITEs

****** M Chapoutier de l’Orée 2034-38 10/16 complex, provocative, very rich
****** Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2041-44 03/18 class, balance, style, Grand Vin
***** Cave de Tain Vin de Paille 2045-48 12/18 gt attack, strength, freshness
***** Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Dionnières 2034-38 10/16 thorough; strength, STGT
***** Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet 2032-35 10/16 sturdy, grounded, STGT
***** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2029-32 10/16 elegant, striking, long
***** Marc Sorrel Les Rocoules 2040-42 04/16 great gras, bold length
****(*) M Chapoutier L’Ermite  2034-37 04/16 stealthy gras, quiet complexity 
****(*) M Chapoutier Le Méal  2031-34 10/16 shapely gras; fine detail 
****(*) Delas Domaine des Tourettes  2027-29 10/16 buttery, textured, serene 
****(*) Domaine Habrard  2026-28 12/15 STGT; top finesse, cool 
****(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus  2027-29 10/16 rich, plump, STGT 
**** Domaine Belle  2025-26 10/16 easy, New Wave 
**** Domaine Betton Christelle Arpège  2025-27 10/16 suave gras, glycerol 
**** M Chapoutier Chante-Alouette  2028-31 10/16 elegant, easy, authentic 
**** Bernard Faurie  2036-39 11/17 tang, intensity, grapey, gd grip
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Le Reverdy  2029-32 10/16 cool, sinewed, stealthy quality 
**** E Guigal 2038-40 03/19 streams of freshness, gd balance
**** Julien Pilon Prisme  2025-26 10/16 cosy roundness, trim 
**** Domaine des Remizières Émilie  2024-25 10/16 glycerol, bit oxidative 
**** Marc Sorrel  2032-34 04/16 solid gras, fresh, balance 
***(*) Cave de Tain Au Coeur des Siècles  2025-27 10/16 elegant gras, New Wave
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Les Miaux  2028-30 10/16 suave content, discreet 
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Chev Stérimberg  2025-27 11/16 neat content; pale version 
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2024-25 10/16 fine gras, pleasant, clear

 

8. 2015 HERMITAGE RED

2015 is a barnstorming vintage at Hermitage, which takes me back to the ripe, rich and full-blooded vintages of the 1960s that first so excited me about the majestic hillside. The very best years of Hermitage are those with sun-filled veins, when the richness is deeply embedded, the tannins ooze confidence, and textures caress. No wonder the Bordelais went locos over getting hold of Hermitage [and Cornas] to boost their pimply vintages for much of the nineteenth century.

One of the fascinating takes on the vintage was a tasting at the CAVE DE TAIN in October, 2016. The CAVE kindly sought my view on a series of climat-specific blends from the west to the east of the 135 hectare appellation. This brought extra detail and explanation to my previous impressions of the vintage, that were already very favourable indeed.

THE MIGHTY MÉAL, THE SUNNY HEART OF THE BEST 2015 HERMITAGE, THE PULSE OF THE VINTAGE

LE MÉAL: 2015 REFLECTS ITS ROLE IN 1961 AND 1990

Some of my conclusions are as follows: the heartbeat of the most famous Rhône wine ever made, the 1961 HERMITAGE LA CHAPELLE, was LE MÉAL, which rises above the centre of the town of TAIN, topped by a distinctive line of dark green cypress trees. MÉAL is a patchwork quilt of little square-blocked vineyards rather than one entire sweeping slope. Ownership is highly prized, and in previous generations, MÉAL was always “mentioned in dispatches” as being one of the fundamental contributors to a top HERMITAGE red.

The soil on the West end of MÉAL carries granite, which is its connection to BESSARDS, as does the part above the cypress trees, which, at 240 metres, is said to be the high part of the Rhône River about 2 million years ago. Below the cypress trees and towards the East end are more alluvial, limestone, alkaline pebble covered soils with clay towards the bottom. All of which is a long-winded way of saying it is the most fantastic suntrap, a south-facing place that gorges on sunshine. In extremely hot years its depth of soil plays an important role in managing that heat.

MÉAL is always a rich wine, but in inspired vintages – 1961, 1990 – it really struts its stuff in the most compelling fashion. These two previous vintages are strongly influenced by MÉAL, and I reckon that 2015 will be the same. By the by, the other Big vintages of my experience – 1978 and 2010 – have more of a BESSARDS theme just ahead of the MÉAL richness. This brought cool threads, more tannic grip, more spine to the wines of those two excellent years.

MÉAL CARRIES OTHER CLIMATS, THEMSELVES VERY GOOD THIS YEAR FROM DEEP SOILS

From tasting 2015s in their naked state, before final blends, or single climat, plot-specific cuvées, it is clear that 2015 is a staggeringly good year for MÉAL. In the CAVE DE TAIN tasting, there was a blend of LE MÉAL with LA CROIX, the latter standing in the commune of LARNAGE, marked by clay-limestone, galet stone covered sticky soils (called poudingue locally, and capable of water retention) – land that could just as easily do well with the apricot trees that stand just outside the appellation area. PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ own as much as 7.67 hectares of LA CROIX, and made the mistake in 2000, when the JABOULET family was lurching along with its own internal crises, of putting far too much of this wine in their LA CHAPELLE blend – it was an ordinary vintage with too much ordinary wine included, a low point for that wine.

Well, this blend was a ***** wine; I couldn’t believe it! Here is the note:

2015 LE MÉAL-LA CROIX CAVE DE TAIN (2 year 228-litre oak casks) ***** shiny, dark red, jolie robe. The nose is handsome, bears red fruits, soaked red cherry airs, some red blood. The palate links closely, runs with gushing red fruits that have inner depth, a full display. Lots of gras in the show here, with the tannins rolling with inner punch, and ripe density on the finish. This has sudiste nature, ends on a black jam nourishment. Very long. Méal does its work truly and well here, is the star of the whole event, carries the lesser lights into stardom. From 2020. 2033-36 Oct 2016

Then there was LE MÉAL on its own from the CAVE DE TAIN:

2015 LE MÉAL ***** (new-1 year 228-litre casks) deep robe, black centre. The bouquet is a sun trap of really compact black berry fruits, comes with southern notes such as black olives, dates, gorse. This is full, and has great heart, a lovely depth and persistence of the closely knit black fruits. There is a touch of oak on the finish, but the great mass of content can easily handle that. It is STGT wine – a very true Méal. It’s broad, sustained, fresh – a complete package, indeed. This would save many a Bordeaux in the nineteenth century. From 2020. 2037-40 Oct 2016

THE BACK, HIGHER AREA OF LE MÉAL, WHERE IT TOUCHES L'HERMITE, OUT OF SIGHT FROM THE TOWN OF TAIN: NOTE THE SANDY-CLAY SOILS. IT IS ABOVE THE LINE OF THE RHÔNE RIVER AND ITS STONY DEPOSITS THAT MARK THE MAIN SHIRT FRONT OF LE MÉAL

By now, I should outline the other cuvées of MÉAL that I have also encountered in this vintage. They are

2015 LE MÉAL J-L CHAVE (228-litre cask) ****** full, very dark red robe. The nose is a beauty – it is filled with flowers, with raspberry, wide and silken, way to go. The palate is super elegant, its richness effortless. This is stately and really deep, finishes with cool spring water stream freshness. There is a lot of detail in this. This indicates to me that 2015 is perhaps a year of clay more than granite, which makes sense after the high heat in patches – hence the performance of Diognières and the mighty Méal. “It was ripe but not jam-like,” J-L Chave 36 years.

2015 LE MÉAL FERRATON PÈRE & FILS ****** (1960s Syrah, cask) very dark – black with purple. The nose is crunched, close-knit – gives oaking and sun rays, has real inner strength. It is wide and deep, very sustained. The palate is sealed hermetically, with drive in its content. Its richness is profound, the tannins bold, ripe. It is on a different scale to the Dionnières 2015 – a blend of the two would be good. The palate is über thorough, but has precision – a tribute to its place. It has a very steady run, is consecutive. It is remarkable that it has retained freshness, shape, balance after all the ripeness of the vintage. Bravo for this very good, STGT wine. It has a lot of class, is a Rolls Royce – acceleration with no sound. Then I did a blend of the two, 50% each, just to see! The nose is soft, nuanced, has an air of cassis, a lovely freshness. The palate is silken, carries cosy gras with big build towards the finish. Diognières shows first, then Méal: Diognières on the nose, a kind curve there. This blends hit the line with max vigour. It would live for 25 years, easy. Back to Le Méal 2015: From 2021. 2040-43 Oct 2016

