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2016 NORTHERN RHÔNE CLOSE-UP

INDEX

1. SAINT-PÉRAY

2. CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

3. SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

4. SAINT-JOSEPH RED

5. CONDRIEU

6. CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

7. HERMITAGE RED

8. HERMITAGE WHITE

9. CORNAS

10. VIN DE PAYS, VIN FRANCE, CÔTES DU RHÔNE

11. CÔTE-RÔTIE

1. 2016 SAINT-PÉRAY

TOP GRADE SAINT-PÉRAY: DOMAINE DU TUNNEL

SAINT-PÉRAY is now on wine drinkers’ radar, having been not even a blip on it ten years ago. To say that there has been a transformation is putting it mildly, but it’s the profile, rather than the quality of the wines, that has moved up a gear.

The increase in renown has been partly fuelled by there being more of the wine on sale. The handbrake has been well and truly taken off yields - they were 40 hl/ha when I started in the 1970s - and now stand at 50 hl/ha. Plantation rights run to around five hectares per annum, so there is something of a Klondyke experience going on. If the lazy journalist just sits in a tasting room and receives the wines, then a coherent picture can be dealt. However, tramping around the vineyards tells another story: rather crazy little pockets of plantation here and there at height, nothing joined up bar the area around the village itself.

Cash is King these days in the NORTHERN RHÔNE vineyards, and land is costly now, having been cheap – hence the pressure to build for VALENCE-bound commuters in the past. CHAPOUTIER is near the vanguard of this charge forwards, and the sadness is that young growers of modest means are themselves finding it hard to gain a foothold even in an apparently lesser appellation such as SAINT-PÉRAY. The JEAN-BAPTISTE SOUILLARD approach – a portfolio of 16 merchant wines, limited quantities of each, without the onerous burden of land investment – is one that will be seen more.

For now, the glamour is supplied by talented growers such as STÉPHANE ROBERT - I bet he is glad he started in the mid-1990s, with rental and small purchases at that time. The GRIPA family have long owned vineyards here, and their two wines, carefully crafted by the also talented FABRICE, are top notch examples of SAINT-PÉRAY.

CORNAS growers have always had a little SAINT-PÉRAY on the side, as it were, and they continue to provide well made wines, with the ALAIN VOGE stable favouring rich styles suited to classic butter-based cuisine – the FLEUR DE CRUSSOL the main example of that, while their vineyard-specific ONGRIE, named after one of the prime granite sites near CORNAS, is subtle and pure, STGT in 2016.

Other CORNASIENS to make sound SAINT-PÉRAY are JACQUES LEMENICIER and OLIVIER CLAPE [who has stepped their ST-P up a notch or two, gunning for freshness and style more than before]. I also always like the COLOMBO BELLE DE MAI, which LAURE produces with some flair.

HIGH QUALITY ROUSSANNE

The vintage was well received by the growers, with STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL telling me: “it’s been a super year, and it wasn’t too much of a late vintage. August and September were exceptional, with no blockage of ripening. The yields are good, near the maximum allowed. The ROUSSANNE is especially fresh, has good balance, better than the MARSANNE.”

OLIVIER CLAPE related his 2016 perspective: “it is beau vintage for SAINT-PÉRAY, but was quite complicated due to mildew,” He explained. “The white crop was quite “hot”; I lowered the dose of copper since the vegetation was tired. I harvested the old plot on LES BLÂCHES (1940s, 1990) at 14° before the SYRAHs. The young vines (late 2000s) suffered from a lot of mildew, and were slow to ripen, so we left them, and a week later they had reached 13°. Our yield was 42 hl/ha. 50 hl/ha is allowed now, with 55 hl/ha on the sparkling. 2016 is supple, less ripe and dense than 2015, which had a low amount of juice per grape.”

There has been a helter skelter of planting across SAINT-PÉRAY in recent years, as already noted in past despatches. The effect is that some vineyards stand on their own, at height – 350 metres or more – and are home to young vines. In a rainy year, they would be a dodgy proposition. With the run of sunny years from 2015 to 2017, that has not been an issue, and 2017 may be aided by some lower degree, late ripening crop.

SAINT-PÉRAY is no longer a bargain, but if you are a RHÔNE disciple, then you should certainly have some in your cellar.

LEADING SAINT-PÉRAY 2016s

****(*) Domaine Gripa Les Figuiers 2032-34 11/17 neat, serene, classy, very beau
****(*) Domaine du Tunnel Prestige 2021 11/17 suave, serene, stylish, classy
**** Cave de Tain Fleur de Roc 2022-23 11/17 tight, cool, stylish, STGT
**** M Chapoutier Lieu-Dit Hongrie 2023-24 02/18 fluid gras, Marsanne spine
**** Domaine Durand 2022 01/18 soft, fresh, vibrant, w.o.w.
**** Domaine Rémy Nodin Le Suchat 2025-27 12/18 stealthy nourishment, calm, precise
**** J-Louis Thiers Terres Rouilles 2025-26 12/18 style, elegance, floral, detail, V
**** Domaine du Tunnel Marsanne 2021 11/17 suave texture, tangy, restrained
**** Domaine du Tunnel Roussanne 2021 11/18 en finesse, fragrant, graceful
**** Les Vins de Vienne 2021 04/18 fruit purity, elegance, w.o.w.
**** Les Vins de Vienne Les Faures 2023-24 12/17 gd substance, fine freshness
**** Alain Voge Fleur de Crussol 2027-28 02/18 firm depth, oxidative, provocative
**** Alain Voge Ongrie 2025-26 01/18 suave, subtle, pure, STGT
***(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2020-21 11/17 smooth content, mineral end 
***(*) Laurent & C Fayolle Montis   2022-23 02/18 soft, tasty, dumb, table 
***(*) Domaine Gripa Les Pins   2021-22 11/17 floral, graceful, balance 
***(*) Chrystelle Michel 2023-24 12/18 soft, supple, smooth, good flow
***(*) J-Baptiste Souillard Chalaboud 2022-23 11/17 cool, careful, tight, smoky 
***(*) Vins de Vienne Les Bialères   2022-23 04/18 plump, smooth; rolling gras 
***(*) Alain Voge Harmonie   2023-24 01/18 generous content, also fresh 
*** Mikaël Bourg 2021-22 02/19 mature, wild, character, disorder
*** M Chapoutier Les Tanneurs   2022 02/18 New Wave, floral, smooth 
*** Domaine Clape   2023-24 11/17 easy gras, tight overall  
*** Domaine Courbis Le Tram   2020 11/17 gentle, spiced, safe 
*** J-Louis Thiers, Dom du Biguet 2023-24 12/18 soft, pleasant, orderly, correct
**(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Le Mialan  2020-21 12/17 mild, soft, lacks body 

 

2. 2016 CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE

2016 has given CROZES-HERMITAGE another chance to parade the charms of its white wine based around the MARSANNE. For years, these were pedigree-free wines, an afterthought for many of the growers, with young vineyards another factor in their being light, loose or sometimes clumsy when the vinification was askew.

We now live in a Post Parker era, where all things light and bright are the order of the day, and CROZES blanc is fulfilling a requirement for simpatico drinking, in wine bars or on a terrace, perhaps with some cold cuts, saucisson or plain solo. It is the appellation best tuned for such wines across the northern RHÔNE.

There are wines that are suited to table drinking: the **** MARC SORREL based on late 1940s vines, has always been a favourite, a mini-HERMITAGE in good vintages. The **** CAVE DE TAIN HAUTS D’EOLE is another example, along with the **** CROZES-ERMITAGE (note the nobility spelling) LE GRAND COURTIL from FERRATON PÈRE & FILS, and the rich ***(*) DOMAINE COMBIER CLOS DES GRIVES. These are the wines that can offer a varied and stimulating second stage of evolution.

DAMIEN BRISSET of FERRATON PÈRE & FILS was pleased with the levels of acidity that lie at the heart of this vintage’s success. He told me: “this year the whites ended their veraison three weeks after the SYRAH – often the SYRAH is before them. We harvested 80% of the whites before the reds because their ripening accelerated very quickly this year. I could go for greater ripeness than I could on the 2015s because I knew there was good acidity behind the grapes.”

YANN CHAVE was correct in my view when linking 2016 to 2014, saying: “the vintage profile is the same as 2014 – fresh, good drinking whites.” I marginally prefer 2016.

These are reliable buys, and will be good wines to show to people not used to WHITE RHÔNEs, a good point of entry for them. Bonne dégustation.

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE WHITE 2016s

**** Domaine Belle Roche Blanche 2023-24 11/17 rich, layered, solid, sauced dishes
**** Cave de Tain Les Hauts d’Eole   2021-22 11/17 elegant, style, oak, potential 
**** M Chapoutier Guer-Van   2022-23 04/18 en finesse, delightful 
**** Domaine du Colombier 2020 11/17 joli, wholesome, la table, STGT
**** Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix 2022 02/18 balance, length, STGT  
**** Ferraton Le Grand Courtil   2026-27 02/18 clear richness; delicacy, length  
**** E Guigal   2023-24 11/17 refined gras, charm
**** Jeantet-Laurent Croix de l'Ermite 2029-31 12/18 elegant, tasty, fresh, clear, character
**** Domaine des Martinelles    2021-22 11/17 clear, elegant, very stylish 
**** Domaine Les Quatre Vents La Rage 2020-21 12/18 floral, v refined, lovely aperitif
**** Marc Sorrel   2029-30 11/17

deep texture, fat, a lot

**** Jean-Baptiste Souillard Le Tout   2025-26 11/17 firm gras; intellectual 
***(*) Aléofane 2020 11/17 smooth, generous, grapey
***(*) Maison Les Alexandrins   2022 03/18 stylish gras, gentle life 
***(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique  2019 11/17 joli gras, lively, typical 
***(*) Yann Chave   2021 11/17 sound richness, tasty, tight 
***(*) Domaine Combier Clos des Grives 2026-27 03/18 shapely richness, redondo 
***(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Sens   2022 02/18 neat gras, fresh, tangy 
***(*) Dom Gaylord Machon La fille 2022-23 11/18 mixed fruits, nice heart
***(*) Domaine Melody Chaos Blanc 2022 05/18 soft fruits, oaked, cellar-led
***(*) Domaine Melody L’Exception   2021 04/18 grapey, genuine, smooth, homely 
***(*) Dom du Murinais Cuvée Marine   2021 04/18 fresh, up, compact, direct
***(*) Domaine Pradelle   2020 04/18 bonny, elegant, floral 
***(*) Dom Les Quatre Vents Pitchounettes 2020 12/18 supple, precise, fresh, easy gras
***(*) Vidal-Fleury   2021-22 04/18 typical Marsanne, clear, salty 
***(*) Domaine de la Ville Rouge Nathan 2020-21 11/18 exotic fruits, gentle, savoury
*** Domaine Belle Terres Blanches 2020-21 11/17 supple, content ease, needs fusion
*** Dom Les Bruyères Aux Bétises 2021 02/18 plump, fulsome, easy
*** M Chapoutier Les Meysonniers   2021 02/18 soft, nicely proportioned 
*** Domaine Combier  2020 07/17 tangy, grippy, breezy  
*** Les Vins de Vienne 2020 04/18 low acidity, fat, plain
**(*) Domaine Breyton 2020 12/18 nose charm, but v light palate

 

3. 2016 SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE

BIODYNAMIC PRACTICES SINCE 1997 AND A GOOD TOUCH WITH HIS ROUSSANNE: JEAN DELOBRE [L] OF LA FERME DES SEPT LUNES WITH HIS NEW PARTNER IN THE DOMAINE, JACQUES MAURICE [R], AN ORGANIC EX CO-OPERATEUR

In tune with the fresh tenor of the vintage, the NORTHERN RHÔNE whites have performed very well. 2016 is a vintage that brought forward the natural finesse of the ROUSSANNE, so there is elegance in wines made in part from that variety, of which there are not many at over 20% across SAINT-JOSEPH.

From a small sample, I would highlight the zero SO2 LUNE ROUSSE [100% R] from the organic LA FERME DES SEPT LUNES, which is relaxed, floral and fine, a **** wine. Then there’s the **** AURÉLIEN CHATAGNIER BLANC [45% R] - quietly stylish, greatly charming wine - while the DOMAINE GRIPA [30% R] is gentle, charming ***(*) wine, and the DOMAINE VALLET MÉRIBETS [60-80% R] holds cosy gras, and is a genuine, natural ***(*) wine. All four have not been over-marked with oak, so permit this ROUSSANNE perspective. Hence, keep your eyes peeled for such wines this year – the same applies at SAINT-PÉRAY, by the way.  

This excellent vintage was set up by the stable September weather and dry conditions that allowed ripening to occur gradually. The wines hold slightly better balance than the more tenacious 2015s, which were harvested a couple of weeks earlier, with more intensity in their harvest.

The freshness and length of the 2016s are attributes to signal, while the leading wines have the additional kicker of great depth, and will evolve well over at least a dozen years: note three ****(*) wines, the M CHAPOUTIER LES GRANITS, always a serious wine from 100% old MARSANNE, the COURSODON PARADIS ST PIERRE, which always lives well, and the DOMAINE GRIPA LE BERCEAU, another top notch white which also stays the route well over time. All these will still be doing well in the early 2030s.

For those of you who like HERMITAGE BLANC, but find the budget stretched to buy them, I would recommend SAINT-JOSEPH BLANC, and I would specifically target the granite soils of TOURNON – the same seam as the West end of the HERMITAGE hill; these whites have proper good structure and become complex over time. All must be drunk à table.

Beyond the three 2016s cited above, add the GONON LES OLIVIERS, and the GUIGAL LIEU-DIT ST-JOSEPH. Honourable mentions also for the CHAPOUTIER LES GRANILITES and the FERRATON LES OLIVIERS. In passing, I would add that year in and year out, the M CHAPOUTIER CHANTE ALOUETTE HERMITAGE BLANC delivers a great quality-price ratio.

From the southern zone just north of CORNAS, LAURENT COURBIS told me about his perspective on 2016, his vineyards bearing more limestone than the granite offerings around TOURNON: “the whites are excellent, good and fresh, very jolis. I consider it as a Grande Année – a great vintage. They are airborne and free – 2016 is a year of whites more than reds for me. 2016 has a bit more foundation than 2014 in the whites, though the vivacity in both vintages is similar.”

From Biodynamic DOMAINE MONIER-PERRÉOL near SAINT-DÉSIRAT, SAMUEL MONIER pointed out one difficulty: “it was difficult to end the sugar fermentation this year,” he told me, “also on our VIN DE PAYS ROUSSANNE. The malo went off before the sugars were finished, so there was a loss of acidity.”

