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.
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.
|****(*)||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|
|****||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|
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.
|*****||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|
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.”
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
**** DAVID REYNAUD BEAUMONT [a perfect picture of BEAUMONT]
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.
|*****||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|
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]
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.
|*****||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|
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.
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:
**** GUILLAUME CLUSEL w.o.w.
**** LIONEL FAURY HEDONISM w.o.w.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
|*****||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|
|****||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|
|***(*)||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|
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.”
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.
|******||Thiérry Allemand Reynard||2046-50||04/16||very pure fruit, stylish, long|
|*****||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|
|****||Dom du Coulet, M Barret Billes Noires||2038-40||02/19||sturdy, solid, filled, fleshy|
|****||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|
|***(*)||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|
AND IN THE BLUE CORNER, THE CHAMPION, BY A KNOCK-OUT, IS ..... THE CHAPOUTIER DE L’ORÉE
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!
|******||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|
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.
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
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.
|******||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|
|*****||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|
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.
|*****||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|
|***||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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
|******||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|
|******||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|
|*****||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||04/16||sleek; fine juice, mineral|
|*****||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||2036-38||10/16||virile content, genuine, fresh|
|****(*)||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|
|****||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||2034-37||03/18||cosy gras; suave, length, study|
|****||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||2034-36||10/16||crunchy, southern, silky content|
|****||Christophe Semaska l’Elixir d’Ariane||2039-41||04/16||gourmand, clear, 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||
|***||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|
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.
|***(*)||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|
|****||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|
|****(*)||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|
|***(*)||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|
|***(*)||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|
|***||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|