2015 LE GRÉAL MARC SORREL (85-90% MÉAL, 10-15% GREFFIEUX) ****** (228-litre cask) the robe has an inky darkness, is really profound. The nose is perfumed, gives blackberry with a softly sustained depth, is filled with very primary fruit, the fruit presented with seamless layering. This has a stylish, wonderful attack, offers classy bounty, covers the ground every way, glides on filled content, its silken tannins making a great connection. This holds fine juice, detail, is a complete package. It ends on drops of salt, has supreme balance. Nature’s Child here – man not needed. It is sultry and clear, all in one glass. There is a wee glow on the aftertaste – it is 14.2°. “The tannins are very soft, very ripe,” Marc Sorrel. From say 2021, but leave it as long as you can. 2053-56 Apr 2016 Previously Dec 2015 ****** (228-litre oak cask, sugars and malo completed) very dark robe – it is shiny and beckoning, with black and purple tints. This has a wide panorama nose, gives smoke, licorice, with salt and crushed nutshells, an air from the stems. The depth is genuine and sustained. The palate gives a silken, expansive greeting – it appeals from its orb-like qualities, a winning roundness, while its tannins creep in on the finish, a light squeeze of crunch there. There are multilayers of gras here, all sealed in together. It is very rich, also very clear, and I find it incredible that its tannins are already largely integrated. There are shades of ripe Pinot in this Grand Vin, one with a long future. This sun-filled year is possibly like 1990, but is better, fresher, more balanced in my view. Similar to Méal 1961, or perhaps 1947? “It is very fluid, and I wonder if it’s like Grenache, while the tannins are very ripe and smooth,” Marc Sorrel. 14°. From – well, eventually! I wouldn’t be in any hurry, simply to allow the wine to display as much complexity as it possibly could. 2053-57  Dec 2015

2015 LE MÉAL, M. CHAPOUTIER ****** (cask) black-tinted robe. The nose is ripe and deep, airs of blackberry and a suggestion of herbes de Provence, a peeking out of raspberry and mulberry. It has a confident depth, a sunswept outlook. The attack is striking – its delivery is full, but it constantly achieves movement and a charming freshness.  Although it is very full, nearly a Vin de Sud – southern wine – it has at least one foot in the North. It pursues a long path. There are tasty moments already within the palate. Very true Méal. From 2021. 2043-47  April 2016

As a postscript, I note that LA CROIX also showed very well in its various guises for the CAVE DE TAIN in 2015: LA CROIX-BEAUMES *****, L’HOMME-LA CROIX ****(*), LA CROIX ****, DIOGNIÈRES-LA CROIX ****. This bodes well for the 2015 PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ LA CHAPELLE 2015, by the way.

DIOGNIÈRES: A SILKY PERFORMER IN 2015

Another climat of unusually high performance in 2015 is DIOGNIÈRES – which lies between MÉAL and LA CROIX; I regard it as a contributor of supple, smoothly textured wines that don’t quite have the fire and purpose of MÉAL, nor the spinal tension of BESSARDS, nor the complexity of L’HERMITE, the Big Three. Before parting company, the FAYOLLE brothers JEAN-PAUL and JEAN-CLAUDE used to work their father JULES’ plot on the clay-limestone of LES DIOGNIÈRES, planted with massale cutting SYRAH between 1965 and 1970 - an act of faith in the terroir, since HERMITAGE was difficult to sell in those days.

Since the split into two domaines run by the children of the brothers, their DIONNIÈRES wines have shown good style without hitting the heights, but in 2015 the JEAN-CLAUDE & NICOLAS FAYOLLE is an STGT ****(*) wine, the FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE a **** wine.

The FERRATON PÈRE & FILS LES MIAUX is composed of 85% DIOGNIÈRES planted in 1976, complemented by 15% MÉAL and BEAUMES. I regard it as an STGT wine this year, a ***** performer, and also good VALUE. It holds sturdy content backed by a line of freshness. As DAMIEN BRISSET of FERRATON explained to me: “DIOGNIÈRES has done an important job this year in restraining LE MÉAL.”

L'HERMITE IN 2015

It would be remiss to omit a comment on what is the most fascinating climat at HERMITAGE, namely L’HERMITE, which is the meeting point of the MASSIF CENTRAL and the ALPS, a real roundabout of terrestrial and airborne influences, where the soils change every few yards. The 2015 CHAVE L’HERMITE showed its usual intricacy deep within a fat, textured display of content, with salt and iodine touches bringing that skip of freedom and subtlety that makes the wine great. JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE’s comment on it was: “you have the ripeness first, then you feel the granite.” That very ripeness was more pronounced than usual.

Meanwhile, the CHAPOUTIER L’HERMITE I found less precise and beguiling than normal, more on full strength than a deft array of nuances, the vintage likely to dominate over its terroir for some years to come.

LES BESSARDS IN 2015

As for LES BESSARDS, the Spinal Tap of a high grade HERMITAGE, 2015 is a slightly atypical year as well. BERNARD FAURIE told me why: “the shallow soil zones were grilled this year, sites such as LES BESSARDS.”

At J-L CHAVE, the wine leant towards the South, being less rugged than in most years. Overall, I found it to be le Sud, the South, on the nose, where there were black olive influences, and le Nord, the North, on the palate, where there was fine crunch and frim grip.

The 2015 CHAPOUTIER BESSARDS wine, LE PAVILLON, tied in closely with the J-L CHAVE BESSARDS. Its nose came with “a convex shape, already outward – an unusual profile for a Bessards wine, and testifies to much sun, lots of ripeness.”. The palate projected clarity, despite the obvious ripeness, and held maximum granite expression when tasted in April 2016.

So enthusiastic was he with his BESSARDS wine in 2015 that BERNARD FAURIE decided to make a cuvée on its own. “I have two casks of 600 litres, and will produce magnums and bottles – magnums because I know with certainty that this wine will live a long time. I did a little in 1985 as well, and drank a magnum of that at Christmas 2014, and it was in very good shape. I should also say that I tried it again in 2002, but the crop wasn’t ripe enough!” This wine is part of what usually makes up BERNARD’s GREFFIEUX-BESSARDS blend.

WELL-TIMED RAIN LIES BEHIND THE VINTAGE

The shaping of the year was for bouts of rainfall at wonderfully well-timed moments, as was the case in CÔTE-RÔTIE in 2015. I have no doubt that the 30-40 mm (1.2-1.6 ins) in early June over a few days held the vines together as the summer heat started to rise.  

MARC SORREL gave this report on the start of the ripening season: “there wasn’t much cold in the winter 2014-15, not much frost, but there was rain. The spring was beau, without heat, and flowering took place at the end of May, while the veraison (grapes changing colour) was quite early, starting on 13-14 July. Our heatwave lasted from mid-June until mid-August. There were two weeks of 35°C to 36°C at the end of July and early August. Many other days were around 30°C to 33°C.

The first real rain after early June was after 15 August, we had 50 mm (2 in) on 31 August, which was very helpful, while there were two rainstorms, one of 15 mm (0.6 in) and the other 25 mm (1 in) – they were very beneficial. It was then very fine until the harvest, with fresh nights, which were very good for potassium levels. I started the whites on 3 September, and harvested the GRÉAL - GREFFIEUX and MÉAL - on 7 and 8 September. The classic HERMITAGE and the CROZES-HERMITAGE SYRAH were harvested 10 days after the 50 mm of rain on 12 and 13 September.”

THE STYLE OF THE VINTAGE ACCORDING TO DIFFERENT GROWERS

In style, MARC SORREL says 2015 “isn’t like 1978, because there wasn’t so much heat, and the year made itself late in the day, after a lot of coulure during flowering.” I would argue that 1978 is more Nordic than 2015 in the glass, however.

JACQUES DESVERNOIS, chief winemaker at PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ, who has been with the company from the time of the JABOULET family and now the FREY family, gave me this summary on 2015: “the early September rain of 40-50 mm (1.6-2 ins) unblocked the Syrah. 2015 isn’t a solar year like 2010 and 2011. It is charming, has a lot of everything – colour, tannin, gras richness. 2015 is similar to 2010 via their density. 2010 is more dense in structure but less fine in tannin than 2015.”

PHILIPPE JABOULET, highly experienced, and the old chief of the vineyard care at PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ when his family still owned that company and its vineyards, described 2015 as "very concentrated, grand power. We won't be selling it rapidly, since that would spoil it. 2016 is very flattering, and will be released before the 2015. I find 2015 more like than 1983 and 1988 [both years of firm tannins]. It's not up to a 1966 or a 1961," he concluded.

Enthusiasm for the vintage runs across the HERMITAGE growers, although BERNARD FAURIE gave one of his classically tender, careful appraisals when telling me: “The reds are fresh, well balanced, both concentrated and fresh; there isn’t over-ripeness. We were spoilt with the summer being generous in quality and quantity – I have never seen such quality in the grapes, which were 100% good, the wines powerful and attractive. It’s not an over-powerful year such as 2003, and is maybe a bit like 2009. Of course, it’s difficult to judge oneself; I learn more from the clients.”

MODERATE DEGREE IN 2015

Degrees were moderate this year, too, in contrast to some of the very hot vintages. BERNARD related that his GREFFIEUX-BESSARDS blend was 13.3°; his BESSARDS on its own was 13.5°, and his MÉAL-BESSARDS was 13.8°.