Overall, then, it’s a vintage to buy, cellar and enjoy in the case of the highest grade wines, while the ***(*) and **** whites will all prove good buys, be they on a merchant’s list or in a restaurant.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH WHITE 2016s

****(*) M Chapoutier Les Granits 2029-31 02/18 most delicious, v gd heart
****(*) Dom Coursodon Paradis St Pierre 2031-33 02/18 real depth, tang, heart
****(*) Domaine Gripa Le Berceau 2034-36 11/17 heart, tasty, textured, character
**** M Chapoutier Les Granilites 2028-30 02/18 rich, satisfying, wholesome, local
**** Aurélien Chatagnier 2021-22 01/18 tender, stylish, great charm
**** Domaine Courbis Les Royes 2024-26 11/17

rich, stylish, smooth flow

**** Domaine Coursodon Silice 2027-29 02/18 jaunty appeal, suave, live
**** Ferme Sept Lunes Lune Rousse 2021-22 02/18 fresh, suave gras, floral
**** Yves Gangloff 2024-25 11/17 close-knit, beau, precise
**** Domaine Gonon Les Oliviers 2031-33 03/18 fat, firm, sturdy, sultry
**** E Guigal   2026-27 11/17 elegant, gentle; cautious juice 
**** E Guigal Lieu-Dit Saint-Joseph   2028-29 11/17 yum yum, smooth, gd life 
**** Domaine Monier-Perréol   2027-28 11/17 joli gras, authentic, STGT 
**** Anthony Paret Larmes du Père   2023-24 11/17 wholesome, natural, shapely 
***(*) Cave de Tain Terre d’Ivoire  2021-22 11/17 sound weight, tangy  
***(*) Domaine Barge La Ribaudy   2026-27 03/18 soft, fleshy, fat, charming 
***(*) M Chapoutier Couronne de Chabot  2022-23 04/18 tight, decisive, has style 
***(*) Domaine Courbis   2020-21 11/17 soft gras, free, w.o.w.  
***(*) Yves Cuilleron Lyseras   2022 09/17 tangy, fine, drinkable 
***(*) Domaine Durand   2022-23 01/18 typical gras, full, la table  
***(*) Romain Duvernay   2025-26 04/18 well filled, compact, floral 
***(*) La Ferme des Sept Lunes   2025-26 02/18 sinewed, tight; quiet body 
***(*) Ferraton Les Oliviers   2027-29 02/18 restrained, trim fruit, tangy  
***(*) Pierre Finon Quatuor   2020-21 11/17 steady gras, fleshy, bright, table 
***(*) Domaine Gripa   2023-24 11/17 gentle, charming, soft gras 
***(*) Pascal Jamet Vignoble Tour d'Arras 2024-25 12/18 spice, knuckle, clear, table wine
***(*) Domaine Marsanne  2024-25 03/18 relaxed, tender, neat 
***(*) S Montez Grand Duc du Monteillet   2023-24 03/18 ebullient, fat, silken  
***(*) Domaine Richard Charmen   2021 11/17 rounded, rich, la table 
***(*) Domaine Vallet Méribets   2021 01/18 cosy gras, genuine, natural 
*** Domaine Blachon Prestige 2020 12/18 trad style, bit oxidative, table
*** Sébastien Blachon Isaline   2021 11/17 country virtues, rounded 
*** Cave St-Désirat Amendine   2020 04/18 substantial, waxy, oily, table 
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2019-20 11/17 rich, bit oxidative  
*** Ferraton Père & Fils La Source   2021-22 11/17 grapey, New Wave, fleeting 
*** Didier Morion Cranilles 2022-23 12/18 peach flavour, genuine, table
*** André Perret   2021 07/17 generous, soft, instant
*** Maison Christophe Pichon   2022 04/18 steel, tightness, crisp, apero 

 

4. 2016 SAINT-JOSEPH RED

ANTHONY PARET: MAINLY SOLD IN FRANCE, BUT GOOD, REGULAR QUALITY, CONDRIEU AND SEYSSUEL ALSO

2016 is a good, slightly singular vintage at SAINT-JOSEPH. There is a rockiness in some of the wines which stems from the late ripening and the altitude involved here and there: wines with “steel” and undue nerve, where the state of such grapes – low degree, high acidity - played its role.

CROZES-HERMITAGE 2016s are more open and welcoming, by contrast, even if the comparison is not exact, but the influence of the warm lands of the CHASSIS plain led to an easier ripening for the SYRAH there. Hail played a role during the growing season, making life complicated, and reducing yields for those afflicted. Mildew was another hovering blight as the summer went on. For organic growers, there were definite challenges.,

A NORDIC STYLE VINTAGE

The signs of a Nordic vintage lie within the wines; some are light, others overly stretched. Time is required to knit some of them together. Grower opinion ranges from “a very good vintage” to “a difficult vintage.”

Based at ARRAS, which qualifies, just, as the southern sector, PASCAL JAMET gave this appraisal: “things have been tricky from hail this year,” he told me. “Our VIN DE PAYS near PORTES DE VALENCE was hit in June, and our SAINT-JOSEPH around 10 August, which blocked the veraison (grapes changing colour), and set ripening back. At least there was a decent amount of rain at the same time, so there wasn’t drought on the hillside wines.

Because we have very few clone vines, our yield is down – even without the hail - with coulure [flowers failing to convert into fruit] another factor this year. There was some drought stress by early September after no real rain for four to six weeks. We harvested about two weeks later than 2015.”

Another domaine to suffer from hail was MICHELAS-SAINT JEMMS, where quality has been moving forward in recent vintages. They have vines high up on the prized hillside of SAINTE-ÉPINE at ST JEAN-DE-MUZOLS, at 390 metres, SYRAH planted in 1985-86. Their SÉBASTIEN CHEVROL stated: “our SAINT-EPINE vineyard was hit twice by hail this year – 17 April and then again on 31 July, meaning we lost half the crop. The end of July hail also hit SARRAS in SAINT-JOSEPH, and EROME in CROZES-HERMITAGE.”

OUTLAWING THE HEIGHTS OF SAINT-JOSEPH

This brings me to a change in the structure of SAINT-JOSEPH, which has been on the cards for some years now. Ironically, this legislation was passed before the run of hot vintages in the 2010s, and is, overall, regrettable in my view.

Vineyards standing at 320 metres and above will not be allowed to produce SAINT-JOSEPH from 2022. The last vintage is 2021. Growers with vineyards at height have been given the option of planting on areas within the current SAINT-JOSEPH boundaries, but below 320 metres. At present there are around 1,300 hectares of SAINT-JOSEPH, with an allowance of 30 new hectares every year for the whole appellation, something around 2.5% extra. If SAINT-JOSEPH were ever to be “full up”, the surface area would rise above 1,500 hectares.

Growers who plant below the 320-metre line will have time to get their lower vineyards into production – three years – if they then, after that, rip out the high vines. If they don’t destroy the high vineyards, these will be allowed to produce only VIN DE PAYS.

In rainy vintages such as 2014, these high vineyards can struggle for ripeness. You only have to inspect the atrocious high vineyards high up and out of sight of the village of CORNAS, around the grazing pastures of CHABAN, to realise that in a year such as that, these zones can be three weeks behind the main drag, with degree scraping in at 10.5° or so. But in hot years such as 2015 and 2017, they ripen well, and cool down the excess of the main sunbeaten vineyards.

I certainly feel for the MICHELAS SAINT-JEMMS CHEVROL family, whose mature vineyard on a fabulous slope has been compromised in this way.

ESSENTIAL TO KEEP THE CROP VOLUME UNDER CONTROL

Containment of crop abundance where none of hail nor coulure nor mildew had featured was essential this year, as ANDRÉ PERRET explained to me from his base in the northern sector at CHAVANAY: “the SYRAH was magnificent this year – it came in at 13° to 13.5° (the 2015s were 14° to 14.5°), and no chaptalisation was necessary. People with excess crop may have had to chaptalize – if you didn’t green harvest, you could be into 60-70 hl/ha. We green harvested on 20 August.”

ANDRÉ PERRET then described his take on the vintage: “the 2016 red is like 2012, but is more concentrated, and holds very fine tannins. They are between 13° and 14° naturally. 2016 is very fine, Burgundian. There’s fruit, supple tannins, with volume in the wine, and a good quantity – 40 hl/ha, against 39 hl/ha in 2015. There has been no price change over the 2013 and 2014 vintages, while the 2015 rose by €1 and my GRISIÈRES [his old vines ST JO red] went up by 5-6% between 2014 and 2015. There has been no change between 2015 and 2016.”

Also at CHAVANAY, LIONEL FAURY outlined how he saw the style of the wines: “the reds have smoked, lardon-bacon, black fruits and good concentration. The role of May and June 2016 was very strong – the humidity helped us get through the summer – it was very, very dry in August.”

A neighbour high up of LIONEL FAURY is JULIEN BARGE, who gave a moderated assessment in saying: “it wasn’t quite ripe enough for depth, but the wines do have fruit.”

CENTRAL ZONE: BEAU FRUIT

Moving to the more central area of this straggling North-South appellation, above SAINT-DÉSIRAT, the hard core organic SAMUEL MONIER of DOMAINE MONIER-PERRÉOL gave his perception of the year: “it’s not a keeping vintage – the reds should be drunk before 10 years. There is beau fruit, freshness, acidity. We had an attack of late mildew at the end of the veraison (grapes changing colour, August), which started on the leaves at the top. The treatment is copper, but we didn’t do the three or four treatments needed – the copper would have entered the wine at that late stage. Those who did several late copper treatments in late August had a take-off in degree,” he cautioned.

SAINT JEAN-DE-MUZOLS, TOURNON:

The majority of the excellent DOMAINE GONON vineyards lie outside their home village of MAUVES, and JEAN GONON recounted his take on the year as follows: “it was a difficult growing season. There was hail in April at ST JEAN-DE-MUZOLS, after which there were loads of hailstones piled high on the ground, which stressed the vine and rendered the grapes very small. Then there was a lot mildew pressure in June, hail once again on 31 July, more on LES OLIVIERS this time, with a lot of rain, which served the vineyard well because August turned out to be very dry, and hot. We harvested on a normal date, 15-18 September, with a bit of rain half way through. We had to sort and discard crop.

The 2016s are generous in style, quite classic, less concentrated than 2015, the sort of wine we’re used to making. All the growers were very enthusiastic because there was a lot of wine. There are some rather light 2016s. Without the late July rain and a large crop, there was trouble to achieve ripening; CHAVANAY didn’t get this amount of rain at the same time, for example.”

TOURNON, MAUVES:

DOMAINE GRIPA is a top five ST JO estate, their red wines taking time after a dumb start, and really gaining as they are cellared past six years. The vineyards centre on TOURNON and MAUVES. FABRICE GRIPA gave this appraisal: “I like the precision of the 2016 vintage. In terms of durability, balance and tannic structure, it’s on the same level as 2015. There is more pleasure in 2016 over 2015. 2016 is more saline than 2015. The two vintages are like 1990 and 1991 – I preferred 1991, or 2006 over 2005 – I preferred 2006. We started our SYRAH on PARADIS at MAUVES on 21 September, the SAINT-JOSEPH LIEU-DIT the next day.”

Just north of CORNAS at CHÂTEAUBOURG, LAURENT COURBIS has vineyards with limestone mixed into the granite. He was content but realistic about the style of the year: “it’s a beau vintage for the restaurant trade – the wines really drink well, are facile, though more concentrated than 2014. It’s a vintage between 2012 and 2014 in that respect, and reminds me of 2006, the wines between 13° and 13.5°.”

FRESHNESS, YES, BUT UNEASY TANNINS ALSO

Freshness is a theme of the 2016 vintage, so there is room for manoeuvre in the development of the wines. However, some certainly need to do just that, given what seems like a lack of ripeness and an uneasy tannin-fruit ratio. Tannin quality is also variable, and the lightness of some wines is nearer 2014 than 2012, say.

A giant lasso would be helpful if it served to draw together the disparate elements of some 2016s – rocky tannins, prominent acidity, the inclusion of stems occasionally adding to the young rockiness. I also felt that the merchant trade wines showed that that part of the market didn’t have a great hand dealt them, their selections based on fairly limited choice – quality fruit wasn’t that easy to find. Hence names such as J DENUZIÈRE ** and dry, GABRIEL MEFFRE - *** for both LAURUS and SAINT-ETIENNE – and OGIER with their *** BALIGANT.

On the plus side, there are wines with most appealing fruit and a tinkling definition. Purity, detail and definition come through in those from the likes of EMMANUEL DARNAUD with the ****(*) old BERNARD FAURIE vineyard on DARDOUILLE, PIERRE and son JÉRÔME COURSODON with their **** L’OLIVAIE, YVES GANGLOFF with his **** ST JO red, the DOMAINE MONIER-PÉRREOL with their **** TERRE BLANCHE, and even the merchant VIDAL-FLEURY [part of GUIGAL] with their w.o.w. **** 2016. 

The ****(*) and **** wines are those to concentrate on, certainly from the point of view of being the safest bet this year. These are wines that either have the scope to show very well as they evolve, or those that have a well-founded constitution, are already on good display, and will be steady in their development. Such wines can show well over a decade or so.

A feature of many of the wines was their coolness – 2016 has that profile, as opposed to the higher heat vintages of 2015 and 2017; as mentioned elsewhere, purity prevails over density in 2016.

The curse of NEW WAVE – spartan wines, stripped back to be tense, Burgundian, as if the grower is in denial about the warmth of the RHÔNE VALLEY, lies here and there now in red wines as well as whites. One example for the unwary is the PIERRE GAILLARD LES PIERRES 2016.

For those unsure of the pecking order across SAINT-JOSEPH, I rate the following domaines as BENCHMARK; the S indicates SOUTHERN ZONE, the N indicates NORTHERN ZONE, bearing in mind that the SOUTHERN ZONE is the original area for the appellation when it was created in 1956. M/N = MIDDLE TO NORTH

BENCHMARK

[S] M CHAPOUTIER – a wide range led by LES GRANITS, which is sparky and interesting. Very good LES GRANITS WHITE, 100% MARSANNE

[S] JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE – the DOMAINE RED is on a constant upward run, fuelled by great granite soils from a maturing vineyard. The CLOS FLORENTIN is a very old vines, packed wine

[S] PIERRE & JÉRÔME COURSODON – New World experience propelled JÉRÔME into a free flow fruited style; the senior cuvées such as PARADIS ST PIERRE live a very long time. Table friendly WHITE

[S] DOMAINE GONON – great SYRAH flair, excellent, long-lived, full of character WHITE

[S] DOMAINE GRIPA – classy WHITES, both SAINT-JOSEPH, SAINT-PÉRAY; intricate, inky REDS

[S] E GUIGAL – the VIGNES DE L’HOSPICE & LIEU-DIT SAINT-JOSEPH REDS are very serious, replete wines suited to ageing and patience – a cheaper way of accessing granite quality than the CÔTE-RÔTIE LA LA range

[N] DOMAINE ANDRÉ PERRET – notably the old vine LES GRISIÈRES, the Village red very drinkable. Correct WHITE

BUBBLING UNDER

[S] CAVE DE TAIN - given the scale of the operation, their SAINT-JOSEPH range has always had above average character, and the 2016 REDS were a good collection, with some new names such as the TOURNON and the VIEILLES VIGNES

[S] DOMAINE COURBIS – a modern take; the regular RED is easy to drink, the LES ROYES RED, from clay-limestone, ages well and is a serious ST JO. LES ROYES WHITE is a regular **** wine

[S] EMMANUEL DARNAUD – doesn’t have the same gossamer touch as his father-in-law BERNARD FAURIE, but the DARDOUILLE vineyard is a prize in itself

[S] DELAS – their SAINTE-ÉPINE is one of the top wines from a top location, full of granite cut and character, expensive

[N] LIONEL FAURY – notably his older vines LA GLORIETTE RED

[S] FERRATON PÈRE & FILS: a site-specific range of REDS, inc PARADIS ST PIERRE at MAUVES, and SAINT-JOSEPH at TOURNON

[S] DOMAINE JOLIVET – promising, with stylish RED and WHITE

[N] DOMAINE DES MIQUETTES – I owe them a visit, but interesting, organic wines

[M/N] DOMAINE MONIER-PERRÉOL – organic, biodynamic truth in a most interesting set of wines, which are not even from the best locations

[N] DOMAINE DU MONTEILLET, STÉPHANE MONTEZ – always racy fruit, good drive in the RED CUVÉE DU PAPY, which ages well

[N] LES VINS DE VIENNE – quality on a firm rise since the mid-2010s

FRUIT BEARERS, DRINKABILITY

[M/N] EMMANUEL BAROU – clear fruit, unfussy wine, organic for decades

[N] AURÉLIEN CHATAGNIER – plush style, comfy drinking

[S] DOMAINE DURAND – brother JOËL & ERIC make entertaining REDS

[S] PASCAL & CATHERINE JAMET – fun wines, zappy fruit

[M/N] PASCAL MARTHOURET – clear fruit, relaxed style in his RED, the WHITE authentic

[S] DOMAINE MUCYN – a CROZES name whose SALAMANDRES RED always carries great fruit

[N] PIERRE-JEAN VILLA – emphasis on fruit in his TILDÉ RED; efficiency can prevail over soul

CHARACTER

[S] ETIENNE BÉCHERAS -  some bullseyes, others miss the board, traditional approach

[S] DOMAINE DE LA CÔTE SAINTE-ÉPINE – traditional, old vines, same comment as E BÉCHERAS

[S] DARD & RIBO – notably the WHITES PITROU and OPATÈYRES, both 100% ROUSSANNE

[S] OLIVIER DUMAINE – genuine RED from ST JEAN DE MUZOLS & TOURNON, vintage respect

[S] GUY FARGE – traditional REDS, old oak casks, zero fandango

[M/N] LA FERME DES SEPT LUNES – biodynamic, good integrity in the elegant REDS

[S] DOMAINE HABRARD – organic, true BIO RED, vines from ST JEAN-DE-MUZOLS

[S] DOMAINE JEAN-CLAUDE MARSANNE – relaxed winemaking, 600-litre used cask raising, traditional. Most of the wine being bottled [rather than the best selection] from 2016 is a cautionary note. Table friendly, natural WHITE, too

RESTAURANT RELIABILITY

If I were in a restaurant that listed just one SAINT-JOSEPH, I would happily drink the wines from the following domaines on the grounds of sound quality and reasonable pricing – nothing fancy, and a genuine drop, as well

[S] SÉBASTIEN BLACHON – unforced, natural country wines

[N] DOMAINE BOISSONNET – sound BÉLIVE RED, good WHITE

[NDOMAINE DU CHÊNE - a good source, including WHITES, with two provisos: pricing, and the REDS not being ready

[N] LOUIS CHÈZE – pricing can be an obstacle, but sound [if modern] RED, good RO-RÉE WHITE

[S] CHRISTOPHE CURTAT – likeable WHITE

[N] PIERRE FINON – good WHITE as well

[N] GILLES FLACHER – oaking but sound body, I almost prefer the LOESS WHITE. Sound CONDRIEU

[N] ANTHONY PARET – fruit-friendly, sound CONDRIEU as well

[N] DOMAINE VALLET – handy, drinkable MÉRIBETS WHITE as well

PARISH NEWS

The DOMAINE DE BOISSEYT-CHOL, which includes a 0.75 hectare of CÔTE BLONDE CÔTE-RÔTIE, has been sold to OLIVIER DECELLE, who made his money in packaged frozen foods under the PICARD brand, with his vigneron partner PIERRE-JEAN VILLA. PIERRE-JEAN unfortunately had a heart attack recently, but is on the mend. The DE BOISSEYT vineyard is tired, and needs revitalising, but also comprises 0.12 hectare in two plots of CONDRIEU, and five hectares of SAINT-JOSEPH, all at CHAVANAY.

LEADING SAINT-JOSEPH RED 2016s

****(*) Alleno & Chapoutier Couronne Chabot 2025-27 11/17 abundant, grapey, plump, pleasing
****(*) Cave de Tain Tournon 2026-28 11/17 full, genuine, great heart
****(*) M Chapoutier Les Granilites 2028-30 11/17 hefty, meaty, rocky, STGT
****(*) Domaine J-L Chave Clos Florentin 2036-38 03/18 v perky juice, mineral spark
****(*) P & J Coursodon Paradis St Pierre 2025-27 11/17 tight, sleek, cavalier style
****(*) P & J Coursodon La Sensonne 2025-26 11/17 well juiced, good drive
****(*) Emmanuel Darnaud La Dardouille 2024-25 11/17 fine content, serene, detail
****(*) Delas Sainte-Épine 2029-30 11/17 wholesome, entertaining, mineral, bright
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Bonneveau 2030-33 11/17 grounded, iron, intricate, STGT
****(*) Domaine Gonon 2033-34 03/18 juicy, abundant, much charm
****(*) Domaine Gripa Le Berceau 2037-39 11/17 wholesome, full, rich, pure, rocky
****(*) Domaine Monier Les Serves 2034-36 11/17 floral gras, provocative, STGT
****(*) André Perret Les Grisières 2027-29 07/17 sap, depth, much charm
****(*) Vins de Vienne Amphore d’Argent 2027-29 11/17 stately, convincing, floral, tangy
****(*) Les Vins de Vienne L’Arzelle 2025-26 11/17 flamboyant, bountiful, spiced, clear
**** Domaine Les Alexandrins   2028-30 03/18 juicy abundance, authentic, cool 
**** Dom des Amphores Les Mésanges 2029-31 12/18 joli fruit, floral, natural, traditional
**** Cave de Tain Esprit de Granit   2024-25 11/17 wholesome, fresh, entertaining 
**** Cave de Tain Vieilles Vignes   2029-30 11/17 sturdy, dense, iodine fresh 
**** M Chapoutier Le Clos   2027-29 11/17 plenty, compact, authentic, mineral 
**** Domaine Jean-Louis Chave   2034-37 03/18 stylish, good depth, promise 
**** Domaine Courbis Les Royes   2026-28 11/17 tight, linear, can Pinote 
**** P & J Coursodon L’Olivaie    2024-25 11/17 comely richness, neat, detailed 
**** Dard & Ribo Cuvée Pitrou 2031-33 11/18 engaging fruit, intensity, mineral
**** Olivier Dumaine  2024-25 11/17 heart, wavy fruits, grilled 
**** Lionel Faury La Gloriette   2023-24 11/17 easy gras, serene, stylish 
**** La Ferme des Sept Lunes Pleine Lune 2027-29 02/19 pure appeal, airborne, cool, refined
**** Ferraton Père Fils Paradis 2028-30 11/17 rich, aromatic, interest, STGT  
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Saint-Joseph 2031-33 11/17 inky, dense, silken 
**** Yves Gangloff   2025-26 11/17 aromatic, pure, en finesse 
**** Domaine Gripa   2031-33 11/17 thorough, spiced, fresh 
**** Domaine Habrard Bio  2023-24 11/17 liberal juice, potential  
**** Domaine des Hauts Châssis …..?   2023-24 11/17 musky, plump, character 
**** Pascal Jamet Lieu Dit Les Traverses  2030-32 12/18 spice, genuine, time, hand made
**** Dom des Miquettes green label 2028-30 02/19 expressive, good fruit vibe, iron
**** Domaine Monier Terre Blanche   2025-27 02/18 aromatic, genuine, pure, fresh 
**** Dom Monteillet Montez Cuvée Papy  2029-31 03/18 streamlined; liberal juice, crisp 
**** Domaine Mucyn Les Salamandres  2022-23 11/17 juicy, free, stylish, balanced 
**** Domaine Perréol Chatelet 2028-30 11/17 bold, grapey, sustained, fresh 
**** Jean-Baptiste Souillard Janoune   2023-24 11/17 exuberant, fun, true 
**** Domaine du Tunnel   2027-29 11/17 serious, mineral, gras length 
**** Vidal-Fleury   2022-23 11/17 tasty, pure, fine, w.o.w. 
***(*) Maison Les Alexandrins   2024 03/18 gentle, immediate, neat 
***(*) Sébastien Blachon Alban   2021-22 11/17 squeezy gras, authentic 
***(*) Sébastien Blachon Le Pépé   2022-23 11/17 supple gras, structure, STGT  
***(*) Cave St-Désirat Cuvée Côte Diane 2021-22 11/17 cool, clear, smooth 
***(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2025-26 11/17 dark fruit, sizzle tannins 
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2025-26 11/17 floral, oily, safe style 
***(*) Domaine Barge Clos des Martinets 2025-26 03/18 unforced, chewy, lithe 
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Granits   2025-27 11/17 fulsome juice, natural, genuine 
***(*) Aurélien Chatagnier La Sybarite 2025-27 11/17 gourmand, flashy, luxurious 
***(*) Domaine Courbis   2022 11/17 fresh, exuberant, w.o.w.  
***(*) Pierre et Jérôme Coursodon Silice 2022-23 11/17 plump, mild, relaxed, authentic 
***(*) Domaine Durand Les Coteaux   2024-25 11/17 lively fruit, grilled tannins 
***(*) Domaine Durand Lautaret   2023-24 11/17 copious, wide, wavy, engaging 
***(*) Romain Duvernay   2022-23 11/17 natural, unforced, pleasing 
***(*) equis  2024-25 11/17 discreet, sympa, gd juice, w.o.w.  
***(*) Guy Farge Passion des Terrasses 2023-24 11/17 savoury; juicy fruit, grounded 
***(*) Guy Farge Terroir de Granit    2022-23 11/17 sleek, restrained, easy style 
***(*) Lionel Faury Hedonism   2024-25 11/17

grapey, fleshy, rocky, punchy

***(*) Ferme des Sept Lunes Chemin Faisant 2026-28 02/19 soft fruit, naked, calm delivery
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils La Source  2025-27 11/17 regular St Jo, black fruits  
***(*) Pierre Finon Les Jouvencelles   2024-25 11/17 pure fruit, juicy, fresh 
***(*) Jeanne Gaillard La Relève   2022-23 11/17 cosy richness, rounded 
***(*) Pierre Gaillard Clos de Cuminaille 2022-23 11/17 tasty, spiced, clean 
***(*) Xavier Gérard Le Blanchard   2024-25 11/17 sweet, fleshy, musky, static 
***(*) Roland Grangier Côte Granits   2023-24 11/17 modern, agreeable fruit, oak 
***(*) Dom de l’Iserand Sabots de Coppi 2023-24 02/18 upbeat fruit, fresh, natural
***(*) Cath & Pascal Jamet Greenette 2027-28 12/18 muscle, character, fresh, persistence
***(*) Pascal Jamet Vignoble Tour d’Arras 2022-23 11/17 natural, unforced, savoury 
***(*) Domaine Bastien Jolivet L’Instinct 2026-28 11/18 nicely tuned, hand made, genuine
***(*) François Merlin Les Grands Ducs   2025-26 03/18 crisp fruit; crunch, naked 
***(*) Domaine Monier-Perréol Tradition 2026-27 11/17 tasty, saline, smoke, rigour 
***(*) Stéphane Ogier Le Passage   2028-29 11/17 tasty, abundant fruit, upbeat 
***(*) Anthony Paret Les Larmes du Père 2023-24 11/17 instant fruit, supple, plump 
***(*) Anthony Paret 420 Nuits   2030-32 11/17

suave; fruit finesse

***(*) Vincent Paris Les Côtes   2020-21 11/17 free fruit, crisp tannin 
***(*) André Perret   2024 07/17 joli depth, good drinking  
***(*) Cave Pinheiro Les Machons 2026-27 12/18 kind fruit; authentic, relaxed
***(*) Domaine des Remizières   2024-26 11/17 plush content, obvious oak 
***(*) Domaine Richard Mêverie   2025-26 11/17 sumptuous, fleshy, full, obvious 
***(*) Jean-Baptiste Souillard   2022 11/17 supple, genuine, w.o.w. 
***(*) J-Baptiste Souillard Bergeron   2027-29 11/17 muscular, raw, thorough 
***(*) J-Baptiste Souillard L’Echirol   2023-24 11/17 soft gras, accurate fruit
***(*) Vins de Vienne Lieu-Dit Le Biez   2025-26 11/17 fresh, elegant, funky, deep 
***(*) Alain Voge Les Côtes     2023-24 11/17 black fruit, dark tannin 
*** Aléofane  2024-25 11/17 tight-knit, rugged, compressed 
*** Dom Emmanuel Barou terra Nostra 2024-25 12/18 bit enforced via new oak, touch floral
*** Dom Blachon Hommage Roger B 2023-24 12/18 Mauves red fruits, assertive close
*** Christophe Blanc Enfetchores 2026-27 12/18 tight, wiry fruit, floral New Wave
*** Christophe Blanc Les Chênes 2023-24 12/18 light, pared back, smoky, tight
*** Dom du Chât Vieux Les Rivoires 2022 12/18 grainy fruit, unforced, bit rustic
*** Pierre Dulaut 2022-23 12/18 pretty fruit, aromatic, genuine
*** Ferme Sept Lunes Premier Quartier 2024-25 02/19 muddy nose; refined juice, gd ping
*** Pierre Gaillard Les Pierres   2024-25 11/17 New Wave, spare, cool  
*** Paul Jaboulet Aîné Grand Pompée 2031-33 12/18 polished, stewed, mainstream
*** J-François Jacouton Pierres d’Isserand  2023 11/17 raw, mineral, can expand 
*** Jeantet-Laurent Les Échalas à Jo 2026-28 12/18 soft gras, cool fruit, linear
*** Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne   2025-26 03/18 smooth texture, restraint, light 
*** Domaine des Martinelles 2030-32 11/18 fine fruit, aromatic, not expressive
*** Gabriel Meffre Saint-Etienne   2023-24 11/17 savoury, fleshy, country style 
*** François Merlin   2023-24 03/18 cool fruits, direct, linear 
*** Domaine Johann Michel  2025 03/18 soft, toned down, agreeable 
*** Didier Morion Lléandre 2024-25 12/18 trad, solid quality, country wine
*** Cave Pinheiro 2023-24 12/18 clear, appealing; fine tannins
*** Stéphane Rousset   2022 11/17 savoury, sweet, succulent, open
**(*) Cave Saint-Désirat Tradition 2021 11/17 perlant, near Vin Nature
**(*) Pierre Gaillard 2023-24 11/17 vegetal, rather thin, time
**(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus 2023-24 11/17 fleshy, oaked, bumpy ride
**(*) Ogier Baligant   2023-24 11/17 taut, bit stretched, fresh  
**(*) Domaine Pradelle   2023-24 11/17 vegetal, spiced, bit clumsy  
**(*) Domaine de la Ville Rouge Potier 2024-25 11/18 disparate, vegetal, dry notes
** Domaine Blachon Prestige 2021 12/18 dry palate
** Domaine Blachon Tradition 2020 12/18 dark fruit, furry tannins, dry end
** J. Denuzière   2022-23 11/17 naked, unpolished, bit dry  
         

 

5. 2016 CONDRIEU

DOMAINE CLOS DE LA BONNETTE: AUTHENTIC, ORGANIC AND GENUINE CONDRIEU

2016 is generally an enjoyable, good drinking vintage for CONDRIEU. It stands like a beacon of freshness between two heavyweight, literally, years - 2015 and 2017. However, there are too many “quite nice” wines that cover the range between *** and ***(*); I wish that some of these were capable of rising to **** level, which would be the case if they held greater depth and length. So it’s a good, sometimes very good vintage.

RIPENING CAME LATE

It was a late ripening year, with the degree at times hard won. The quality of the harvest was high. As FRANÇOIS MERLIN observed: “I harvested on 29 September, nine days later than usual; there was a good level of ripeness, the wines are fresh, the average degree of 13.5° reasonable. Compare that with 2017 where the average degree is 15°, with residual sugars, and 2015 when it was 15.5°, and we harvested the 7 or 8 September.”

CHRISTINE VERNAY of DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY gave this take on the year: “we had a very wet spring, and life was difficult during the year. We reached a level of some drought in August and early September. It has been the latest ripening year I have known, similar to 2013; ripening came along gradually. It’s an attractive year, both for reds and whites – the CONDRIEUs are especially aromatic.

I would term it a beau year, which I like. Whereas 2015 was opulent, 2016 lies between 2014 and 2015. It is like the shape of a ball, and has more length than those. There are typical VIOGNIER aromas such as apricot. Alcohol levels are on the mark, lower and better than 2015. The fruits are very acidulés in style [small, live fruits].”

A TRICKY EARLY SEASON

LIONEL FAURY also pointed out the early difficulties of the growing season: “it’s a very good year,” he related, “after a complicated start to the growing season, marked by regular rainfalls, even if they weren’t abundant. Flowering went well. There was quite a lot of mildew, but it was mostly on the leaves, not the bunches, helped by the North Wind cleaning them. The summer was very hot and very dry, so by harvest time we had some drought stress.”

ETIENNE BEGUIN, cellar master at DOMAINE RÉMI NIÉRO, saw things come good eventually: “we harvested in October, at 14° - against 7 September in 2017, when the degree was already 14° to 14.5°,” he related. “There was a lot of crop early on – you didn’t want to seek high ripeness, but in the end we were at a pH of 3.5, the degree 14°+, and there was balance.”

YVES GANGLOFF was very happy with the state of his harvest: “the crop was very healthy, with a danger of mildew at the end. There was no really formal sorting or discarding. Extreme ripeness was achieved. We started the harvest on 4 October, and ended on 8 October, bringing in 44 hl/ha – against 42 hl/ha in 2015 and 40 hl/ha in 2014. The crop was super, and reminds me of the 1980s – the crop ripe, but at 13.5° - for the last ten years it has been 14.5° to 15°.

SEPTEMBER RAIN VERY HELPFUL

Ripening was blocked in early September – rain never really came, but the 10-15 mm on 9-10 September helped its freshness. The bunches were compact. It’s a year that speaks, and reminds me of the 1980s Condrieus, with the cut and tension in them. Drink it from 2019.”

Freshness in the wines is a recurring feature of 2016; as GAETAN LAFOY of DOMAINE LAFOY recounted: “2016 is very good, as opposed to 2015 and 2017 – it was a less hot year with a bit more yield, which helped to lower the degree and bring acidity, a winning freshness.”

LIONEL FAURY gave a similar report: “the wines are fresh, elegant, aromatic, have very delicate airs similar to 2014, with floral tones. The crop was bigger than usual – in fact, it was the first year I had a full yield. The wines have more finesse than 2015.”