Growers based at CROZES-HERMITAGE were also pleased with the year. PHILIPPE BELLE of DOMAINE BELLE reported: “2015 shows very much the blood side of the Syrah – it was like that from the start, and shows the very fine side of Hermitage.”

Bouncing up and down about the year was DAVID VIALE of DOMAINE DU COLOMBIER. The family were Co-operateurs until 1991, and entered the stage a year after ALBERT BELLE had also launched out on his own. DAVID recounted: “2015 Hermitage red is extraordinary, really good keeping wine. The yield was good, and the wine is perfect – the pH, the degree, the Total Acidity. My father GABY said that in his 80 years, he had never seen a harvest like that, with not one grape spoilt. Like me, he favours 2015 over 2010.”

JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE expressed some degree of caution about the fanfare surrounding the vintage, but has a very favourable view on it. “2015 is a bit like 1990, when everything was good,” he told me. “It is to be confirmed if it is like that. The yield was high, too – 38 hl/ha, against 25 hl/ha in 2014 and 22 hl/ha in 2013.”

I HAVE THE HOTS FOR 2015

For my part, I have the hots for this vintage, because it displays the manly strength of Hermitage, its real plunge of richness; but there is much precision, and a really smooth set of gras and tannins in the best, giving the marked elegance of which Hermitage is capable  They are flourishing, pretty open wines that I would expect to close, tighten and even toughen over the next two years. This coming winter of 2016-17 will be an important stage for their evolution.

2015 is very much a vintage to buy, therefore. Magnums are highly recommended. These are wines for godchildren or children’s birth year, weddings, anniversaries. They will be splendid and will enhance every such occasion in the decades to come. Our children and grandchildren may even get to taste the odd bottle still around, and will be converted.

LEADING HERMITAGE 2015 REDs

****** M Chapoutier Le Méal 2043-47 04/16 striking, very full, very true 
****** Domaine Jean-Louis Chave  2053-57 03/18 one of best Hermitages of my life
****** Bernard Faurie Les Bessards 2046-48 11/17 Grand Vin; handsome, sizzle
****** Ferraton Père & Fils Le Méal  2040-43 10/16 profound, thorough, precise, STGT 
****** Marc Sorrel Le Gréal  2053-56 04/16 classy bounty, Nature's Child
***** M Chapoutier L’Ermite 2045-48 04/16 extremely rich, long wait 
***** M Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne 2036-40 10/16 sunny intensity, broad, v long
***** M Chapoutier Le Pavillon  2042-45 04/16 structure, clear, v granite  palate
***** Bernard Faurie (GB wine) 2039-41 11/17 gracious, silken, great balance
***** Bernard Faurie Bessards-Méal 2042-44 11/17 fat, broad, detail, mineral
***** Bernard Faurie Les Greffieux-Bessards 2047-49 12/18 silky gras, sève, class, complete
***** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Dionnières  2035-38 10/16 spherical, stylish; inky Pinot 
***** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Miaux  2036-39 10/16 sturdy, fresh, STGT, VALUE
***** E Guigal Ex-voto 2054-56 12/19 scaled, generous, firm, Southern 
***** Domaine des Remizières Émilie 2039-42 10/16 handsome; southern depth, v long
***** Gilles Robin   2035-39 10/16 style, intricacy, iron, freshness 
***** Tardieu-Laurent  2040-42 07/16 classy, prolonged, balanced 
***** Vins Vienne Chirats Saint Christophe 2033-37 10/16 bounteous, cool, impressive 
****(*) Domaine Belle  2031-34 10/16 elegant caress; spherical, silken 
****(*) Cave de Tain Epsilon 2040-42 12/18 tasty, gourmand, strong length
****(*) Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche 2039-41 12/18 firm, nourishing, harmony, length
****(*) M Chapoutier Les Greffieux 2037-40 04/16 muscled, stylish, Pinot 
****(*) Jean-Claude & Nicolas Fayolle  2032-35 10/16 authentic, silken gras, STGT 
****(*) E Guigal 2046-48 03/19 sturdy, good heart, dash, depth
****(*) Dom Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet  2034-37 10/16 handsome, smooth, precise, long 
****(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus  2034-37 10/16 sturdy, juicy weight, good kick 
****(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres Arce 2032-34 10/16 lovely juice, stylish gras
****(*) Maison Nicolas Perrin  2031-34 10/16 juicy, clear, elegant, stylish 
****(*) Marc Sorrel   2035-37 04/16 tingling fruit, structure, balance
**** Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2028-30 10/16 copious, supple fat, charming
**** Delas Les Bessards  2033-36 10/16 soft texture, fresh, restrained 
**** Delas Domaine des Tourettes  2033-37 10/16 robust, spiced, rugged 
**** Domaine du Colombier  2033-36 10/16 soaked, deep; tannic vigour 
**** Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Dionnières  2029-31 10/16 stylish, silken, pleasure 
**** Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Maison Bleue 2040-43 12/18 serene fruit, style, good balance
**** Domaine des Martinelles 2039-41 11/18 rocky, solid, knit, slow gainer
**** JMB Sorrel Le Vignon 2034-36 11/17 full heart, rich, genuine
***(*) Yann Chave   2027-30 10/16 red fruits, bit bumpy 
         

9. 2015 CONDRIEU

The wiles and caprice of the VIOGNIER tested growers to the full in 2015. Vigilance in the vineyard was required during the growing season, especially with reference to canopy management, while precision was essential in the choice of date of harvest. At the end of the season, the VIOGNIER galloped into extreme ripeness and high degree, as is its wont, so anybody taking his or her eye off the ball suffered as a result.

Condrieu 2015s are therefore sturdy, packing tight matter set in a dense context. If you reach out for charm from your Condrieu, this is not your vintage. The wines reflect the high bouts of heat and dry conditions during the year, and are suited to dining with rich dishes, a line-up of white meats and fish such as tuna or salmon on the agenda. Only a few have reeled in the elusive blend of depth and elegant freshness.

2015 ANDRÉ PERRET CHÉRY: THE TOP WINE AT CONDRIEU

The 2015s thus stand in sharp contrast to the airborne, highly enticing wines of 2014 – a year that reminds me of 2004 in structure. Perhaps 2015 is more like 2005, which was also a thick, pretty big vintage. There are also hints of 2009, another sunswept vintage.

The wet spring was overtaken by the heat of the summer, and FRANÇOIS MERLIN, whose wines are expressive, his JEANRAUDE a firmly filled CONDRIEU, reported as follows on the year: “the yield was full up this year, 40 hl/ha. There was very little malic acidity this year, so the wines feel nearly finished. It was hyper dry in the summer; there were just a couple of rainfalls of 15 mm (0.6 in) around 20 August, with 4 mm late in the month, and we harvested straight after that second rain on 4-5 September. The VIOGNIER gained 2.5° in each of the last two weeks of August.”

High degrees were a challenge, and after tasting dozens of wines, that is not always camouflaged. PHILIPPE GUIGAL pointed to how ripe and how early the year was for their well-exposed sites: “we started on 31 August, averaging 14.8°.” His father MARCEL was delighted with the quality: “you can never be too rich, not too beau, nor too intelligent,” he told me. “Condrieu is rich and beau, the wines are balanced, have a marvellous bouquet, pedigree – they are wines with a lot of allure. It is an unbelievable vintage.”

Even earlier than the GUIGALs was BERNARD CHAMBEYRON, who told me: “we finished the Condrieu harvest on 28 August, and it came in at 14.2°.”

Giving a perspective with which I fully agree, CHRISTOPHE BONNEFOND also touched on the high degree: “I harvested our Viognier on 2 September, quite early, the crop already ripe, at 14° to 14.5° - hence I did not want to wait so I could retain freshness. It is a richer year than 2014, has a bit of pep. We allowed 70% of the malolactic to be completed, not 100% as usual, in order to preserve freshness. 2015 is more dense, less crystalline than 2014. There isn’t a lot of acidity, and I expect 2014 to live longer.”

GILBERT CLUSEL of DOMAINE CLUSEL-ROCH also remarked on the level of alcohol, and how they had worked to get round it: “the degree was high; we harvested quite early, in late August, at under 14°. The wines aren’t very expressive in aroma. You had to avoid over-ripeness this year. By 10 September, some people’s Viognier was at over 15°.” However, the result of this strategy for me was a wine that was a bit light.

ANDRÉ PERRET took wise measures in the vineyard during the summer: “I kept all the Viognier leaves in 2015, so the bunches were in the shade – I wanted freshness above all. The grapes were brown, not burnt. It’s a very hot vintage, but has remained quite fresh and direct – that was the big challenge this year. The pH in 2015 was 3.7, against the slightly fresher 3.6 in 2014.” This vineyard work paid off - ANDRÉ’s wines are excellent this year – the boy done good.

YVES GANGLOFF lamented what occurred at CONDRIEU, whereas growers further south were spared: “2015 isn’t really typical, and isn’t a wine from here,” he recounted. “100 mm (4 in) of rain around mid-September saved us, plus the fact that the yield was full at 40-42 hl/ha – without that we would have been at 2003 levels – that extremity.

I lost 50% crop, while at CHAVANAY they had a full harvest. It was down to coulure (flowers failing to convert into fruit) and an absence of grapes, and not much juice in the grapes when we got them in.”

Referring to that density in the crop, XAVIER GÉRARD gave me this account of what it meant for the his vinification: “decantation was complicated this year, since there was a lot of sugar and glycerol – it took two days instead of 10-15 hours,” he related. “Fermentation lasted five weeks this year – meaning increased aroma, complexity and great length.”

Backing off intervention in the cellar was CHRISTOPHE SEMASKA of CHÂTEAU DE MONTLYS. He stated: “I usually stir the lees on my CONDRIEU LYS D’OR and FLORIALYS until Christmas, but there was no need this year since the matter was well present already.”

Another tactic to work for freshness came from STÉPHANE OGIER, who reported: “I bottled the 2014 CONDRIEU in September 2015, as usual, but I bottled the 2015 in April 2016 to keep a mix of freshness with more carbonic gas than usual.”

So the traffic flow this year was to try to place obstacles or hindrances in the way of wines bursting to run with excess and power. The results are mixed, since the vintage signature is indeed one of compressed juice and close-knit wines, with an imprint of coming from further south. They can go as far as holding a red wine physique, being grounded and muscled, requiring decanting. Unusually there were notes of petrol here and there. Some are over 15° - the VIGNOBLES CHIRAT CLOS DES PONCINS, DOMAINE RICHARD VIEILLES VIGNES, for example. All these stout wines will accompany Asian cuisine or butter-based dishes extremely well.

Wines that achieved finesse or elegance in 2015 are better suited to steamed dishes and fine produce. They are closer to the terroir than the previous grouping:

ANDRÉ PERRET CHÉRY *****, CLOS CHANSON ****(*), CLASSIC/”VILLAGES” ****(*)

LIONEL FAURY LA BERNE  ****(*)

LOUIS CHÈZE PAGUS LUMINIS  ****

DOMAINE CLOS DE LA BONNETTE LÉGENDE BONNEETTA  ****

DELAS CLOS BOUCHER  ****

GILLES FLACHER LES ROUELLES  ****

JOCELYNE & YVES LAFOY AUX RUSES  ****

STÉPHANE OGIER LA COMBE DE MALLEVAL  ****

STÉPHANE OGIER LES VIEILLES VIGNES DE JACQUES VERNAY  ****

MAISON NICOLAS PERRIN   ****

BENOÎT ROSEAU LE RIOLLEMENT  ****

FRANÇOIS VILLARD LE GRAND VALLON ****

LES VINS DE VIENNE JEANRAUDE  ****

DOMAINE VALLET ROUELLE-MIDI  ***(*)

With power on the agenda, there is always the possibility that the wines will lurch out of balance over time, the alcohol coming forward. I would suggest that many will do well until around 2020-21, while the deepest and well structured, interlocking wines will live towards 2025 or a little longer.

LEADING CONDRIEU 2015s

***** E. Guigal Luminescence 2038-41 06/17 solid, shapely, character
***** André Perret Chéry 2027-29 10/16 filled, thorough, v long
****(*) Lionel Faury La Berne 2021-22 10/16 gourmand, stylish, elegant
****(*) Xavier Gérard Côte Châtillon 2025-27 10/15 solid, very long
****(*) E Guigal 2022-23 06/17 perfumed, delightful, w.o.w.
****(*) François Merlin Jeanraude 2024-25 10/15 solid, meaty, long
****(*) Saint Cosme La Fauvette 2023-25 10/16 sturdy, inner strength
****(*) André Perret Clos Chanson 2025-27 10/16 fine, deep gras, very long
****(*) Dom G Vernay Coteau de Vernon 2030-32 07/17 full, texture, luxury, scope
**** Clos de la Bonnette Légende Bonnetta 2019 10/16 stylish, spiced, lucid
**** Domaine Boissonnet 2022-23 10/16 rich, properly full, balance
**** Domaine Chambeyron Vernon 2023-25 10/15 manly, coated, long
**** Aurélien Chatagnier 2022-23 10/16 robust, long, character
**** Louis Chèze Pagus Luminis 2020-21 10/16 easy gras, smooth, true
**** Yves Cuilleron Les Chaillets 2023-24 10/16 weight; thorough, firm gras
**** Yves Cuilleron La Petite Côte 2022-23 10/16 full, tight, typical pear fruit
**** Yves Cuilleron Lieu-Dit Vernon 2025-26 10/16 rich, oily, close-knit
**** Delas Clos Boucher 2020-21 10/16 good life, discreet complexity
**** Gilles Flacher Les Rouelles 2019-20 10/16 packed gras; interesting
**** Yves Gangloff 2023-24 10/16 strength, sealed
**** Xavier Gérard L'Arbuel 2025-26 10/15 sweet gras, grip, v long
**** E Guigal La Doriane 2025-26 06/17 fat, butty, concentrated
**** Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Aux Ruses 2019 10/16 refined, charm, silken
**** Gabriel Meffre Laurus 2020-21 10/16 secure depth, sturdy
**** François Merlin Les Terroirs 2021-23 10/15 fat, deep, fresh
**** Domaine du Monteillet Chanson 2026-27 03/18 sure gras; compact, textured
**** Vignoble du Monteillet La Grillette 2027-29 03/18 well built, meaty, full
**** Domaine Mouton Côte Châtillon 2021-22 10/16 genuine, thorough, with lift
**** Rémi Niéro Héritage 2020-21 10/16 gas freshness, has body
**** Rémi Niéro Les Ravines 2023-25 10/16 muscled, sturdy, time
**** Stéphane Ogier La Combe de Malleval 2020-21 10/16 elegant, shapely, freedom
**** Stéphane Ogier Vieilles Vignes J Vernay 2023-24 10/16 enjoyable gras; stylish
**** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2019 10/16 joli richness, genuine
**** Benoît Roseau Le Riollement 2019 10/16 full, grace, harmony
**** René Rostaing La Bonnette 2021-22 10/16 firm gras, thick juice
**** Dom G Vernay Chaillées de l'Enfer 2025-26 07/17 weight, density, fine edges
**** Dom Grges Vernay Terrasses Empire 2025-26 10/16 elegant, crystalline, wiry
**** Verzier Chante-Perdrix Authentic 2019-20 10/16 rich, rolling, long
**** Pierre-Jean Villa Jardin Suspendu 2020 10/16 stylish; fine clarity
**** François Villard Le Grand Vallon 2022-23 10/16 style, refinement, long
**** François Villard Les Terrasses du Palat 2021-22 10/16 cosy gras, fine acidity, lucid
**** Les Vins de Vienne Jeanraude 2019-20 10/16 stylish juice, good precision
***(*) Sylvain Badel Eternel 2019 10/16 compact, concentrated, long
***(*) Christophe Blanc Hermione 2024-25 12/18 fine juice, fresh grip
***(*) Cave Saint-Désirat 2020-21 10/16 tight, toasted, smooth fat
***(*) Domaine Emmanuel Barou imagine 2020-21 04/16 squeezy gras, firm spine
***(*) P & C Bonnefond Côte Châtillon 2022-23 04/16 direct style, with gras
***(*) M Chapoutier Invitare 2020-21 10/16 sleek texture, refined, gas
***(*) Domaine du Chêne 2020-21 10/16 solid, grounded
***(*) Louis Chèze Brèze 2020 10/16 grapey, buttery, rounded
***(*) Vignobles Chirat Les Chays 2019 10/16 exotic fruits, drinks now
***(*) Domaine Louis Clerc 2019 10/16 fine fruits, traditional
***(*) Domaine de Corps de Loup 2019-20 10/16 stout, sealed, character
***(*) Delas La Galopine 2020-21 10/16 full, spiced, strength
***(*) Maison Denuzière Aphrodite 2020-21 10/16 smooth fruits, tang, grip
***(*) Guy Farge Grain d’Emotion 2019 10/16 likeable gras; elegance
***(*) Pierre Gaillard 2021-22 10/16 ripe fruit, grounded
***(*) Lionel Faury Tradition 2020-21 10/16 exotic fruits, big; has gas
***(*) André François La Maladière 2020 10/16 robust, fat, very grapey
***(*) Dom Roland Grangier Les Terrasses 2019 10/16 fleshy content, steady
***(*) Vignoble Monteillet Grandes Chaillées 2023-24 03/18 thick, rich, virile, la table
***(*) Domaine Mouton Côte Bonnette 2020-21 10/16 spiced, high octane
***(*) Rémi Niéro Chéry  2019-20 10/16 freedom; quiet depth
***(*) André Perret 2021-22 10/16 packed in, textured, glow
***(*) Stéphane Pichat La Caille 2021-22 10/15 full, big foundation
***(*) Domaine Richard Vieilles Vignes 2022-23 10/16 tight juice; sturdy, compact
***(*) Domaine de Rosiers 2020-21 10/16 clarity, fresh, good grip
***(*) Tardieu-Laurent 2022 07/16 full, obvious, resilient
***(*) Domaine Anthony Vallet Rouelle-Midi 2020 10/16 airborne, gentle, trim
***(*) François Villard De Poncins 2021-22 10/16 fat gras, compact, has grip
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne La Chambée 2019-20 10/16 easy fruits, broad, ensemble
*** Domaine Clusel-Roch Verchery 2019 10/16 fine gras, bit light
*** Domaine de Bonserine 2021-22 10/16 muscular, savoury, knit
*** Vignobles Chirat Clos Poncins 2019 10/16 thick content, rounded
*** Benjamin & David Duclaux Les Caillets 2019 10/16 squeezy gras, sleek, loose
*** François Dumas 2020 05/18 assertive glavour, disorderly
*** Romain Duvernay 2020 03/18 sturdy, full-on, obvious
*** Pierre Gaillard L’Octroi 2020-21 10/16 cooked fruits, featureless
*** Domaine J-Paul & Corinne Jamet 2021-22 11/17 stewed fruits, sturdy, firm
*** Ogier Antoine Ogier Côte Chery 2020 10/16 red wine strength, dour
*** Domaine Christophe Pichon 2019 10/16 thick texture, fat
*** Christophe Pichon Caresse 2020 10/16 gourmand, weight; plain
*** Domaine Julien Pilon lône 2019 10/16 cosy, safe, New Wave
*** Eric Rocher La Coste 2019 10/16 assertive, full-on, wild
**(*) Jeantet-Laurent Le Secret de Pline 2018 10/16 high ocatne, muddled