2016 AHEAD OF BOTH 2014 AND 2015 FOR YVES CUILLERON

YVES CUILLERON’s touch with VIOGNIER is exemplary, and he told me: “2016 has better balance and is more fresh than 2015, with good yields, and not too much alcohol. The grapes were beau, well ripened. There is less power than 2015, which was excessive on that front. I also think it’s a bit better than 2014 – both vintages were balanced, but the grapes were in better shape in 2016, with no sorting required.”

ANDRÉ PERRET is another maestro with VIOGNIER: “it’s a super year – in the end,” he stated. “June was difficult with mildew, then it was very fine from July onwards. It was very hot, but not canicule (extreme heat) – temperatures were in the 30s°C, and luckily, nights weren’t hot. We got lucky, with maximum maturity.

ONE OF MY BEST SINCE 1983: ANDRÉ PERRET

2016 is better balanced than 2015 – it’s one of my best since I started in 1983. I started the harvest on CHÉRY the 19 September, then paused for four days, and ended on 3 October. The 1930s VIOGNIER on CHÉRY was in great form. 2016 Condrieu is a bit like 2012, the acidity not very high. It’s more concentrated than 2012, but we kept freshness by not taking leaves off the canopy, and also by not doing a skin maceration – achieving freshness was the key this year. My CHANSON and CHÉRY went up by 5-6% between 2014 and 2015.”

STÉPHANE OGIER was not alone in being happy with the yield and the freshness: “2016 was a full yield at 44 hl/ha, by contrast to 2017,” he informed me; “they are wines that hold super balance, their degree not even 12.5°, their freshness and directness making you want to drink them. I let the malos complete, unlike the heavier 2017 and most of the 2015s.”

JULIEN BARGE has been more interested in white wines than his dad GILLES, and he commented on the nature of the vintage: “it was a bit of a crazy year; the yield was good. It’s a cool year, low degree, one that lacked a bit of sun. It’s more on VIOGNIER than CONDRIEU for me.”

STÉPHANE MONTEZ, DOMAINE DU MONTEILLET, extended his praise of 2016 across the white wine range chez lui: “2016 is a top year for whites. Something that is now helping CONDRIEU is that a lot of vines were planted in the 1980s until around eight years ago. Now a lot of the available land has been planted. It’s good that the vineyards are maturing, and helping minerality in the wines.”

At the top level, I find 2016 a stimulating vintage, not an open book, with good different components making it up. The leading wines have impressive length, good carry. Finesse and flair are present in the leaders – I signal the ****(*) GUIGAL LA DORIANE, which can be an extreme wine in some of the big scale vintages, while the ****(*) YVES GANGLOFF and both the ****(*) ANDRÉ PERRET CHÉRY and the ****(*) M CHAPOUTIER COTEAU DE CHÉRY also hit the mark very successfully: the CHÉRY success indicates that good terroir spoke clearly this year, with no masking from the summer conditions.

A recent domaine that deserves praise on two counts is the DOMAINE CLOS DE LA BONNETTE of ISABELLE GUILLER. Its vineyards are at CONDRIEU, notably on the CÔTE BONNETTE [RENÉ ROSTAING, YVES GANGLOFF, DOMAINE MOUTON also there]. ISABELLE works organically, which is not a given on these slip sliding slopes and terraces, where the easy and short-term option is to use herbicides, including Round Up, and then put on compost.

Managing the soils with a pick axe or rudimentary pulley system denotes a major commitment and belief in working with the environment. PRESIDENT MACRON has stated that FRANCE should ban the use of Round Up by 2021, ahead of any EU directive [2023 generally]; whether it goes through is another matter, but it will have some of the sprayers feeling uneasy, and about time, too.

The DOMAINE CLOS DE LA BONNETTE has produced **** wines in 2015 and 2016, and is a name to note for genuine wines, with character. It can be done.

If you are a fan of CONDRIEU, then 2016 should be bought, since finding wines of good balance in 2017 will be complicated.

LEADING CONDRIEU 2016s

****(*) M Chapoutier Coteau de Chéry 2023-24 11/17 finely stylish, subtle, lovely
****(*) Yves Gangloff 2029-31 11/17 crisp, grippy, great finesse
****(*) E Guigal La Doriane 2027-29 11/17 flair, sensaround, coolness
****(*) François Merlin Jeanraude 2025-26 03/18 ample depth, manly, long
****(*) Monteillet S Montez La Grillette 2029-30 03/18 savoury, rich, gd authority
****(*) Rémi Niéro Héritage 2024-25 02/18 good central gras, fresh, refined
****(*) Stéphane Ogier VV Jacques Vernay 2028-30 11/17 well defined, inherent strength
****(*) Anthony Paret Lys de Volan 2026-28 11/17 thorough, textured, cool, spiced
****(*) André Perret Chéry 2025-26 07/17 stylish gras; silken, long
**** Domaine Barge La Solarie   2024-25 03/18 v enjoyable, charming, gentle 
**** Dom P&C Bonnefond Côte Châtillon  2023-24 03/18 dainty, refined, mineral, STGT 
**** Domaine de Bonserine   2022 07/17 tight, good grip, length 
**** Aurélien Chatagnier   2023 01/18 nourishing, natural, good depth 
**** Clos de la Bonnette Légenda Bonnetta  2022 03/18 pliant gras; expressive, genuine 
**** Clos de la Bonnette Roches d’Arbuel   2025-26 03/18 grounded, deft, depth, STGT  
**** Xavier Gérard Côte Châtillon   2023-25 12/17 muscle, thick gras, STGT  
**** Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Aux Ruses   2022 11/17 rich, genuine, thorough 
**** François Merlin Les Terroirs   2022 03/18 expressive, deft, clear, balanced 
**** Dom Monteillet S Montez Candice   2029-31 03/18 very likeable, good grip 
**** Dom du Monteillet S Montez Chanson   2026-27 03/18 manly, rich, firm, long 
**** Monteillet S Montez Grndes Chaillées 2025-26 03/18 interesting, varied, time 
**** Rémi Niéro Chéry  2025-26 02/18 stylish, refined, spice, mineral
**** Stéphane Ogier Combe de Malleval 2022 11/17 fleshy, enjoyable, elegant 
**** Anthony Paret Céps du Nébadon   2022-23 11/17 cosy gras, stylish, tasty 
**** André Perret Clos Chanson    2024-25 07/17 restraint, but well packed 
***(*) Cave Saint-Désirat 2023-24 02/18 full, firm, heart, depth
***(*) Clusel-Roch Verchery   2022 02/18 neat, fragrant, naked, true  
***(*) Ferraton Les Mandouls   2022-23 01/18 stylish gras, elegant, steady 
***(*) André François La Maladière   2021 03/18 good style, authenticity, lucid 
***(*) Xavier Gérard L'Arbuel 2023-24 12/18 soft, spiced, calm, nicely true 
***(*) Domaine Jean-Michel Gérin La Loye   2024 11/17 tasty, still compact 
***(*) E Guigal   2024-25 11/17 fat, creamy, subdued 
***(*) Domaine Jamet Vernillon   2021-22 11/17

good style, charm, restraint

***(*) Maison Les Alexandrins   2022 03/18 easy, trim, bit New Wave
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus 2022 03/18 fine, stylish, detail, clarity
***(*) Rémi Niéro Les Ravines  2023 02/18 quietly muscular, solid, has cut
***(*) André Perret   2022 07/17 charming, fine, elegant  
***(*) Christophe Pichon Caresse   2023 03/18 suave content, squeezy 
***(*) Domaine Richard l'Amaraze   2020 11/17 rich, fat; sauced dishes  
***(*) Domaine Vallet Rouelle-Midi   2021-22 01/18 gd ensemble, balance, delicacy 
***(*) Dom Grges Vernay Terrasses Empire  2021 07/17

elegant gras, dainty, fresh

***(*) Vidal-Fleury   2021 03/18 juicy gras, gentle, neat 
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne La Chambée   2021 03/18  fine, graceful, stylish
***(*) Les Vins de Vienne Jeanraude 2025-26 03/18 meaty, packed, dense, time 
*** Christophe Blanc Les Vallins 2022 12/18 fresh nerve, New Wave, apero
*** M Chapoutier Invitare   2021 02/18 suave elegance, innocuous
*** Delas Clos Boucher   2022 11/17 suave texture, tame wine  
*** Dom Jean-Michel Gérin Les Eguets  2022-23 11/17 fat, succulent, obvious 
*** Laudun Chusclan Vignerons Corrèges  2019 11/17 soft n’easy, tidy 
*** Didier Morion Vent d'Anges 2022 12/18 sturdy, structured, firm end
*** Ogier Antoine Ogier Côte Chéry 2022-23 02/18 traditional fat, power; bit short
*** Maison Christophe Pichon   2021 03/18 direct, buoyant, straightforward  
**(*) Jeantet Laurent Le Secret de Pline 2023 12/18 cool, angular, lacks ripeness


6. 2016 CROZES-HERMITAGE RED

The star of the show at CROZES-HERMITAGE in 2016 is the northern sector, with some marvellous, high pedigree wines drawing from the granite and loess soils to be found in the villages of CROZES-HERMITAGE, SERVES-SUR-RHÔNE, GERVANS and ÉRÔME. They sparkle with terrific fruit quality, and run along excellent fresh lines, and should form part of any true RHÔNE enthusiast’s cellar.

Names such as ROUSSET, FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE, M CHAPOUTIER for their LES VARONNIERS, and the traditional NICOLAS FAYOLLE should all be sought, therefore. The CAVE DE TAIN also introduced a brace of good northern sector wines this year for the first time, the **** NORD, taken from vineyards at TAIN, GERVANS and CROZES-HERMITAGE, and the ***(*) GERVANS VITRINE.

Elsewhere, quality is more variable; across the southern sector there are some wines that are banal, low on interest. Such wines struggle for mid-palate depth, and lack cohesion. I got the impression that merchants buying outside wine didn’t have a great selection this year, so these sources can entail modest wines that will be worth swerving if you are looking for repsectable, keenly priced wines.

Where the southern sector is good, it’s ebullient, full of beans, with plenty of immediate fruit to enjoy. The top notchers are stylish and well filled, ****(*) wines such as the DELAS DOMAINE DES GRANDS CHEMINS and the also ****(*) FERRATION LE GRAND COURTIL, along with a couple of real beauties from LES VINS DE VIENNE, whose range did very well in 2016 – their ****(*) AMPHORE D’ARGENT (all the more commendable since it’s their classic cuvée) and their ****(*) LES PALIGNONS.

A weather and growing season check was given to me by SÉBASTIEN CHEVROL of DOMAINE MICHELAS ST JEMMS, where quality has been steadily rising over the past six years or so; the domaine stands on the western edge of MERCUROL, on LES CHASSIS. “The year was all over the place, not constant,” he related. “The winter was mild, and spring brought a lot of rain. Up until the end of June we had rain and cold weather. By early July we had had a lot of mildew in May and June, but not too much oïdium.

From mid-July the rains backed off. So the year started as a catastrophe, with the vineyard late to ripen. We started to catch up after the fine late summer weather, but by early September, with no recent rain at all, we had drought stress. The early September rain unblocked the vines, and we ended up starting to harvest the CROZES white on 16 September, and the SYRAH on 19 September.

To give you an idea, our CROZES ROUSSANNE we harvested on 29 August in 2015, and on 24 September in 2016. For the reds, we finished CORNAS on 1 October, HERMITAGE on 8 October and SAINT-JOSEPH on 10 October. Vinifications went off rapidly.”

DAVID REYNAUD, the talented owner of the biodynamic DOMAINE LES BRUYÈRES at BEAUMONT-MONTEUX gave this rundown: “the spring was early but complicated, with big mildew pressure. From early August the weather became good, and September was super. We harvested from 25 September until 5 October – it was a late year, but the yield was good, 45 hl/ha, against 36 hl/ha in 2017. It’s a very joli year, quite fine, on freshness, spice and fine tannins.”

YANN CHAVE’s vineyards are mainly at MERCUROL and PONT DE L’ISÈRE, the southernmost commune, also described the early travails: “at the end of June it was a catastrophe, pressure of mildew, a terrible outlook. At the end of June we were staring at a 2008 or 2002. But then July was OK, with dry weather that lasted until 20-25 October [when it rained a lot], while August was hot.

By the end of August, the veraison (grapes changing colour) was uneven, and there was even some drought stress after it had been so wet earlier in the year. September was exceptional, with the North wind following the mid-September rain, and drying the bunches well. The harvest was healthy by the end, even if it resulted in being a late harvest. We had 30 mm (1.2 inches) of rain between 15 and 20 September, which released the vines. We ended on Friday 7 October. We were at 12.9° to 13.4°.

At my most optimistic 2016 is like 2012, at my most pessimistic it is like 2011. Obviously, it’s not up to 2015 – it holds less matter than both 2015 and 2017, is more fine than those two vintages. The reds are supple, clear and crisp, have colour, fine tannins, will please and drink easily. Yields were normal, 40 to 45 hl/ha.”

For a view from the northern, often granite sector which was so successful, STÉPHANE ROUSSET of DOMAINE ROUSSET recounted: “ripening took time, and we harvested quite late. At first it was a fresh, rainy summer and more work than usual was needed on the vineyard – dropping leaves, for instance. We ended the harvest in October. 2016 sits between two hot vintages, and gives finesse, elegance. There is a belle freshness, more than usual, and the tension from the granite came through. We had a full yield, 45 hl/ha, with 2017 not far off the same quantity.” His LES PICAUDIÈRES from perhaps the best lieu-dit in all of CROZES-HERMITAGE was a noble ***** wine this year, a real winner.

Across the range of over 90 2016s that I have tasted here and there, I received the feeling that this was not always an easy vintage, with few outstanding wines. It often comes across as a year for restaurant or bistrot drinking, toot, toot. There are quite a few perfumed wines.

Among the southern sector wines of ***(*) or better, there is often a good, natural freshness and verve. It is a northern rather than southern vintage in shape and make-up.

Among domaines to note this year, I would signal the organic DOMAINE LES 4 VENTS of sisters LUCIE and NANCY FOUREL, formerly called the DOMAINE DE LUCIE before NANCY joined her sister. Their three wines were headed by the ****(*) SAINT JAIMES, backed by the **** DOMAINE LES 4 VENTS and the **** LES PITCHOUNETTES, wines from MERCUROL and LES CHASSIS. The sisters make wines that are there to be drunk and enjoyed, without fanfare, so their drinking window is often up to around six years.

I would also put in a good word for the low profile DOMAINE GAYLORD MACHON based at BEAUMONT-MONTEUX. Started in 2011 after being at the CAVE DE TAIN, quality has been rising recently on their staple cuvée, the GHANY, which this year was a **** wine. A new cuvée, the ***(*)  LHONY, held stylish black fruit, even if it was rather rigid and encased by oaking.

On a stylistic note, I have to lament a couple of NEW WAVE reds which have been made to express restraint, tension, to be “Burgundian”, perhaps. On the one hand, there is the ****(*) FAYOLLE FILS & FILLE LES CORNIRETS VIEILLES VIGNES – smoke, freshness, blood, truth – taken from a small plot of 1940s SYRAH on fine granite, brown loess soils.

On the other come two wines that have to be described as “trendy”, fashion victims. M CHAPOUTIER have track form in this regard, more often on their whites, but it’s also disappointing that DAVID REYNAUD has gone down this path with his ***(*) GEORGES VIGNES AUTHENTIQUES, which is aromatic, fine but rather stripped back. The ***(*) CHAPOUTIER LES MEYSONNIERS is not one of their special cuvées, one up from the merchant [purchased wine and crop] PETITE RUCHE; it is pared back, direct and tight, not fleshy.

For the most part, 2016 is a vintage to get on and drink at CROZES. The fullest wines will live for 10 to 12 years.