 

10. 2015 CÔTE-RÔTIE

JL-L & MARCEL GUIGAL RIPPING IT UP IN THE MALDIVES

The 2015 vintage kicked off early in public esteem once MARCEL GUIGAL had volunteered, with no prompting whatsoever, to me the following appraisal in October, 2015: “2015 is on the level of 1929, 1947, 1961. It is surely the wine of a lifetime. In 55 years, I’ve never seen anything like it. If you had a computer to control the time of heat and rain, you would have programmed it like 2015. It is the dream of a life, with a five star crop, an exceptional harvest. Grand Vin is good in the vat, when doing its malo, in the press, during the raising, all its life, and that’s what 2015 has.

Two months before the harvest, we knew it was going to be a very good year,” he continued. “The moment the grapes went into the vats, we knew about the quality this year. HERMITAGE took two weeks more than us here at CÔTE-RÔTIE to ripen, while CROZES-HERMITAGE, which is very good, also needed that extra time to ripen.

We were vice-versa with the SOUTHERN RHÔNE this year, since the NORTHERN RHÔNE had a Scirocco south wind for nine to 12 days at the end of August and in early September, practically no rain, and that concentrated the grapes, the aromas, the bouquet of the wines. It is the most total perfection.

The warm October 2015 weather was very good for the malolactic fermentations. Vinifications lasted four weeks – we went slowly. This year you had to hardly touch the grapes – do no rack and return, hardly any pumping overs.”

WIDESPREAD ENTHUSIASM, EVEN FROM THE CAUTIOUS

Enthusiasm spread widely this year, with even the usually discreet tempted to leave their cautious lairs. BERNARD BURGAUD, not a man to waste a single word, told me: “I’ve never seen such a healthy harvest, nor one as abundant, nor as rich in sugars, and balanced. It was exceptional in all its constituents.  We were in the eye of the high heat [canicule], and it should have been a good year, but with some small defects here and there – but there weren’t any. All across my cellar, the wines were 13.5° - I’ve never seen that, either. As a footnote, the drosophile fruit flies were wiped out by the heat going up to 40°C.”

CHRISTOPHE BONNEFOND, whose vineyards are primarily on the northern, more BRUNE sector, took me through the ripening season from his point of view: “we were fearful of making a solar wine similar to 2003, with excess ripeness. But that wasn’t at all the case. The skins weren’t burnt as they were in 2003. We had the luck to have a 2014-15 winter that was very rainy, so all the ground water sources were full. So, even though it was very dry, there were enormous reserves of water in the soils, and the vines leaves remained very green.

There were two to three storms of around 10 mm (0.4 in) at a time which served the vines well. I did a full yield of 40 hl/ha, whereas 2014 and 2013 were both minus 30% of the crop. I don’t think we threw away one bunch – that was exceptional, I have never seen that.” 

From the southern sector at TUPIN, FRÉDÉRIC BERNARD commented on the early part of the season when stating: “April was very hot; the winter was normal – there were just a few frosts, no real snow. The vines by the end of April were dry, even after a very wet November 2014 – there has been no real rain since then. We had an Episode Cevenelles of 150 mm (6 inches) of rain in two hours in November, 2014, which resulted in damage to our terrace walls.”

TIMING IS ALL: THE RAINFALL KEY TO 2015

BERNARD CHAMBEYRON was another grower who appreciated the timing of the rainfalls, one of the most important influences on this mighty vintage: “I have never seen degrees as I did in 2015 – 14° to 14.5°. We had the canicule (high heat) for two to three weeks from mid-July, with days up to 38°C-39°C, the weather very dry. The heat meant that the usually late zones ripened earlier than usual, while the precocious zones were blocked.

There were small and helpful pockets of rain this year. We had had a fall of 36 mm (1.4 in) in June, and that was followed by 25 mm (1 in) in July. In August there was nothing serious, just good amounts of 12 mm (0.5 in) on 9 August, 15 mm (0.6 in) on 13 August and 2 mm (0.08 in) on 24 August, then 10 mm (0.4 in) on 1 September. We finished our Côte-Rôtie harvest on 11 September, which was well timed, since we then got 55 mm (2.2 in) of rain on 13 September and 17 mm (0.62 in) the next day.”

VINEYARDS NEEDED TO BE LEFT ALONE AGAINST THE SUN

Vineyard work had to be carefully managed, however. STÉPHANE OGIER: “I did no de-leafing in 2015, and almost no green harvesting. The vines were too hot, and needed leaving alone. We only did green harvesting on one or two sites in late August. It was very bizarre in 2015 – the plateau gave a higher degree than the hillsides, which had a small blockage until the rain in late August-early September. The plateau didn’t suffer from the drought, and had been served well by the rains of the spring. Some wines on the plateau came in at 15°, with the hillsides at 13.5° to 14°.”

HIGH DEGREE, BUT DENSITY FOR IT

Degrees are certainly well above average in 2015, but fortunately there is enough density of content to accompany them. At DOMAINE DE ROSIERS, LOUIS DREVON, who has seen forty vintages or so, commented: “I’ve never seen such colour as in 2015. It is an exceptional vintage – I am not used to such dense Syrah.”

AGNÈS LEVET of VIGNOBLES LEVET, now working on her own with her father BERNARD after the loss of her mother NICOLE from cancer, praised the July weather when giving this resumé: “we harvested the hillsides on 7 September, and they were well ripened by then. Vinifications ran for 22 days. Two of our wines were 12.5° in 2014, and one was 13°. In 2015, they were 13.5° and 14°. Like many growers, we found that the press juice had a bit of sugar this year; we blended the press and the first run together in the AMÉTHYSTE cuvée.

2015 isn’t 2003 – it has plenty of juice and the tannins have a concentration that will take time to ease. It was a year that started with budding two weeks late, and harvesting two weeks early – it all happened very quickly in the vineyard. We didn’t expect the ripeness we had at the end of August. July was particularly hot and dry – that propelled the vineyard forward, and was the key.”

POWER IN THE GLASS

GILBERT CLUSEL, the creator of the SÉRINE vineyard project to enable growers at CÔTE-RÔTIE, or elsewhere, to work with Massale cuttings from old vines, referred to the strength of 2015 for his DOMAINE CLUSEL-ROCH when telling me: “it’s a powerful year; we harvested quite early, in the first week of September, to keep the freshness of the fruit, with the Condrieu harvested in late August.

As for vinifications, they were slightly longer than usual, perhaps a week, over four to five weeks since there was a lot to extract, a lot of fruit and expression. It’s a bit different from 2009 and 2010 – this year you could harvest when you wanted. There is balance of acidity and aroma, the skins were very thick, the pips very ripe already in August. There is a lot of colour and tannin, but that wasn’t an issue by April 2016. 2015 is more rounded than 2005 if you link those two vintages,” he added.

The CLUSELS generally are more active in the cellar than the late harvesting JEAN-PAUL JAMET, who took his usual route of not going too far in his approach: “there was a lot of sun until 12-15 September, then rain, which re-balanced the crop,” he informed me. “2015 is not a vintage where you add new oak to an already very full wine.”