LEADING CROZES-HERMITAGE RED 2016s

***** Stéphane Rousset Les Picaudières 2027-29 11/17 cool elegance, noble, STGT
****(*) Domaine Combier Clos des Grives 2028-30 03/18 sensuous, stylish, detailed, charm
****(*) Delas Domaine des Grands Chemins 2027-28 11/17 stylish, graceful, balanced
****(*) Fayolle Fils & Fille Clos Les Cornirets 2025-27 11/17 smoke, freshness, blood, v true
****(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Le Grand Courtil 2028-30 11/17 stylish, tasty, mini Hermitage
****(*) Domaine Alain Graillot La Guiraude 2036-38 12/18 gd heart, layered content, long
****(*) Dom P & V Jaboulet Nouvelère 2026-28 11/17 robust, fluid, genuine, impressive
****(*) Domaine Les 4 Vents Saint Jaimes 2022-23 11/17 energetic; sparky fruit, vivacity
****(*) Les Vins de Vienne Amphore d’Argent 2021-22 11/17 classy fruit, serene, convincing
****(*) Les Vins de Vienne Les Palignons 2024-25 11/17 gras depth, great length
**** Aléofane  2021-22 11/17 plump, perfumed, bounteous 
**** Domaine Belle Cuvée Louis Belle   2024-26 11/17 richness, oak, southern notes 
**** Cave de Clairmont Classique   2020-21 11/17 bounding fruit, cool, w.o.w.  
**** Cave de Tain Nord   2027-29 11/17 nice weight, interest, lift 
**** M Chapoutier Les Varonniers   2025-27 11/17 stylish, precise, long, oaked 
**** Yann Chave   2023-24 11/17 subtle, understated; fine fruit 
**** Yann Chave Le Rouvre   2022-24 11/17 inky, oily, pedigree, oak 
**** Domaine Les Chenêts   2024-25 11/17 mineral, rockiness, layered 
**** Dom du Colombier Cuvée Gaby   2023-24 11/17 good juice, poise, purity 
**** Dard & Ribo Les Bâties 2028-29 11/18 v fine fruit, dentelle, aromatic
**** Emmanuel Darnaud Au Fil du Temps  2023-24 11/17 lissom, harmony, pedigree 
**** Emmanuel Darnaud Les Trois Chênes  2023-24 11/17 stylish, sleek, full 
**** Olivier Dumaine La Croix du Verre   2024-25 11/17 thorough, guarded, serious, time 
**** Fayolle Fils & Fille Les Pontaix    2022-23 11/17 detailed fruit, energy, interest 
**** J-Claude et Nicolas Fayolle Nicolas 2024-26 11/17 bosky, dark, lusty, trad  
**** J-Claude et Nicolas Fayolle Rochette 2022-23 11/17 stylish fruit, energy, length 
**** Laurent & Céline Fayolle Sens   2023-24 11/17 stylish fruit, cool, sparky 
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Pichères   2025-26 11/17 juicy, fresh, en finesse 
**** Domaine Gaylord Machon Ghany    2021-22 11/17 grilled, meaty, salt freshness 
**** Domaine Alain Graillot   2034-36 12/18 high interest, structure, style 
**** Domaine Laurent Habrard Valerie   2021 11/17 perfumed, soft, neat, likeable 
**** Dom des Hauts Châssis Les Châssis  2021-22 11/17 sweet, musky, voluptuous  
**** Dom des Hauts Châssis Les Galets   2021-22 11/17 sensuous, jolly; rolling gras 
**** Domaine des Lises 2027-29 12/18 fruit sparkle, floral, very joli
**** Domaine des Lises Vignes Franches 2029-31 12/18 rocking wine, cool, interesting
**** Domaine Melody Friandise   2023-24 11/17 weighted, robust, scale, table 
**** Domaine Melody Premier Regard   2022-24 11/17 stylish, elegant, quality juice 
**** Dom Michelas St Jemms Chasselière  2024-25 11/17 tight, crunchy, oaking, time 
**** Dom Michelas St Jemms Signature   2022-23 11/17 fruit filled, broad, vigorous
**** Domaine Les 4 Vents   2022 11/17 fine richness, stylish, class, STGT
**** Dom Les 4 Vents Les Pitchounettes   2023-24 11/17 firm, wide, plenty, good flow 
**** Dom des Remizières Christophe    2023-24 11/17 clear, stylish, polished, flair  
**** David Reynaud Les Croix V Vignes 2026-27 12/18 dashing fruit, balance, perfume
**** Stéphane Rousset   2025-27 11/17 sinew, freshness, true Crozes N
**** Jean-Baptiste Souillard Les Bâties   2026-27 11/17 floral, soft, style, balance 
**** Dom de la Ville Rouge Paul 2029-31 11/18 tasty, smooth, fresh, approachable
**** Dom de la Ville Rouge Terre d’Eclat   2022-23 11/17 wholesome, gd style, content 
**** Vins de Vienne Lieu-Dit Les Grappiats 2023-24 11/17 fleshy content, wholesome, solid 
***(*) Domaine Les Alexandrins 2025-26 03/18 good heart, richness; character
***(*) Alleno & Chapoutier Guer Van   2021-22 11/17 tarry, fresh, drinkable  
***(*) Cave de Tain Gervans Vitrine   2026-27 11/17 delicate rose richness, mineral 
***(*) Cave de Tain Les Hauts du Fief  2021-22 11/17 enjoyable richness 
***(*) Cave de Tain Pialoux   2023-24 11/17 sleek, generous, STGT  
***(*) Cave de Tain Saviaux   2024-25 11/17 steady weight, dark, detail  
***(*) Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles   2022-23 11/17 neat, clarity, freshness  
***(*) Domaine Breyton Tradition 2021 12/18 style, lucid; main card is purity
***(*) Domaine Les Bruyères Georges   2022-23 02/18 aromatic, fine, clear, N Wave 
***(*) Julien Cecillon Les Marguerites   2022-23 11/17 sweet, polished, perfumed, detail 
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Meysonniers 2023-24 11/17 tight, cool, direct, New Wave  
***(*) Domaine du Colombier   2021 11/17 easy, graceful, straightforward 
***(*) Domaine Combier   2020-21 11/17 gentle perfume, soft, genuine  
***(*) Laurent Combier Cap Nord 2024-25 03/18 tasty, fine, elegant, iodine
***(*) Domaine Courbis Au Beau Séjour   2021 11/17 bright, intense fruit, iron 
***(*) Emmanuel Darnaud Mise en Bouche 2021 11/17 perfumed, savoury, lithe  
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Calendes   2022-23 11/17 tender, detailed, aromatic 
***(*) Domaine Jeanne Gailllard   2021 11/17 concentrated juice, free drink 
***(*) Domaine Gaylord Machon Lhony  2023 11/17 stylish fruit, firm, oaked 
***(*) Laurent Habrard Un Vigneron Heureux 2021 11/17 sweet, plump, fat, obvious    
***(*) Dom des Hauts Châssis Esquisse   2021 11/17 perfumed, musky, late saltiness  
***(*) Dom P & V Jaboulet Cuvée Clémence 2023-24 11/17 lazy elegance, pure ease  
***(*) Marrenon Les Belles Échappées   2021 11/17 cosy gras, agreeable length 
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Saint-Pierre   2022-23 11/17 lively, drinkable, neat richness  
***(*) Domaine Melody Etoile Noire   2022-23 11/17 savoury, supple 
***(*) Michelas St Jemms Fleur de Syrahne  2023-24 11/17 copious, obvious, sweet, perfume 
***(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d’Arce 2024-25 11/17 tasty beat, modern, oaking 
***(*) Etienne Pochon   2021 11/17 neat richness, lucid, free 
***(*) E Pochon Château Curson   2024-25 11/17 plenty body, soaked, damp  
***(*) Domaine des Remizières Particulière   2021 11/17 pure, well presented, bonny 
***(*) Marc Sorrel   2022-23 11/17 enjoyable, clear, w.o.w.  
***(*) Jean-Baptiste Souillard   2026-27 11/17 tasty juice, tension, rocky 
***(*) J-Baptiste Souillard Les Habrards   2027-28 11/17 firm, good mass, time 
*** Maison Les Alexandrins 2022-23 03/18 tender fruit, perfectly agreeable
*** Guillaume Belle   2022-23 11/17 crunchy, smoky, bit ponderous 
*** Louis Bernard   2022-23 11/17 sleek fruit, oak varnish  
*** Domaine Breyton Fût de Chêne 2022 12/18 gd quality fruit with an oak mask
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2020 11/17 neat fruits, low declaration 
*** Cave de Tain Grappiat   2019 11/17

easy texture, mild

*** Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2025-27 11/17 stewed fruits, thick 
*** Laurent Combier   2022 11/17 smoky, dark, bit taut  
*** J. Denuzière Les Terrasses 2020-21 11/17 clear, low-key 
*** Ferraton Père & Fils La Matinière   2020-21 11/17 light, smooth, quaffing wine 
*** Dom Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet   2023-24 11/17 suave, dark, upbeat, dry end 
*** Domaine Jean-Claude Marsanne 2022 03/18 simple, fragrant, not deep
*** Domaine des Martinelles   2024-25 11/18 quiet, elegant, lacks stuffing
*** Dom des Martinelles Les Coteaux 2026-28 11/18 firm core, aromatic, but dips in it
*** Domaine Mucyn Les Entrecoeurs   2021 11/17 spice, perfume, bit hollow 
*** Ogier Les Paillanches   2022-23 11/17 thickness, oak, time  
*** Domaine Pradelle   2020 11/17

tasty, juicy, bit tame

*** Domaine Pradelle Courbis   2022-23 11/17 chunky, solid, bit plain  
*** Vidal-Fleury   2022-23 11/17 cool, quiet, orderly  
*** Dom de la Ville Rouge Inspiration   2021 11/17 plump, fatness, workmanlike  
**(*) Romaine Duvernay   2020 11/17 easy content, brief, bitter 
**(*) equis equinoxe   2020 11/17 loose delivery, functional  
**(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2022-23 11/17 mainstream, oak, modest  
** Dom Pradelle Les Hirondelles   2021 11/17 bitter, drifts, escapist 
         

 

7. 2016 HERMITAGE RED

VIEW FROM L'HERMITE DOWN TOWARDS LE MÉAL, THE HERMITAGE ZONES BADLY HIT BY THE APRIL 2016 HAIL. NOTE THE SWEEP OF THE RHÔNE DOWN TO CRUSSOL, THE SOUTHERNMOST PART OF THE SAINT-JOSEPH APPELLATION

I rate 2016 at HERMITAGE as a good vintage, but not a stunning one. For some, the dye was cast early in the year when, on 17 April, 2016, a band of hail swept across the upper half of the hill, sticking to it almost as glue, and ravaging the climats of L’HERMITE, notably, along with LE MÉAL, LES ROCOULES and LES MURETS, the latter two best known for their white variety vineyards.

There was no come back from this, so the result was lowered yields, but also bumpy quality if some of the scarred vines were left to produce as per normal. Life was rendered complicated from an early stage, but it’s worth remembering that while this hail was pretty severe, life was even worse for growers across the north of France who suffered catastrophic frost during April, 2016.

APRIL HAIL LEFT A BIG SCAR

JACQUES DESVERNOIS, the winemaker at PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ recounted: “we had 17 April hail on L’HERMITE, LE MÉAL and above all on LES ROCOULES, LES MURETS also [the latter two especially noted for their white quality]. The high parts of the hill were hit. Half the crop was lost on these sites. The vine restarted, but without bunches. Ten days after the hail, the vines hadn’t budged. We will have just 20% of the usual crop from LES ROCOULES.”

DAMIEN BRISSET, who has been driving quality forward at FERRATON PÈRE & FILS gave this summary of the year in the vineyard: “it was a very summery year, a lot of sun, with belle heat, sometimes high around 35°C in July and at the end of August, with 33°C in early September also.

A LATE HARVEST

So it was a long, hot summer from the end of June until mid-September. Despite that, it was a late harvest, with all our HERMITAGE picked in October. Frankly, it was hard to understand why it was so late. The reds are very well coloured, have good structure, marked acidity. Fresh nights from mid-September and cooler and cooler weather after that were a help. There is bit more crop generally across our vineyards than in 2015, except for HERMITAGE, where we were hit by the hail on 17 April: we lost 65% of our own FERRATON HERMITAGE crop.”

An extended ripening season can often translate into wines that need time to come along and to fuse. This may be the case for the 2016s. There is a general signature of dark robes, and harmony is the watchword for the best of them.

PROFILE OF THE WINES

There is sound depth across the wines, but they aren’t real attention grabbers. I think they were also in the early stages of transition after a year and a bit. Tannins are ripe, and fit in well over pretty much the whole range. Bouquets can show dampness, some evolution already. It is possible that they can expand with time, but for crystalline qualities, 2016 at CÔTE-RÔTIE is more interesting than HERMITAGE.

Regarding the work of the growers in their blending, however, I feel that they had some latitude this year to play with nuance in the wines. Such artistry wasn't so much on the agenda in 2015, when the main focus had to be to achieve balance from the extremely ripe, sometimes sun-baked crop.

MÉAL DID WELL

Across the climats, I would signal that MÉAL, despite receiving hail high up, has performed well for its SYRAH. It provides bingo heart where applicable, and, given the vintage profile, a moderated elegance comes through. The ***** FERRATON LE MÉAL was a good example of this, while the **** M CHAPOUTIER LE MÉAL isn’t as big and dense as it can be, delivering a resolute gras richness with some swish.

MÉAL COMPARED TO L'HERMITE

At the CAVE DE TAIN, I tasted their 2016 MÉAL and 2016 L’HERMITE as climat-specific wines, prior to their blending into the GAMBERT DE LOCHE HERMITAGE red. This illustrated the difference this year between the two climats:

2016 CAVE DE TAIN LE MÉAL RED: ****(*) (casks) sturdy dark red. The bouquet is broad, well-filled, even packed, with a cluster of berry fruits, backed by a meaty depth. The palate has a surging style, delivers rolling waves of red fruits with a thick juice at their centre, continues well and evenly into the close. There is good dash in this, a convincing, nicely abundant and pretty sustained Méal. From 2021. 2033-35 Nov 2017

CAVE DE TAIN L’HERMITE RED: ***(*) (casks) dark red, full robe. There is an oily intensity on the nose, sizzled bacon, bright, nicely rich cooked red fruits, oaking behind. The palate displays attractive, fluid red-fruited content, stylish tannins. It ends just a little parched, which needs sorting out with time. There is a baked note on the aftertaste, also. It has an urge to show a musky, rose hip presence, a trim detail from that. From mid-2020, not before. 2032-34 Nov 2017

XAVIER FROUIN, cellarmaster at the CAVE DE TAIN, felt that the “terroir expression was clear this year, so differences come through.”

LES BESSARDS: AN INTERESTING PINOT NOIR CONNECTION

LES BESSARDS was interesting this year, the most markedly granite climat of them all, apart from LES GRANDES VIGNES (more westerly facing, high up) and VAROGNE (very cool, windswept, faces CROZES-HERMITAGE, lesser climat). Both the BERNARD FAURIE BESSARDS - a cuvée that BERNARD introduced in 2015 - and the CHAPOUTIER LE PAVILLON showed PINOT NOIR associations. The phrase "Ça Pinote" turns up in some of my tastings with vignerons, denoting an elegance and indeed a genuine connection to the PINOT being manifested. This never occurs in the beefiest vintages.

DODGING THE HAIL PAID OFF

Another derivative of the hail band is that vineyards to the west of where it first hit on L’HERMITELES BESSARDS and LES GRANDES VIGNES – did well, and vineyards below its band – LES GREFFIEUX, LES DIOGNIÈRES – also performed well. The **** DOMAINE DES REMIZIÈRES CUVÉE ÉMILIE is formed of 75% mid-1970s SYRAH from LES GRANDES VIGNES, topped up with what was a very small contribution this year from LES ROCOULES.

The ****(*) M CHAPOUTIER LES GREFFIEUX was one of the most grounded, inky wines of the vintage, a real child of the hill, while the also ****(*) FERRATON PÈRE ET FILS LES DIONNIÈRES held a stylish, velvety elegance that I associate with this serene climat.

THE CORE ELEGANCE OF THE YEAR

The core elegance of the vintage was commented upon by BERNARD FAURIE, who explained: “2016 has a Nordic tendency, as did 2014. The style would suit new oak this year. It’s all on finesse, elegance. It’s rare for Hermitage to have this amount of finesse.”

Taking the two HERMITAGE REDs from MARC SORREL, I found the class divide narrower than usual. MARC’s reply to this observation was that “the yield effect has closed the gap, unlike in 2011, when there was a very big difference.”

THE BEST 2016S CAN BE SUPERB, BUT GENERAL QUALITY HIGHER IN 2015

JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE referred to the deeper quality spectrum than the everywhere successful 2015, when telling me: “in 2016, what will be grand will be superb, whereas in 2015 everything was good up to a certain level; 2015 was a bit like 1990 in quantity, with the foundation good across all the wines.” I suspect that the blending of his 2016 will be a most stimulating exercise for him, drawing out the nuances from climats of different levels of quality this year.

Wines that will live for fifteen years, plus a bit, and the best that will live for 20+years therefore in 2016. Purchase in magnum would suit, given a sing-song result is likely after 10 to 12 years.