A HOT BUT ALSO BALANCED VINTAGE

One of the best wines I have tasted this year was CHRISTOPHE BILLON’s new wine, his ****** LA CÔTE ROZIER. CHRISTOPHE told me: “I didn’t feel the need to do any cap punching on my vins de pays in 2015 – the tannins were already structured and there was a lot of colour. I did cap punchings on the 2014s, though. 2015 is a hot and balanced vintage, the tannins quite silken and more tender than the 2013 tannins. I would compare it to 2005 and 2009, which both shut down after bottling. It will be a good keeping year.”

In terms of vintage comparison, CHRISTOPHE BONNEFOND talked about 2010, when describing 2015 thus: “the wines have pep, freshness. Degrees range from 13.5° to 14.5°, the latter on LES ROCHINS. I found the press wine very interesting in 2015 – it wasn’t as hard as it can be - it’s supple this year. Because of the richness, I will extend the raising of the wines this year.

In terms of how 2015 compares to 2010, I would say that 2010 is fresh, tight, marvellous now. 2015 should age well. The pHs weren’t very high in 2015, towards 3.7, the highest 3.8, which is good given the high heat. 2010 will age better than 2009.”

PATRICK JASMIN also reached for 2010 when telling me: “2015 has a belle aromatic complexity, similar to 2010 – it’s not like the very tannic years such as 1995, 2005, 2009.”

The flamboyance of the wines was remarkable in 2015, from the very earliest days out of the vat. There I was scribbling away as I tasted the wines, amazed at how together and coherent they were at such a tender age.

REMARKABLE QUALITY AND FULL YIELDS, TOO

It was also notable that many growers reported a full yield – 40 hl/ha for the LAFOY family, and the same for RENÉ ROSTAING, who stated: “it is a Grand Year [Grande Année], very good. You get a year like this only around once every ten to fifteen years. The wines have magnificent structure, typicity, give an ideal expression of the terroir, and, en plus, we have 40 hl/ha, a full crop! I am very happy. It was the first vintage when my son PIERRE made the wine, and we had a party to celebrate that.”

IT'S A TREMENDOUS VINTAGE

2015 is therefore a tremendous vintage for CÔTE-RÔTIE, but I would advise drinkers to be aware that it isn’t – yet – an obviously typical year. What I like, though, is that there is terroir snuggled within the closely-packed matter, which wasn’t the case with impressive but solar vintages such as 2009 or 1999 in their early days. Indeed, many 1999s took over ten years to wrest back some local land influences from the grip of the climate, and some still haven’t entirely.  

GO, BLONDE!

The CÔTE BLONDE is particularly savoury and fleshy this year – examples being the ****(*) GILLES BARGE CÔTE BLONDE or the **** CHRISTOPHE PICHON LA COMTESSE EN CÔTE BLONDE. The RENÉ ROSTAING CÔTE BLONDE is ****** wine, since it combines silken, plunging content with coolly floral undertones, a complex and intricate affair. A similar success story in terms of complexity was the ****** BLONDE-based DOMAINE DE BONSERINE LA GARDE (La Garde is a sub-set of the Blonde) – muscular, but blessed by floral generosity and mineral threads.

Another high quality site is LANCEMENT, in the BLONDE sector. The ***** STÉPHANE OGIER version this year is a coated, ligueur richness sort of wine that will find great favour in the USA. As STÉPHANE stated, “it has superb density, tannins in velvet, silk.” Stéphane’s vines date from the late 1970s, and are ten years older than those of the GARON family; their 2015 LANCEMENT was also ***** quality, but with less accentuated ripeness, a shapely and handsome wine.

GO, BRUNE!

The BRUNE wines are also implicit of their origin, smoky, tight, mineral, very well structured, so terroir is coming out in very close definition within them. The ****** DOMAINE JAMET CÔTE BRUNE is smoky and concentrated, bearing a crisp strength, while the wines from sites I hold in high regard – LA VIALLIÈRE, LES GRANDES PLACES and CÔTE ROZIER were all expressive, the first named capable at its best of a most beguiling hand-out of floral trimming around an inner steel.

WINNING TIERCÉ OF LA VIALLIÈRE, LES GRANDES PLACES, CÔTE ROZIER

Wines to note therefore are the ****(*) CLUSEL-ROCH LA VIALLIÈRE, the infused minerality of the handsome ***** DOMAINE DE BONSERINE LA VIALLIÈRE, the big and manly ***** GRANDES PLACES from CLUSEL-ROCH, based on 1935 SERINE [the vineyard pictured on the cover of my book The Wines of the Northern Rhône] and the chunky ****(*) GRANDES PLACES from newcomer NICOLAS CHAMPAGNEUX. Two fabulous wines come from CÔTE ROZIER – one being the already mentioned ****** LA CÔTE ROZIER from CHRISTOPHE BILLON, who used to work for the GUIGAL family for several years. This is made up of three different plantings, one-third each 1942, 1987 and 1990. The also ****** LA BELLE HÉLÈNE from STÉPHANE OGIER is based on 1950s SYRAH.

SOUTHERN STYLED WINES HERE AND THERE

The vintage has enough richness to handle overt oaking this year - on some wines it comes over as vanilla more than obvious oak. With such depth, it is no surprise that some wines hold overtly southern connotations - black olives, herbs, prune fruit. The ****(*) VINS DE VIENNE LES GRANDES PLACES and the ****(*) GABRIEL MEFFRE LAURUS are such examples.

LONGEVITY

In the first six months of their life, I wondered whether the 2015 RÔTIES would hold up over time, so flashy were they. However, they all showed admirably close links between bouquet and palate, which is pretty unusual. Upon further tasting and consideration, I expect them to be capable of longevity thanks to the really profound content derived from wonderful grapes.

If there is a vintage within reach of my knowledge that compares to 2015, then it is 1947, which I tasted and heard about a little as I was starting out. The summer of 1947 was incredibly hot, and the bounty of the wines was always remarkable – the ripeness of the stems meaning that whole bunch fermentation came with no pesky strings attached.

You will see from the table of Leading Wines that I expect these 2015s to keep going with at least 20 years the basic minimum. For those of tender years starting to take an interest in wine, I recommend buying 2015 in magnums, and introducing the next generation to such delights when they come of age.

Finally, if I had to be forced to buy one case of either CÔTE-RÔTIE or HERMITAGE red this year, it would be HERMITAGE, due to the utter majesty of the famous hillside’s wines, and its ability to link southern climes with more northern elegance. A vintage with southern leanings comes more naturally to HERMITAGE than it does to CÔTE-RÔTIE.