LEADING 2016 HERMITAGE REDS

***** Bernard Faurie Greffieux-Bessards-Méal 2039-42 11/17 great finesse, silken, long  
***** Ferraton Père et Fils Le Méal   2039-42 11/17 gentle, orchestrated, STGT  
****(*) Cave de Tain Gambert de Loche   2032-35 11/17 neat gras, pedigree, intricate 
****(*) M Chapoutier Les Greffieux   2033-36 11/17 dark body, grounded, thick 
****(*) M Chapoutier Le Pavillon   2034-36 11/17 reserved, stylish, Pinot-esque
****(*) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2040-43 03/18 cool fruit, good nerve, pure fruit
****(*) Delas Domaine des Tourettes 2033-36 11/17 crunch, iron, western darkness
****(*) Bernard Faurie Les Bessards   2037-40 11/17 finesse, style, Pinot-esque 
****(*) Bernard Faurie Les Greffieux-Bessards 2044-46 12/18 verve, detail, suave feel, true
****(*) Ferraton Père et Fils Les Dionnières   2035-37 11/17 elegant, genuine, stylish, velvet 
**** Maison Les Alexandrins 2034-36 03/18 stylish depth, bright, vigour
**** Cave de Tain Vin Biologique   2030-33 11/17 silken, flair, clear tannins  
**** M Chapoutier L’Ermite   2031-33 11/17 cool, spartan, lithe freshness 
**** M Chapoutier Le Méal   2033-35 11/17 resolute gras, rounded, full   
**** M Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne 2033-36 11/17 broad, sturdy, manly, chunky
**** Domaine du Colombier 2030-32 11/17 enjoyable fruit, intricate, subtle
**** Dard & Ribo 2041-43 11/18 intricate, fresh rockster vin, STGT
**** J. Denuzière 2029-31 11/17 shapely, gd heart, Pinot-esque
**** Bernard Faurie Bessards-Méal   2036-38 11/17 elegance, stuffing, squeezy  
**** Ferraton Père et Fils Les Miaux   2032-35 11/17 med weight; flexible tannin 
**** Domaine des Martinelles  2039-41 11/18 fluid, consecutive, fine, drinkable
**** Dom des Remizières Cuvée Émilie 2032-34 11/17 copious, immediate, sleek; oak
**** JMB Sorrel Le Vignon 2029-31 11/17 purity, harmony, Pinote, w.o.w.
**** Marc Sorrel   2034-36 11/17 rich, fluid, fresh lining  
**** Marc Sorrel Le Gréal   2037-39 11/17 continuous without great depth 
***(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2029-31 11/17 sound heart, squeezy content 
***(*) Yann Chave  2029-31 11/17 curvy, supple, smooth, easy
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus 2030-33 11/17 med weight, aroma, some style
***(*) Vidal-Fleury 2029-31 11/17 tight, clean, modern
*** Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet  2027-29 11/17 ripe fruit, OK but pedestrian
**(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres d’Arce  2028-29 11/17 med weight, pretty basic

 

8. 2016 HERMITAGE WHITE

THE CLAY-CHALK AND GLACIER STONES OF ROCOULES, MARC SORREL'S TOP WHITE HERMITAGE BLANC

The richness and depth of the 2016 Hermitage whites are wondrous to behold. It is a year when one falls to one’s knees at the temple of southern bounty, delivered with the all-important inner elegance of which only HERMITAGE is capable across the RHÔNE. Now, a magnum of the 2016 for the desert island, that would do very nicely, thank you.

With hail across L’HERMITE, the harvest was badly hit in places. As MARC SORREL reported: “I had a much reduced crop – 10 hl/ha, so 600 b instead of 1,500 b. We harvested ROCOULES on a normal date, so this has finesse, tension. My HERMITAGE BLANC, the classic, was picked on over-ripeness on 20 September, since the yield was a very low 20 hl/ha, half the usual, so there were 600 bottles instead of 1,500 bottles. It resembles 2003 [I agree], and is an original, unusual wine.”

The hail damaged two of the best white vineyards outside L'HERMITE [another is MAISON BLANCHE]. JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE reported: “I lost 70% of my white crop, which was down to the hail – PÉLÉAT and ROCOULES, notably." CAROLINE FREY of PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ was in a similar position: “the hail hit our vineyards on LES MURETS, the top of LE MÉAL and LES ROCOULES," she told me. XAVIER FROUIN of the CAVE DE TAIN confirmed that they had lost 60% of their harvest on MAISON BLANCHE, as well as on BEAUMES.

So, despite the losses of harvest, this is a cracking vintage for HERMITAGE BLANC. It holds Rock on Tommy fullness, length, richness. To some extent, I am reminded of 2004 due to the very good combination of stylish content with lines of freshness; 2016 would be a little richer overall.

The class comes through via the restraint, minerality towards the finish on the wines, after all the early excitement of abundant generosity. It’s a wonderful year for those used to presenting full, table-friendly Hermitage blanc. If the over fashionable “tension” and restraint were sought, an opportunity was missed.

The CHAPOUTIER HERMITAGE whites had made excellent progress between April and November, 2017, a real blossoming and gain in rich beauty. However, LE MÉAL of CHAPOUTIER I feel was hampered by deliberate attempts to rein it in: it was one of those that hadn’t marched forwards between April and November, 2017, remaining a slightly deceiving **** wine.

From the CAVE DE TAIN came this appraisal from cellar-master XAVIER FROUIN [note the T word - tension - in his summary: “it’s a good, classic vintage, with wines that hold tension. I perhaps expected them to be more aromatic. Lees stirring was important to re-balance them on the palate.”

The life span for this great vintage will exceed fifteen years, although I make that remark with some caution now that New Wave tendencies are coming in, with pseudo freshness also bolstered by high levels of carbonic gas. In the past, a vintage like this would have lived for 25 years, but I am not so sure now.

As JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE was in the USA when I visited MAUVES, his 2016 will be tasted during 2018. I remain persona non grata at PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ, so am not sure if I will come across their white 2016, unless I don a false beard and wear a homburg hat.

LEADING 2016 HERMITAGE WHITES

****** M Chapoutier L’Ermite 2036-39 11/17 rich, graceful, wonderful, STGT
***** M Chapoutier Chante-Alouette 2038-41 11/17 delicious, v intense, deeply rich
***** M Chapoutier De l’Orée  2032-35 11/17 handsome, complex, long, ric
****(*) Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2036-39 03/18 fine, firm, spinal, intricate
****(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus  2029-32 11/17 striking, rich, generous
****(*) Marc Sorrel Les Rocoules 2038-40 11/17 silken, intricate, fresh
**** Maison Les Alexandrins 2028-30 03/18 silky, fluid, polished; fresh touches
**** Cave de Tain Coeur des Siècles 2034-36 12/18 fat, tasty, fulfilling, good depth
**** M Chapoutier Le Méal 2030-33 11/17 discreet, elegant, grapey, fine
**** Delas Domaine des Tourettes 2030-32 11/17 easy richness, stylish
**** Bernard Faurie   2033-36 11/17 strength, style, restraint, fresh
**** Ferraton Le Reverdy   2031-33 02/18 elegant richness, fine juice 
**** Domaine Laurent Habrard   2030-32 11/17 fat, constant, hidden corners 
**** Dom Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet  2029-31 11/17 continuous, neat richness, interest 
**** Domaine des Martinelles 2034-36 11/18 comfy gras, slow mover, trad
**** Marc Sorrel   2036-38 11/17 ground force, thick coating 
***(*) Cave de Tain Beaume  2033-34 11/17 solid gras; dumb, textured  
***(*) Cave de Tain Grand Classique 2031-33 12/18 likeable freshness, gentle finish
***(*) Domaine Belle   2029-30 11/17 floral, gentle appeal, reserved 
***(*) Ferraton Les Miaux   2030-31 11/17 smoky, mineral, restrained
***(*) P Jaboulet Aîné Chevalier Stérimberg 2034-36 12/18 soft, elegant, savoury, textured

 

9. 2016 CORNAS

GENALE, WITHOUT MILDEW, JULY 2017

CORNAS continues its dashing progress in 2016. It is just about the hottest appellation in the northern RHÔNE, if not the whole RHÔNE now, with prices escalating at a cosmic rate. Having previously held a hard core following, an underground movement conducted by whispers and nudges, it is now under the beaming gaze of the international fashionistas.

For better or worse, this brings much increased pressure to perform across a broad spectrum of growers; there must be both breadth and depth of quality. 2016 furnishes that, inspired by bubbling, live fruit and generally stylish tannins. If, in a vintage such as 2014, there were some light cuvées, issued by growers aiming for a boost to cash flow, in 2016 everyone seems to have taken the vintage seriously, and there are well-filled, genuine wines. It’s a very good year.

The fact that most of the wines tasted [so far] have been **** or above is indeed a good sign for what is a very good vintage. I fear that some wines will be drunk way too early, all on primary fruit rather than bearing any additional and rewarding secondary prompts, so, you at the back of the class, please try to restrain yourself! The wines will live well, since they are fresh.

MILDEW ALERT

ANNE COLOMBO [whose wines I will be tasting in 2018] explained the ripening season to me, one that came with some difficulties and challenges: “it’s been a complicated year via having rain every week between mid-May and mid-June – which isn’t good if you are organic. There was a mildew alert all over the vineyards. We then had no rain after mid-June until mid-August, and were on the cusp of drought in August, when we were far away from ripening.”

Unfortunately for me, VINCENT PARIS did not treat his vineyards on GENALE [where I own a few old SERINE vines] assiduously enough, and succumbed to mildew, as he informed me: “my yield this year was affected by mildew on the GENALE vineyard, where I harvested only 18 hl/ha. The GRANIT 60 yield was 24-25 hl/ha, the GRANIT 30 35 hl/ha. It’s a fresher vintage than 2015, is well-fruited.”

RIPENING BLOCKAGE

Back to ANNE COLOMBO: “high heat lasted from mid-July to mid-September, with a lot of days around 30°C in September,” she explained. “In fact, there was blockage on ripening by early September – the tannins were halted, the phenolic ripening stationary. In the end, we had some plots at 13°, but without fully ripened phenolics. The rain that broke the drought was around the middle of September, the weekend of 17-18 when we had two falls of 10 mm (0.4 inch).”

Balance and high grade fruit caught the attention of growers this year. OLIVIER CLAPE reported: “the belle matter comes from super balance this year,” while STÉPHANE ROBERT of DOMAINE DU TUNNEL concurred: “it’s quite a concentrated vintage, with very good balance. I only had to chaptalize one vat where the plot in question had experienced a blockage in the ripening. My average is 13.5° this year.”

2016 is a style of vintage that pleases THIÉRRY ALLEMAND, and he gave this opinion: “the colour isn’t very concentrated, but there’s volume in the wines – they are rounded, fine, like 2011 – easy to drink. I started my harvest on 12 September; the pHs are a bit higher, the degree lower than usual this year, like 2000, and also 2012. The yield was like 2015’s. They are all facile, round wines with grip, quiet firmness. It’s a vintage similar to 2004 and 2000, very fine and round, with no hard edges.”

LAURENT COURBIS was enthusiastic about his 2016 SABAROTTE wine, drawn from 1947 SERINE that used to belong to NOËL VERSET, when telling me: “we have a very belle SABAROTTE wine this year, very rich, full. The other plots are more fruited, less powerful than usual, but are good drinking wines. We bottled CHAMPELROSE in early December 2017, against February 2018, the normal date – that’s because it’s very aromatic, and tasted well at that time. We are bottling SABAROTTE and LES EYGATS in April 2018.”

The shape and texture of 2016 reflects more filigree than dense fabric when compared with 2015, but on a quality level PIERRE CLAPE had this to say: “2016 isn’t 2015, but is not far off it. Our degrees are 13.3° to 13.9°, quite high, but the alcohol seems enrobed inside the wines. There is decent yield also.”

Across the range tasted, 2016 colours are dark. There is plenty of rolling fruit, and enjoyable, open door richness. Tannins are very ripe, indeed smooth. I would expect the balance to allow many wines to live towards the 20-year marker, or further in some cases. They deserve to be served in large glasses to release the floral charms in their bouquets.

What is encouraging is that the base level of the wines is solid. CORNAS has become very popular recently, and the wines are still able to keep up with those expectations: CORNAS is on a roll!

LEADING CORNAS 2016s

***** Thiérry Allemand Reynard 2043-46 11/17 sensuous; great style, richness
****(*) Thiérry Allemand Chaillot 2036-38 11/17 clear fruit, life, florality
****(*) Franck Balthazar Chaillot  2034-36 03/18 sumptuous, belle, super fine, STGT
****(*) Domaine Clape 2042-44 11/17 good heart, fresh, kicking
****(*) Delas Chante-Perdrix 2032-34 11/17 compact content, long, dashing
****(*) Dumien Serrette Patou 2031-34 11/17 dark, chutzpah, go-getter
****(*) Dom Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet 2031-34 11/17 impressive fruit; genuine, interest
****(*) Dom Johann Michel Cuvée Jana 2033-34 03/18 racy, beau, stylish charge, filled
****(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Terres Arce 2031-33 11/17 wholesome, genuine, gd heart
****(*) Vincent Paris La Geynale 2030-33 11/17 smooth, wide, great rocky end
****(*) Alain Voge Les Chaillés 2032-35 11/17 generous, lovely, complete, mineral
**** Franck Balthazar Casimir Balthazar 2027-28 03/18 fruit explosion, flowing, w.o.w.
**** Matthieu Barret Brise cailloux 2039-41 02/19 iron threads, spicing, good build
**** Mickaël Bourg Les p'tits bouts 2035-37 12/18 cool fruit, tangy tannin, authentic
**** Cave de Tain Arènes Sauvages  2030-33 11/17 sturdy, convincing, inner strength 
**** M Chapoutier Les Arènes 2031-33 11/17 slow release, complete, trad 
**** Aurélien Chatagnier  2030-32 11/17 handsome, authentic; swish fruits 
**** Domaine Courbis La Sabarotte  2034-37 11/17 relaxed, true, tasty 
**** Dumien Serrette Henri 2039-42 12/18 smoky, supple gras, Cornas cut, oak
**** Domaine Durand Confidence  2030-32 11/17 pure, tight, quality, potential 
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Les Eygats  2033-36 11/17 mineral, sinew, red fruits 
**** Ferraton Père & Fils Patou  2032-35 11/17 dash, colour, strength 
**** Guillaume Gilles Chaillot 2035-37 12/18 floral, mineral, profound, energy 
**** Jacques Lemenicier 2032-35 12/18 fruit quality, sympa, genuine
**** Domaine Lionnet Terre Brûlée 2039-42 12/18 direct, streamlined, naked, spinal
**** Vincent Paris Granit 60 2028-31 11/17 tasty, modern, finesse, fruit 
**** Vincent Paris Granit 30   2027-29 11/17 floral, engaging, cavalier 
**** Pic & Chapoutier Bio  2031-34 11/17 savoury, rocky, honest, STGT
**** Domaine du Tunnel   2031-34 11/17 style, plump, modern, careful
**** Les Vins de Vienne Les Barcillants  2029-31 11/17 good sweep, well shaped 
**** Alain Voge Les Vieilles Vignes   2031-34 11/17 fine, tight, mineral, STGT 
***(*) Maison Les Alexandrins 2034-35 03/18 red fruits, unrefined tannins
***(*) Matthieu Barret, Dom Coulet Ogre 2036-38 02/19 mobile, spiced, rocky, New Wave
***(*) Cave de Tain Vin Biologique  2028-30 11/17 squeezy texture, some mineral 
***(*) Stéphan Chaboud Vieilles Vignes 2031-32 12/18 live fruit main asset, easy drinking
***(*) Domaine Clape Renaissance 2036-39 11/17 firm, direct, mineral 
***(*) Domaine Courbis Champelrose  2028-30 11/17 ebullient, salted, decent depth 
***(*) Domaine Courbis Les Eygats  2031-33 11/17 soft fruits, freshness 
***(*) Domaine J. Denuzière   2028-30 11/17 easy fruits, direct, clean 
***(*) Domaine Durand Empreintes 2030-33 11/17 solid length, slow gainer
***(*) Domaine Durand Prémices  2028-30 11/17 cosy richness, sweet, open 
***(*) Guy Farge Harmonie  2028-29 11/17 supple gras, traditional, bit bumpy 
***(*) Pierre Gaillard   2028-30 11/17 traditional; lean over fat 
***(*) Domaine Lionnet Pur Granit 2032-34 12/18 tender, quiet fruit vibe, good iron
***(*) Domaine Johann Michel 2028-29 03/18 plump appeal, charm, good flow
***(*) Dom Johann Michel Mère Michel 2028-30 03/18 cool fruit, inky minerality
***(*) Dom Michelas St Jemms Murettes  2030-33 11/17 openly juicy, fresh enough 
***(*) David Reynaud Rebelle 2034-36 12/18 intrinsic muscle, Cornas character
***(*) Jean-Louis Thiers, Dom du Biguet 2035-37 12/18 fruit intensity, aromatic finish
***(*) Alain Verset 2033-35 12/18 lively content, energy, authentic
***(*) Vidal-Fleury   2029-30 11/17 serene content; fine, careful 
***(*) François Villard Jouvet 2036-38 12/18 modern, flashy, mineral, fresh
***(*) Vins de Vienne Lieu-Dit Saint-Pierre  2028-30 11/17 fat, immediate, fleshy Syrah 
*** Elie Bancel 2026-28 12/18 husky content, accessible, honest
*** Cave de Tain Grand Classique   2026-27 11/17 stewed fruits, workmanlike 
*** Ferraton Père & Fils Grands Mûriers  2027-29 11/17 steady, mainstream, workmanlike 
*** Guillaume Gilles Nouvelle R 2024-25 11/18 mild fruit, liberal juice, light Cornas
*** Domaine de Lorient 2030-32 12/18 aromatic, sleek, very modern school
*** Cave Pinheiro 2030-32 12/18 ample juice, floral, bit husky
*** Jean-Baptiste Souillard Saint-Pierre  2027-28 11/17 tight, streamlined, spartan 
*** Louis Sozet 2025-27 12/18 tender, floral, light, likeable
**(*) Bernard Blachon 2021-22 12/18 brewed fruit, fragrant, not fresh
**(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Dom de St-Pierre 2034-36 12/18 spare frame, lean, not together
**(*) Chrystelle Michel 2026-27 12/18 low-key, trad, needs more gras
**(*) Domaine Mucyn Aquilon 2025-26 12/18 light, fleeting, toothsome
**(*) Jean-Baptiste Souillard Les Côtes  2026-27 11/17 spare, stripped back, brittle 
** Domaine de Fauterie 2024-25 12/18 unsteady second half, stops short

10. 2016 VIN DE PAYS, VIN DE FRANCE, CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE

AUTUMN WORKING OF THE COLLINES RHODANIENNES SOILS ON THE PLATEAU ABOVE CONDRIEU, DOMAINE GEORGES VERNAY

As prices on the main wines rise, some of the best value in the northern Rhône comes from the old tactic of backing a grower who knows what he or she is doing, whatever the vintage. The same applies to their handling of the vineyards that usually stand just outside the main appellation zone. Hence up around CÔTE-RÔTIE and CONDRIEU, the source of these wines is generally another hillside that is less well exposed, or higher, or plateau vineyards that bear some of the granite of the hills when not too far inland.

The most exciting VIN DE PAYS is of course the SEYSSUEL vineyard just south of VIENNE, a sheer schist surface providing wines of great iron and grip, real pings of mineral freshness. A parallel with parts of the young Catalan vineyard of PRIORAT immediately springs to mind. As PRIORAT presses for its own cru system, graded wines according to place, so SEYSSUEL is going through the extremely long-winded process of rising from VIN DE PAYS DES COLLINES RHODANIENNES to CÔTES DU RHÔNE. Thence to SEYSSUEL on its own as a stand-alone appellation at some date in the future.

There are now nearly 20 growers at SEYSSUEL, and the wines please and impress me, before I look at their price. They are intricate, and will evolve and age extremely well, an impressive feat when one considers the youth of the vineyard.

Beyond those 2016s tasted and noted here, I would point to the VIN DE PAYS SYRAH of STÉPHANE PICHAT at CÔTE-RÔTIE as always being a good buy, a wine that can do well over seven to 10 years. Others to note are the organic, natural EMMANUEL BAROU SYRAH, the BONNEFOND, hard core organic JEAN-MICHEL STÉPHAN [VIN DE FRANCE] and NICOLAS CHAMPAGNEUX’s SYRAH. If you trust the grower’s quality, and are out in the RHÔNE – many of these wines are not exported – then fill the car with them.

For those readers who are involved in the CHR – Café Hotel Restaurant – Trade, I would particularly signal the w.o.w. wines, which present immediate, free-wheeling pleasure, and are likely to accompany a wide range of dishes with distinction: no questions asked, just get on and do.

The same overall comments on the SYRAH apply to VIOGNIER, often derived from vineyards that touch the appellation of CONDRIEU itself, given that it extends over the communes of CONDRIEU, VÉRIN, SAINT-MICHEL SUR RHÔNE, CHAVANAY [where the same vineyard can be CONDRIEU or SAINT-JOSEPH], MALLEVAL and, finally in the most southerly spur, LIMONY. The recurring theme of these vineyards is the granite content, which can be particularly rocky at MALLEVAL, for example.

Some favourites here are the BONNEFOND, ROSTAING and ANDRÉ PERRET VIOGNIERs, the XAVIER GÉRARD VIOGNIER, PASCAL MARTHOURET’s VIOGNIER, and, with FRANÇOIS VILLARD saying an understandable “to hell with the restrictions on VIN DE PAYS”, his VIN DE FRANCE VIOGNIERs. The YVES CUILLERON VIN DE FRANCE can be a bit too New Wave, therefore light and wispy at times, however – so take that trend into account. Again, back your judgment on a grower you like, and go for it. One note of caution on the Price-Quality ratio – these are relatively more expensive than the SYRAHs in my view.

LEADING VIN DE PAYS, VIN DE FRANCE, CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE 2016s

  2016 REDS      
**** Domaine Jamet CdRh Syrah 2026-27 11/17 iron, purity, finesse 
**** Domaine Jamet  Vdp Coll Rh Syrah 2021 11/17 Rôtie DNA, floral, w.o.w. 
**** Stéph Ogier Vdp Coll Rh Seyssuel Ame Soeur 2029-31 11/17 good depth, floral, iron 
**** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet CdRh Htes Vignes 2026-27 03/18 engaging, sunny, appealing
***(*) Domaine Clape CdRh r 2026-28 11/17 vibrant, clear, beau
***(*) Domaine Courbis Vdp Coll Rh L’Aube Syrah  2021 11/17 fruit, detail, length 
***(*) Domaine Garon Vdp Coll Rh Syrah 2023 03/18 genuine, naked, clear, floral
***(*) Jean-Michel Gérin VdFr La Champine Syrah  2021 11/17 brisk, clear fruit, w.o.w. 
***(*) Guillaume Gilles VdFr Les Peyrouses red 2026-27 11/18 fruit verve, clear, w.o.w.
***(*) Dom Gonon VdP Ardèche Îles Feray Syrah 2023-24 03/18 joli gras; aromatic, character
***(*) Domaine Jamet VdFr Plaisirs d’Harys r 2023-24 11/17 structure, darkness, mineral 
***(*) Dom Jasmin Vdp Coll Rh La Chevalière Syrah 2020 07/17 clarity, purity, spice, w.o.w. 
***(*) Dom Monteillet VdP Coll Rh Hauts Monteillet 2023-24 03/18 character; upbeat, mineral
***(*) Stéphane Ogier Vdp Coll Rh Syrah La Rosine 2026-27 11/17 juicy, good length 
***(*) Dom Rostaing Vdp Coll Rh Les Lézardes Syr 2027-28 11/17 tight, fresh, crunchy, tasty
***(*) Eric & Laurence Texier VdFr Le Clau 2026-27 02/19 bright flow, plump, v bonny
***(*) Dom G Vernay Vdp Coll Rh Fleurs Mai Syrah 2021 07/17 breezy, clear fruit, w.o.w. 
*** Matthieu Barret CdRh No Wine's Land r 2022 02/18 tasty, immediate, bit wiry
*** Sébastien Blachon VdFr Nom de Bleu Syrah 2020 11/17 grain, freshness, natural 
*** Christophe Blanc VdFr Syrah 2021 12/18 taut, tight, peppy, fresh
*** P & C Bonnefond VdFr Sensation Syrah 2022-23 03/18 tasty, neat, fleshy, w.o.w.
*** Cave de Tain Coll Rh Syrah Viognier r 2020 11/17 mineral grain; soft 
*** Domaine Clape VdFr Le Vin des Amis 2024-26 11/17 tight, lucid, bit of gras
*** Dom Courbis Vdp Ardèche Syrah 2020 11/17 spice, floral, la table
*** Ferraton Père & Fils Vdp Ardèche Syrah  2020 11/17 lucid fruit; spice 
*** Le Mas du Paradis VdFr Le 20 Eternel Syrah 2021 12/18 neat, tarry, sound country vin
*** François Merlin Vdp Coll Rh Syrah 2021 03/18 mild gras, gourmand wine
*** Dom Johann Michel VdFr Grain Noir Syrah 2024-25 03/18 red fruits, knuckle, crunch
*** Dom Monteillet VdP Coll Rh La Syrah à Papa 2022-23 03/18 med weight; grills suited
*** Jean-Baptiste Souillard VdFr Syrah  2021 11/17 sparkle, bright fruit, smoky 
*** GAEC Vernay Coll Rh S comme Syrah 2021 12/18 easy red fruit, fresh
*** Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Coll Rh Valine Syr 2024-25 03/18 substance; pitchy, rugged
*** Dom Ville Rouge Vdp Drôme Pied Source 2021 11/18 juicy, fluid, easy, bit dry end
**(*) Clos de Chazal Vdp Ardèche Syrah 2020 12/18 grippy, pretty genuine
  2016 WHITES      
**** Domaine Jamet CdRh w 2021 11/17 stylish gras, good snap 
***(*) Cave de Tain Coll Rh Marsanne Viognier  2019 11/17 enjoyable gras, texture 
***(*) Dom de Bonserine CdRh Hauts de Cheys Vio 2020 03/18 mild gras; freshness, long
***(*) Jean-Michel Gérin VdFr Champine Viognier  mid 19 11/17 soft, easy, rounded 
***(*) Domaine Monier Vdp Coll Rh Roussanne  2021-22 11/17 good grip, spine, substance 
***(*) Dom Monteillet VdP Coll Rh Hauts Monteillet 2022 03/18 grapey, easy charm, gd grip
***(*) Stéph Montez Vdp Coll Rh Le Petit Viognier 2020-21 03/18 neat gras, squeezy, w.o.w.
***(*) Stéphane Ogier Vdp Coll Rh Viognier Rosine 2020 11/17 style, gusto, gd content 
***(*) André Perret Vdp Coll Rh Marsanne  2020 07/17 squeezy gras, w.o.w. 
***(*) André Perret Vdp Coll Rh Viognier  2020 07/17 zest, delicate, fine 
***(*) Jean-Baptiste Souillard VdFr Marsanne  2021 11/17 cool, expressive, w.o.w. 
***(*) Dom G Vernay Vdp Coll Rh Pied de Samson  2020 07/17 easy gras, perky, joli 
***(*) Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet CdRh w 2023 03/18 comfortable gras, character
*** Maison Les Alexandrins VdFr Viognier mid 19 03/18 polished, crisp, bit bitter end
*** Sébastien Blachon VdFr Arthur Mars-Vio  2019-20 11/17 dried fruits, la table 
*** Christophe Blanc VdFr Les Galets Viognier 2020 12/18 precise, light n'easy, w.o.w.
*** Christophe Blanc VdFr Gourmandise Vio 2025-26 12/18 rich intensity, cool, restraint
*** P & C Bonnefond VdFr Sensation Viognier 2020 03/18 grapey, pleasure, gd drinking
*** Cave de Tain Vdp Coll Rh Marsanne  2019 11/17 mild richness, fresh 
*** Cave de Tain Vdp Coll Rh Viognier  2019 11/17 soft, peachy, floral
*** Domaine Courbis Vdp Ardèche  Viognier 2020 11/17 fat, plenty for table 
*** Ferraton Père & Fils Vdp Coll Rh Viognier 2019 11/17 neat, clear, v mild, aperitif
*** Dom Jasmin Vdp Coll Rh Viognier  2019 07/17 neat gras, refreshing 
*** Domaine Monier Vdp Coll Rh Viognier 2020 11/17 salty, suave, end disorder 
*** Vincent Paris Vdp Ardèche Granit blanc  2019 07/17 supple, open, soft 
*** Jean-Baptiste Souillard VdFr Roussanne  2020 11/17 nerve, restraint, fine close 
*** Dom Ville Rouge Vdp Drôme Vio/Chard 2020 11/18 smooth, round, juicy
**(*) Dom des Amphores Coll Rh Les Iris Vio 2020 12/18 floral, could be softer
**(*) Jean-Claude Marsanne Vdp Ardèche Vio 2019 03/18 mild roundness, soft
**(*) François Merlin Vdp Coll Rh Brocéliande Vio 2020 03/18 high fruit, squeezy, bit short
**(*) Didier Morion Cdp Coll Rh Viognier 2020 12/18 tender fat, fleshy

 

11. 2016 CÔTE-RÔTIE

2016 is a vintage of high classicism at CÔTE-RÔTIE. As I have noted elsewhere, it is a year of PURITY, when the clarity of the fruit runs with floral and mineral prompts, the wines bearing a “sparkling” quality, like a very fine tuned Short Wave radio [if readers remember my old travelling companion in Africa and South America].

The second half of the ripening season outshone the first by some margin, as the vineyards thrived on warm weather, vineyards that held good water reserves at mid-summer, and so never suffered from drought stress.

Excess vegetation was one of the main challenges prompting labour, but growers were pretty pleased with the vintage by harvest time, and also after vinifications, when they signalled both a sound quantity and wines led by good aromatics.

CHARM, PATIENCE, PROBABLY UNDERRATED

I regard this very good, probably underrated vintage as one that should be bought, and cellared nice and patiently. The wines have freshness and enough body to evolve well, and will really fill a room with their perfumed offerings in time. Charm, subtlety, delicious fruit are all on the menu.

As a late ripening vintage, 2016 runs with some parallels to the pre-high heat years that started in the early 1990s. The northern zone with its schist holds the upper hand over the southern sector this year, and as I know from my fruit trees, a long, slow ripening is usually the prelude to a year of well-tuned fruit and crisp acidity.

SLOW, TRICKY START TO RIPENING SEASON

It had been a muddling, ragged start, with BENJAMIN DUCLAUX of DOMAINE BENJAMIN & DAVID DUCLAUX stating: “it was a slow ripening year. April and May were cool, and we were late as we entered June.”

BERNARD BURGAUD also spoke of concerns in the spring when relating: “almonds usually flower in February if they are a bit late, and in January if they are early – but this year they flowered in December 2015. So I was worried in the spring. There were excellent reserves of water from the winter of 2015-16, almost like last year. January to March 2016 were wet, but the winter was very mild – we only had about one day or two of -1°C or -2°C.”

RENÉ ROSTAING gave this summary just before the harvest: “June was pretty catastrophic with rain and cold, and the sap being held back. But July and August were formidable, and that continued into September. We have had no rain for 30 days, and temperatures of 30°C to 35°C. Having been two weeks behind at the end of June, we have caught up, and are only a week behind now. The coming week is set to give good, hot weather. The SYRAH is 10.5° to 11°, and I would hope we can gain 1° per week now. Yield is good.”

LATE SUMMER BOOST

Back to BENJAMIN DUCLAUX, who in August reported: “things are going very well. It’s been a year of a lot of vegetation, so there has been more work than in a classic year. There have been regular rainfalls – but luckily no storms - so no drought stress. Normally we clip the excess shoots twice a year, but this year will require three gos on that. There has been mildew pressure, requiring treatments.

Right now, a lot of growers are out in the vineyards with their traille (pulley system to work hillside soils) to cut back on the weeds and grasses. We have taken on more seasonal workers than usual as well, because of all that growth. The veraison is just starting now, with a few grapes turning colour. If you take the 100-day rule from flowering, we are on course for harvesting 20-25 September.”

PATRICK JASMIN pointed to a timely rainfall at a point when the vineyard was under a little stress: “there’s a belle harvest, sound degree and correct acidity,” he reported. “The SYRAH degree was 12.4° in the last week of August, but had risen to 13° to 13.5° by around 5 September, but the stems and pips weren’t ripe at that stage. 10 mm (0.4 in) of night rain on 31 August did good – we had had eight days of South Wind, and needed to crack that spell. Before the end of August, the vines were blocked here and there, but there were no yellow leaves.”