LEADING CÔTE-RÔTIE 2015s

****** M & Christophe Billon La Côte Rozier 2034-37 10/16 v high quality fruit, great tannin
****** Domaine de Bonserine La Garde 2039-43 03/18 fluid, expressive, long, striking
****** Jean-Michel Gérin Les Grandes Places 2041-44 11/17 dark, serene, much potential
****** E Guigal La Turque 2053-55 12/19 sensuous, cool, intricate, balance
****** Dom J-Paul & Corinne Jamet Côte Brune 2050-55 11/17 virile, concentrated, v long, STGT
****** Stéphane Ogier La Belle Hélène 2045-48 04/16 the rockface; class, balance
****** René Rostaing Côte Blonde 2044-46 10/16 complex, intricate, Grand Vin
***** Pierre Benetière Cordeloux 2037-39 03/18 slinky gras; hi interest, appeal
***** Pierre Benetière Le Dolium  2039-41 03/18 sturdy, muscled, drive, iron
***** P & C Bonnefond Les Rochains 2045-46 04/16 joyous gras, rocking wine
***** Clusel-Roch Les Grandes Places 2037-41 10/16 tight, redoubtable, strong
***** Ben & David Duclaux La Germine 2033-36 10/16 sustained juice, full blooded
***** Yves Gangloff Côte Rozier 2036-38 11/17 thick, nourishing, handsome
***** Yves Gangloff La Sereine Noire 2039-41 11/17 style, iron, concentration, long
***** Domaine Garon Lancement 2033-36 10/16 wide, shapely, handsome
***** Xavier Gérard La Landonne 2040-43 12/18 serious, striking, sturdy, stylish
***** Jean-Michel Gérin La Landonne 2040-43 11/17 generous, thorough, sudiste
***** Jean-Michel Gérin La Viallière 2040-42 11/17 handsome, long, packed
***** E Guigal Le Château d'Ampuis 2045-47 03/19 refined juice, energy, gd spine
***** E Guigal La Landonne 2057-60 12/19 large mass, scaled, v long, ripe
***** E Guigal La Mouline 2052-55 12/19 coated richness, perfume, grace
***** Dom Jean-Paul & Corinne Jamet 2044-48 11/17 close packing, rich, dense
***** François Merlin 2033-35 10/15 concentrated, dense, fresh
***** Stéphane Ogier Lancement 2042-45 04/16 ripe, coated, southern
***** Maison Nicolas Perrin 2030-32 10/16 pedigree, balance, high charm
***** Stéphane Pichat Les Grandes Places 2035-37 10/15 effortless gras, v long
***** Maison Christophe Pichon Promesse 2033-36 10/16 savoury, rich; authority
***** René Rostaing La Landonne 2043-46 10/16 stylish, complete, earth to sky
***** Christophe Semaska Fleur de Montlys 2043-45 12/19 handsome richness, nourishing
***** Christophe Semaska Lancement 2040-42 04/16 complex, savoury, scaled
***** Tardieu-Laurent 2043-45 07/16 ample gras, quality tannins
***** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Terrasses 2040-42 03/18 vibrant; very full; real flair
****(*) Dom Gilles Barge Côte Blonde 2034-36 10/16 wholesome, aromatic, trad
****(*) Maryline & Christophe Billon Les Élotins 2032-34 10/16 sensuous, savoury, good detail
****(*) P & C Bonnefond Côte Rozier 2042-44 04/16 glamorous fruit, accomplished
****(*) Domaine de Bonserine La Viallière 2035-37 03/18 sealed gras, pronounced heart
****(*) Bernard Burgaud 2039-42 04/16 abundant, sustained, long
****(*) Domaine Chambeyron L’Angeline  2031-33 10/15 gourmand, perfumed, long
****(*) Nicolas Champagneux La Dédicace 2033-35 10/16 deep gras, thorough, long
****(*) Nicolas Champagneux Grandes Places 2031-33 10/16 slinky, silken, balanced
****(*) M Chapoutier La Mordorée 2034-36 10/16 strong, handsome, filled, long
****(*) Aurélien Chatagnier 2028-30 10/16 sweet, floral fruit, has flair
****(*) Clusel-Roch Classique 2037-39 02/18 intricate, interesting, stylish
****(*) Clusel-Roch La Viallière 2037-40 10/16 STGT, floral with rockiness
****(*) Ben & David Duclaux Maison Rouge 2033-36 10/16 firm spiced, good structure
****(*) Lionel Faury Reviniscence  2031-33 10/16 heart, genuine, nourishing
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Lieu-Dit Montmain 2032-35 10/16 generous, nuanced, up tannins
****(*) Pierre Gaillard Esprit de Blonde 2030-33 10/16 cool fruit, sturdy, prolonged
****(*) Pierre Gaillard Rose Pourpre 2031-32 10/16 liberal fruit, good nuances
****(*) Yves Gangloff La Barbarine  2037-39 11/17 solid, well sealed, time needed
****(*) Domaine Garon Les Rochins 2033-36 10/16 balance, delicacy, charm
****(*) Xavier Gérard  2037-40 12/18 cosy, savoury, lip smacking
****(*) Jean-Michel Gérin Champin le Seigneur 2039-42 11/17 vigour, muscle, momentum
****(*) Domaine Jasmin La Giroflarie 2035-37 07/17 strength; sturdy, persistent
****(*) Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Côte Rozier 2039-42 11/17 rich, handsome, genuine, V
****(*) Vignobles Levet La Péroline 2039-42 04/16 a bucket load of fullness
****(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus 2031-33 10/16 stylish, tasty, polished
****(*) Stéphane Ogier Côte Blonde 2034-36 04/16 gliding wine, mineral present
****(*) Stéphane Ogier Réserve Stéphane Ogier 2041-43 04/16 grace and thorough content
****(*) Cédric Parpette Le Plomb 2036-38 04/16 stylish, ace length
****(*) Stéphane Pichat Champon’s 2032-34 10/15 heck of a lot, deep, bold
****(*) Maison Christophe Pichon Rozier 2031-33 10/16 fine juice, style, balance
****(*) Domaine de Rosiers Besset 2048-50 02/20 complete, structure, good terroir
****(*) Domaine de Rosiers Coeur de Rose 2044-46 02/20 grounded, inky, long, beefcake
****(*) René Rostaing Ampodium 2039-41 10/16 intricate, compressed, vigour
****(*) Saint Cosme Le Traquet 2033-36 10/16 robust, abundant, energizing
****(*) Christophe Semaska Chât de Montlys 2038-40 04/16 bold, coated, ample, long
****(*) J-Michel Stéphan V Vignes Coteau 2031-33 12/15 square, plenty gras
****(*) Vins de Vienne Les Grandes Places 2030-32 10/16 neat fruit; Burgundy precision
**** Domaine Gilles Barge Côte Brune 2031-34 10/16 stewed fruits, deep set tannin
**** Domaine Barge Le Combard 2035-37 03/18 dark, firm, southern; interest
**** Domaine Barge Cuvée du Plessy 2033-35 03/18 compressed, muscular, time 
**** Maryline & Chris Billon La Brocarde  2032-34 10/16 coolly fruited, broad; firm end
**** P & C Bonnefond Colline de Couzou 2037-39 04/16 plenty, full + free depth
**** Domaine de Bonserine La Sarrasine 2034-36 03/18 fleshy gras, intensity, crunch
**** Domaine Champet Les Fils à Jo 2033-35 03/18 firm gras, bright fruit, time
**** Louis Chèze Bellissima 2038-40 12/19 graphite, blue fruit, potential
**** Dom de Corps de Loup Corps de Loup 2030-32 10/16 upright, clear fruit, with oak
**** Dauvergne Ranvier Face Sud 2029-31 10/16 savoury, fleshy gras, fresh
**** Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin 2028-30 10/16 dark fruit, strength, momentum
**** Delas Seigneur de Maugiron 2030-33 10/16 stylish, polished, Burgundian
**** Maison Denuzière Les Hauts Lieux 2029-31 10/16 stylish, brisk, oaked
**** André François Gerine 2033-35 03/18 dense, lunging, trad, wild
**** Pierre Gaillard 2029-32 10/16 pure fruit, crisp tannin; stylish
**** Domaine Garon Les Triotes 2030-33 10/16 juicy gras, good life in it
**** E Guigal Brune et Blonde 2044-46 03/19 ripe, rolling,a romatic, textured
**** Domaine Jasmin Oléa 2035-38 07/17 muscular, thick, oak, force
**** Jeantet-Laurent Les Filles de Maugiron 2036-38 12/18 joli gras; silky, smooth, rich
**** Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Prélude 2030-32 11/17 thick, spiced, dark
**** Vignobles Levet Maestria 2037-39 04/16 handsome, manly; poised gras
**** Dom du Monteillet Montez Bons-Arrêts 2041-43 02/20 spherical, tender, graceful, long
**** Domaine du Monteillet S Montez Fortis 2035-37 03/18 scented, musky; 15 sweetness
**** Dom Monteillet Montez Grandes Places 2041-43 03/18 full throttle, coated, sun filled
**** Rémi Niéro Eminence 2029-32 10/16 supple, authentic, perfumed
**** Cédric Parpette Montmain 2034-35 04/16 fresh, broad, savoury
**** Stéphane Pichat Löss 2028-30 10/15 stylish, sweet, clear
**** C Pichon La Comtesse en Côte Blonde 2030-32 10/16 chunky, rich, engaging
**** Ravoire & Fils Olivier Ravoire 2028-30 10/16 up-tempo, bounding fruit, fun
**** Domaine de Rosiers Drevon 2043-45 02/20 rich, prolonged, wholesome
**** Christophe Semaska l’Elixir d’Ariane 2043-45 12/19 inky darkness, slow burn, Big Unit
**** Jean-Michel Stéphan Ctx de Tupin 2029-30 12/15 rounded, bit Spartan
**** Pierre-Jean Villa Belle de Maia 2030-33 10/16 meaty content, grounded
***(*) Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine 2029-31 10/15 fat, tasty, inner strength
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Bécasses 2027-28 10/16 cool fruit, streamlined, spare
***(*) Vignobles Chirat La Rose Brune 2028-29 10/16 steamlined fruit, subtle strength
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Lieu-dit Bonnivières 2026-27 10/16 supple, aromatic, gourmand
***(*) Dauvergne Ranvier Vin Rare 2032-33 10/16 neat fruit; streamlined, polish
***(*) Delas La Landonne 2027-29 10/16 curvy, open, safe; floats
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils L'Eglantine 2031-33 01/18 clean, pristine, floral, sound
***(*) André François Le Peintre 2032-34 03/18 grounded, thick, much mineral
***(*) Domaine Gallet 2029-30 10/15 solid, long, aromatic
***(*) Vignobles Levet Améthyste 2034-36 04/16 rich, grounded, traditional
***(*) Domaine Mouton Père & Fils 2027-29 10/16 robust, strong, grass roots
***(*) Julien Pilon la porchette 2026-27 10/16 spiced, up front, enjoyable
***(*) Jean-Michel Stéphan new cuvée 2026-28 12/15

accurate, supple

*** Domaine Louis Clerc 2027-29 10/16

grounded, downhome, trad

*** Dom de Corps de Loup Marions-Les!  2024-26 10/16

perfumed, tender, dry end

*** Domaine de Corps de Loup Paradis  2026-27 10/16 instant, vigour; gummy tannin
*** Domaine Garon La Sybarine 2026-27 10/16 round, but restricted
*** François Villard le Gallet Blanc 2026-28 11/16 fleshy content but low on soul
*** Les Vins de Vienne Les Essartailles 2026-28 10/16 tasty fruit, then downhome

 

11. 2015 VIN DE PAYS, VIN DE FRANCE, CÔTES, LYONNAIS REDS & WHITES

Just as a GHISLAINE BARTHOD BOURGOGNE Villages is a great buy whatever the vintage, at working man’s prices, so the lesser offspring of the good NORTHERN RHÔNE growers reward the more adventurous buyer. The IGP DES COLLINES RHODANIENNES is an excellent category, with vineyards never far from the main event, be it close to CÔTE-RÔTIE or SAINT-JOSEPH for SYRAHs, or CONDRIEU for VIOGNIER.

Growers are also flexing their independence of restrictive rules nowadays as well, opting for the simple VIN DE FRANCE tag, which of course is more straightforward for consumers, and allows them more freedom on yield and varietal make-up should they so wish.

The rule is simple, therefore: if you trust the grower or the domaine, you can buy. In a vintage such as 2015, the reds will live and evolve well, well capable of taking on some additional nudges and nuances when past the four or five year mark. Having written that, dig the longevity on the JEAN-PAUL JAMET CÔTES DU RHÔNE and on the SEYSSUEL from STÉPHANE OGIER! Both excellent **** wines.

Many of these wines will be most easy to buy on the spot, in wine stores, or sometimes encountered on wine lists.

Although it is an appellation in its own right, and strictly speaking a little beyond the RHÔNE, I have included the COTEAUX DU LYONNAIS wines of GUILLAUME CLUSEL of DOMAINE CLUSEL-ROCH at CÔTE-RÔTIE. They are from MILLERY, GRIGNY and ORLIÉNAS, which lie north of GIVORS and south-west of LYON on the west side of the RHÔNE. They are made from 1970s to 1980s GAMAY for the reds, 1980s and 2010 CHARDONNAY for the whites, and the soils mix up glacier galet stone deposits with pockets of sand and granite. His TRABOULES RED is the vat only wine, bottled after six months, and was a w.o.w. wine in both 2015 and 2017.

2015 CÔTEAUX DU LYONNAIS RED/WHITE

***(*) Guillaume Clusel Galet Gamay 2020-21 04/16 direct; v pure fruit
*** Guillaume Clusel Traboules R 2019-20 04/16 direct fruit, w.o.w.
***(*) Guillaume Clusel l’Hecto Chardonnay 2021-22 04/16 stylish gras; plenty

2015 CÔTES DU RHÔNE RED/WHITE

**** Jean-Paul, Corinne Jamet Syrah 2033-36 04/16 stylish, long, interesting
**** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Hts Vignes Syr 2028-29 03/18 gd drive, weight, length
**** Dom de Peyraud E Texier Brézème V Roussanne 2032-34 02/19 durge, intent, hi interest
***(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Les Forots R 2022-23 10/16 spiced, good drive  
**** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet W 2023-24 03/18 enjoyable; St Jo level, V
***(*) Jean-Luc Colombo La Redonne W 2020 10/16 rich, fleshy, table vin  
***(*) Jean-Paul, Corinne Jamet W 2021-22 04/16 proper depth, length

2015 VIN DE PAYS, VIN DE FRANCE REDS

****(*) Anthony Paret Coll Rh Seyssuel Sublinae 2031-33 11/17 stylish, balanced, BIG V
**** Nicolas Champagneux Coll Rh La Rémise 2025-26 10/16 broad, fresh, lots here
**** Jean-Michel Gérin VdFr La Champine Syrah 2022-23 11/17 joli gras, florality, truth
**** Stéphane Ogier Coll Rh La Rosine 2028-30 04/16 instant richness, long
**** Stéphane Ogier Coll R Seyssuel L’Âme Soeur 2038-39 04/16 copious, rich, mobile
**** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Coll Rh Valine Syr 2026-27 03/18 vigour, flow; fruit detail
***(*) Hervé Avallet Coll Rh Seyssuel Convivium VI 2031-33 12/18 fleshy, spinal, linear, fresh
***(*) Dom Emmanuel Barou Coll Rh Syrah 2022-23 04/16 cool fruit, gd structure
***(*) P & C Bonnefond Coll Rh Sensation Syrah 2025-26 04/16 style; buy 2nd bottling
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Coll Rh Syrah   2020-21 10/16 fleshy content, articulate
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Coll Rh Asiaticus Syrah 2027-28 11/16 juicy content, long, fresh
***(*) Jean-Paul, Corinne Jamet Coll Rh Syrah 2026-28 04/16 live fruit, sunny depth  
***(*) Pascal Marthouret Coll Rh Syrah  2022-23 04/16 bright fruit, peppery  
***(*) Anthony Paret Seyssuel Serinae 2037-39 02/20 thick, compact, long, oaked
***(*) André Perret Coll Rh Merlot   2023-24 07/17 strong, broad, big wine 
***(*) André Perret Coll Rh Syrah 2023-24 09/18 expressive, v tasty, cool
***(*) J-Claude Raspail Vdp Drôme Roustière Syrah  2022-23 04/16 lucid, fine fruit, cool 
***(*) René Rostaing Coll Rh Lézardes Syrah  2026-28 10/16 squeezy gras, beau, long 
***(*) Jean-Michel Stéphan VdFr Syrah   2021-22 12/15 body, juicy, w.o.w.  
*** Cave de Tain Coll Rh 1er Note Syrah  2019 10/16 juicy, floral 
*** Cave Tain Coll Rh Notes Plurielles Syrah Vio  2019 10/16

soft richness, Syr-Vio

*** Dom E Barou Coll Rh tombée Ciel Merlot  2020 04/16 fat; 15 strength, w.o.w.
*** M & Christophe Billon Coll Rh Les Corendies 2021-22 04/16 delicate, attractive  
*** M & Christophe Billon VdP Viennae La Bâtie 2024-25 04/16 stylish nose, rounded 
*** J-L Colombo VdP Médit Collines Laure Syrah 2020 10/16  upright, peppery, clean
*** Jeanne Gaillard Coll Rh Terres de Mandrin  Sy 2020 11/16 exuberant fruit, crowded bar 
*** Dom Melody VdP Drôme Petite Folie! Syrah  end 18 04/16 verve, neatness
*** Dom Michelas St Jemms Fleur de Syrahne 2019 10/15 aromatic, spiced, long 

2015 VIN DE PAYS, VIN DE FRANCE WHITES

***(*) P & C Bonnefond Coll Rh Viognier 2020-21 04/16 cosy fruit, with depth
***(*) J-L Colombo VdP Médit Les Anthénors Clairette 2023-25 10/16 gd content, fresh, beau
***(*) Xavier Gérard Coll Rh Viognier 2021-22 10/15 deep, long, bright 
***(*) Pascal Marthouret Coll Rh Viognier 2020 04/16 squeezy gras, grip
***(*) André Perret Coll Rh Viognier 2020 10/16 neat content, intricate
***(*) François Villard VdFr Contours Deponcins Vio 2019 11/16 full; tight grip
***(*) François Villard VdFr Contours Mairlant Mar-Rou 2019 11/16 neat gras, cool, w.o.w.
*** Cave de Tain Coll Rh 1er Note Marsanne 2018 10/16 white fruits, clean correct 
*** Cave Tain Coll Rh Notes Plurielles Mars-Vio 2018 10/16 soft, easy   
*** E Barou Coll Rh Rebel Rebel Chardonnay  2019 04/16 coated, long, la table  
*** E Barou Coll Rh rendezvous Marsanne    2020-21 04/16 tangy, typical 
*** E Barou Coll Rh Bonne étoile Viognier 2019-20 04/16 rich, controlled, long  
*** Ferme Sept Lunes VdFr Lunatik Lady Mar/Rous 2025-26 02/20 Savagnin-like, ex St Jo
*** Ferraton Père & Fils Coll Rh Viognier  2019 10/16 lively, fresh, skimming  
*** Jean-Michel Gérin VdFr Champine Viognier 2019 11/17 soft gras, grapey  
*** Domaine Pierre Gonon VdFr Chasselas   2022-23 04/16 bright, salted, glow
*** J-F Jacouton Vdp Ardèche Marsanne-Chasselas  2018 04/16 elegant gras, sunny  
*** J-F Jacouton Vdp Ardèche Granit Viognier  2019 04/16 bustling fruit, fresh  
*** Stéphane Montez Vdp Coll Rh Le Petit Viognier 2021 03/18 firm, tangy, close knit
*** René Rostaing Coll Rh Lézardes Viognier  2024-25 10/16 soft, fat, flattering  
**(*) Jeanne Gaillard VdP Coll Rh Marsanne   2018-19 11/16 aromatic, soft  
**(*) Jeanne Gaillard VdP Coll Rh Roussanne 2018 11/16 lightweight, brief, solo