It was not until the late stages of September that growers finally felt their crop to be in ripe shape; the weather in September had been dry, so there wasn’t the pressure to hustle the harvest: that proved to be one of the determinants of this good vintage.

GOOD YIELD, GOOD CROP

JEAN-PAUL JAMET is usually about the last harvester at CÔTE-RÔTIE, and he is pleased with results in 2016: “the yield was around 40 hl/ha, similar to 2017, in fact (with 2017 we had an allowance to raise it to 44 hl/ha),” he stated. “There wasn’t the need to discard crop, either. It was a pretty normal year on timing, while September took a long time to finish the ripening. We started our harvest on 25-28 September, ending the SYRAH on 19 October and the white crop the next day. The tannins are less numerous than 2015’s, but are a lot rounder.”

The end of September was when YVES GANGLOFF harvested, as he told me: “we started on 27 September, and ended the harvest on 13 October. CÔTE-RÔTIE had a higher degree than CONDRIEU – I’ve never known that – it was around 13.85°, for example. It’s a pretty classic CÔTE-RÔTIE vintage, with a marked contrast between the colours and the aromatics – the wines are very rich aromatically.”

BERNARD BURGAUD did not find the same degree as GANGLOFF, but his vineyards are generally higher up. He stated: “the late season was formidable to allow ripeness, and the crop came in at 40-41 hl/ha as well, so that was pleasing. The harvest was of good quality, and it’s a classic late ripening vintage.

The degree was 12° to 12.5°, against 13.5° in 2015. While we are talking about great vintages, I would remind you that 1978 was 11° to 11.5°. My 2016 is gourmand, close to a classic vintage, more so than 2015. 1978 was like 2016 at the early stage, a year old, with a bit more richness in sugar. 2006 was another late vintage, with a lot of crop, and the first time we hit 13°.”

I found BERNARD’s 2016 a wine high on charm, and well balanced. The latter point was discussed, with BERNARD telling me: “bringing together all the different zones – precocious and late – allows great balance. In the old days, before heating up of the climate, the late zones were sometimes hard to ripen, and the difficulty was to find fine tannins.”

As a telling differential between 2016 and the 2015 and 2017 vintages flanking it, I would point to the respective degrees in these three vintages. JEAN-PAUL JAMET told me that his 2016 ran between 12.6° and 12.8°, whereas 2015 was between 13.4° and 13.5°, and 2017 was between 13.5° and 13.7°. “Crucial in 2017 was the cool, cold September nights after the very hot August, so the 2017s weren’t cooked, allowing us to conserve very belles acidities,” he told me.

BALANCE, MORE TYPICAL THAN 2015

Also naturally pleased with the full crop this year was LOUIS DREVON of DOMAINE DE ROSIERS, who commented: “the yield was high - 44 hl/ha against 39 hl/ha in 2015. It’s very balanced, in the style of 2012, but more concentrated, and it’s also more typical than 2015. The colours are belle and brilliant.”

Applauding the high yield, and pointing out the importance of working towards freshness this year was PIERRE BENETIÈRE, whose main vineyards are in the southern sector at TUPIN. He told me: “2016 was more difficult than 2015; the spring was fresh, and thus flowering took nearly three weeks, so ripening was disparate. I thought I was mad because no-one else was harvesting while I was picking – but that got me my freshness, and still some grip, tension. The late harvest wines lacked acidity. At 40 hl/ha, it was almost a full crop.”

To some extent, I feel that the full yields aided the elegance of the vintage: had there been 10-15% less crop, then the wines might have been a mite more deep, but not necessarily as balanced.

Two growers who like to produce elegant wines are YVES CUILLERON and CHRISTINE VERNAY. YVES CUILLERON first: “2016 CÔTE-RÔTIE is fresh, agreeable, with enough matter to be OK, with supple tannins. Quality was constant across the Northern Rhône, and the wines are easy to drink.”

Now, CHRISTINE VERNAY: “the wines are more subtle than 2015 – they are aromatic, whereas the 2015s are big and powerful. I adore the style – the wines have fine, fresh fruits, and the wines are more profound than thick, so are better balanced than 2015, which is large, a Body Builder vintage. 2016 is superior to 2014, though both are fresh vintages,” she explained.

GRADUAL RIPENESS . . . ELEGANCE

At the DOMAINE JEAN-MICHEL GÉRIN, the patron is easing towards a second row seat, letting his sons MICHEL, 30, and ALEXIS, 28, take more prominent roles, the former on vinification and production, the latter on commerce. JEAN-MICHEL gave this take on 2016: “it’s a belle vintage, with good ripeness, which came along gradually. I am delighted, the wine is fine and elegant.” MICHEL added that 2016 was more interesting to vinify than 2015. Such elegance also encompasses a more restrained style of wine for this domaine, where the wines were once strongly oaked, and where cap punching was last performed in 2009.

A couple of youngish growers who perhaps are conditioned to recent years of DENSITY as a norm, gave these slightly outside views on 2016: GAETAN LAFOY stated: “2016 is quite feeble in structure,” while STÉPHANE OGIER told me: “2017 is a year for reds, while 2016 is also interesting, very beau, but I rate the whites a bit ahead of the reds.”

Across the appellation, I rate the fruit extremely good this year, testament to the vintage and to the ever improving mastery of harvest dates and sensible, not overdone, cellar work. The wines have real Burgundian tinkle, are northern, and very clear cut for the most part.

2016: IN THE SHADOW OF 2015, 2017, BUT TRUE TERROIR, STGT WINES

It is a vintage that will probably reside, unfairly, in the shadow of 2015 and maybe 2017 also, those two vintage catching the headlines thanks to their scale and immediate, full-on impact. 2016 is a classic year for true terroir definition, the northern schist soils doing especially well, with STGT wines from the ***** JEAN-MICHEL GÉRIN LES GRANDES PLACES, ****(*) LES GRANDES PLACES of CLUSEL-ROCH, another ****(*) LES GRANDES PLACES from the resurgent LES VINS DE VIENNE, the ****(*) CHRISTOPHE BILLON CÔTE ROZIER and the ****(*) new cuvée from LANCEMENT by DOMAINE CHAMBEYRON. These wines held real cut and intensity.

I chatted to JEAN-PAUL JAMET about the terroir definition on various of his lieux-dits, and we got round to LE PLOMB, which is above VERENAY in the northern sector. “I like LE PLOMB a lot, but only in the blend,” he told me. “Very often it’s too virile, lacks balance on its own. It’s a wine on structure, and not so much on pleasure. LES GRANDES PLACES is similar – it’s on force. 2016 is an ideal year for LE PLOMB, as it’s a more airborne year,” he remarked.

THE CURSE OF NEW WAVE

An issue that regular readers will know vexes me is that of NEW WAVE wines. We have seen how neutered are some RHÔNE WHITES, but now such clipping tendencies are spreading also to the REDS. One is unlikely to encounter such wines from a small domaine, more so from the large enterprises that have young people making the wines. An example at CÔTE-RÔTIE 2016 is the M CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES – my tasting note [blind tasted, unlike most young journalists] reading “an unadorned RÔTIE, with the pared back NEW WAVE tendency that is à la mode in the big houses. Allow until 2020 so it can regain some flesh, expand away from this imposed tightness.”

I find it counter intuitive to want to deconstruct a wine with some southern richness in its veins, serve it up in that skinny mode, then – perhaps – expect the buyer to wait while it subsequently tries to expand, as would a BURGUNDY. The bouquets on these wines are usually are pretty good, but you can’t drink aroma.

Another house now on this NEW WAVE trail, by the way, is FAMILLE PERRIN, whose 2016 CAIRANNE PEYRE BLANCHE red was also pared back in style, out of tune with the natural bounty of the great vintage in the south.

The best wines of 2016 will live for 15 to 20 years, perhaps more if well cellared. I have no doubt that around 2040 there will be some keen amateurs opening a bottle of 2016 with some trepidation, only to be seduced by its freshness and aromatic content. An underestimated vintage, therefore, and well worth buying.

LEADING CÔTE-RÔTIE 2016s

****** Domaine Jamet Côte Brune 2044-46 11/17 sensuous, mineral, Grand Vin
***** Clusel-Roch Classique 2032-34 11/17 bright, true, nourishing, long
***** Jean-Michel Gérin Les Grandes Places 2037-40 11/17 STGT, v good style, truth
***** Stéphane Ogier La Belle Hélène 2042-44 11/17 stylish, silken, pure, super beau
***** Stéphane Ogier Lancement 2039-42 11/17 sensual, aromatic, flair, iron
***** Domaine Rostaing Côte Blonde 2041-43 11/17 firm, heart, winning gras
***** Domaine Rostaing Côte Brune 2042-44 11/17 complex, long, fine, captivating
***** Jean-Michel Stéphan Cotx de Tupin 2036-37 03/18 mineral, naked, arresting, STGT
****(*) Domaine Gilles Barge Côte Blonde 2038-40 03/18 v stylish fruit; compact, long
****(*) Pierre & Marie Benetière Cordeloux 2033-35 03/18 tasty, juicy, vibrant, mineral
****(*) Christophe Billon Côte Rozier   2033-36 11/17 broad, insistent, long, STGT
****(*) Christophe Billon Les Elotins   2033-35 11/17 promise, articulate, typical 2016
****(*) Domaine de Bonserine La Garde 2037-39 03/18 sensuous, soft, floral, freshness
****(*) Domaine Chambeyron Lancement 2031-33 11/17 style, dash, heart, STGT  
****(*) Domaine Champet Les Fils à Jo 2034-35 03/18 gd depth, floral, delightful
****(*) Clusel-Roch Les Grandes Places  2034-37 11/17 generous, long, perfumed, STGT
****(*) Delas La Landonne   2034-37 11/17 cordite, punchy, oaked  
****(*) Yves Gangloff La Sereine Noire 2036-38 11/17 good style, structure, beau  
****(*) Domaine Garon Lancement 2036-38 03/18 rich, savoury, stylish, will clarify
****(*) Domaine Garon Les Rochins 2034-36 03/18 dashing fruit; character, potential
****(*) Jean-Michel Gérin La Landonne   2039-41 11/17 sleek content, sure gras 
****(*) Jean-Michel Gérin La Viallière   2036-38 11/17 silken, tasty, refined, fresh
****(*) Domaine Jean-Paul & Corinne Jamet 2040-44 11/17 terroir interest, intricate, STGT
****(*) Dom Monteillet Montez Grndes Places 2039-41 03/18 class, authenticity; bright fruit
****(*) Stéphane Ogier La Viallière 2038-40 11/17 interest, complexity, floral, iron
****(*) Domaine S Pichat Les Grandes Places 2030-32 11/17 naked, convincing, genuine
****(*) Domaine de Rosiers Besset   2033-35 11/17 long, stylish, Burgundian finesse 
****(*) Domaine Rostaing La Landonne 2039-41 11/17 good flesh, grace, purity 
****(*) Jean-Michel Stéphan Ctx de Bassenon 2035-36 03/18 fresh verve, pure, winning, long
****(*) Vignoble Jean-Luc Jamet Terrasses 2038-40 03/18 good heart; genuine, long
**** Maison Les Alexandrins 2031-32 03/18 authentic, fine, spherical
**** Domaine Gilles Barge Côte Brune  2037-39 03/18 sleek, elegant, nerve, naked
**** Christophe Billon La Brocarde   2031-33 11/17 bright fruit, elegant, charm 
**** P & C Bonnefond Côte Rozier  2031-33 03/18 elegant, silken; good freshness
**** P & C Bonnefond Les Rochains 2032-34 03/18 glistening fruit; immediate impact
**** Domaine de Bonserine La Sarrasine 2035-37 03/18 balance, stuffing, freshness
**** Domaine de Bonserine La Viallière 2036-38 03/18 careful restraint, fine; Burgundian
**** Bernard Burgaud   2038-40 11/17 charm, balance, fruit purity  
**** Domaine Chambeyron La Chavarine  2030-33 11/17 rocky essence, not obvious
**** Domaine Champet La Viallière 2029-31 03/18 frank, gt style, buzz; w.o.w.
**** M Chapoutier La Mordorée   2032-35 11/17 compact fruit, fresh, spartan 
**** M Chapoutier Neve   2031-32 11/17 energy, fresh, buzzy 
**** M Chapoutier Quatuor   2030-33 11/17 heart, commendable detail  
**** Domaine Louis Clerc   2028-29 11/17 rich, ripe, tasty, natural 
**** Clusel-Roch La Viallière   2033-36 11/17 cosy richness, savoury, tasty 
**** J. Denuzière   2032-34 11/17 crunch fruit, cordite, promise 
**** Benjamin & David Duclaux La Germine  2028-29 11/17 discreet, aromatic, linear 
**** Lionel Faury Reviniscence    2030-33 11/17 character, hand made, musky 
**** Yves Gangloff La Barbarine   2033-35 11/17 inner muscle, sultry, firm 
**** Domaine Garon La Sybarine 2027-28 03/18 clear, restrained, digestible, cool
**** Domaine Garon Les Triotes 2030-32 03/18 grounded; plump, genuine heart
**** Xavier Gérard   2035-37 12/18 aromatic, fine, unhurried
**** Jean-Michel Gérin Champin Seigneur  2032-34 11/17 crisp fruit, flair, finesse 
**** Domaine Jasmin La Giroflarie   2031-33 07/17 stylish, gently sturdy 
**** Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Côte Rozier  2031-33 11/17 firm richness, integrity 
**** Vignobles Levet La Péroline 2039-41 12/18 slinky flow, true, traditional
**** François Merlin 2029-31 03/18 tasty, seductive, lucid, bright
**** Dom du Monteillet S Montez Fortis 2037-39 03/18 modern, crystalline, Burgundian
**** Rémi Niéro Eminence   2028-29 11/17 precise, interest, fine detail  
**** Stéphane Ogier Côte Blonde 2037-39 11/17 close-knit, spicy, rocky
**** Stéphane Ogier Réserve de S Ogier 2036-39 11/17 sound depth, steady ensemble
**** Stéphane Ogier Village 2034-37 11/17 tight, cool, rocky
**** Ogier SAS La Serine    2027-29 11/17 entertaining fruit, tannin tang 
**** Cédric Parpette Le Plomb 2039-41 12/18 intricate weave, spinal, mineral
**** Domaine Stéphane Pichat Löss   2030-32 11/17 gutsy, suave, shapely, fresh 
**** Domaine Rostaing Ampodium   2035-37 11/17 rigour, finesse, sinew, freshness
**** Domaine Rostaing Viallière   2041-42 11/17 firm, tight, velvet, iron 
**** J-Baptiste Souillard Coteau Bassenon   2027-29 11/17 neat gras; elegant, coherent 
**** Domaine Jean-Michel Stéphan 2028-29 03/18 squeezy appeal, gourmand
**** Les Vins de Vienne Les Essartailles  2030-31 11/17 balance, style, fine juice 
**** Vins de Vienne Les Grandes Places 2030-32 11/17 quality fruit, stylish, STGT  
**** Les Vins de Vienne Le Plomb  2030-32 11/17 stiff, interesting, slow burn  
***(*) Hervé Avallet Osa 2032-34 12/18 gentle, aromatic, natural, genuine
***(*) Domaine Barge Le Combard  2034-36 03/18 soft gras, neat, unhurried
***(*) Christophe Blanc Charmille 2032-34 12/18 rocky, floral, clear, spare
***(*) P & C Bonnefond Colline de Couzou  2029-31 03/18 sound weight, steel, raw, time
***(*) Domaine Chambeyron L’Angeline  2029-31 11/17 honest, traditional, perfumed 
***(*) M Chapoutier Les Bécasses   2030-32 11/17 spiced, tight, pared back 
***(*) Aurélien Chatagnier   2030-32 11/17 willing, juicy fruit, genuine  
***(*) Benjamin & David Duclaux La Chana  2027-29 11/17 fleshy, perfumed, traditional 
***(*) Ben & David Duclaux Maison Rouge   2029-30 11/17 agreeable gras; has heart 
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Montmain   2029-32 11/17 quiet fruit, rocky tannin 
***(*) André François Le Peintre 2031-33 03/18 genuine, iron, prancing, naked
***(*) Pierre Gaillard   2027-28 11/17 immediate bounty, flashy  
***(*) Jocelyne & Yves Lafoy Prélude   2027-28 11/17 neat fruit, crisp tannins  
***(*) Vignobles Levet Améthyste 2038-40 12/18 soft, wavy, iron-iodine-floral
***(*) Gabriel Meffre Laurus   2028-30 11/17 tasty, streamlined, pleasant  
***(*) Domaine Mouton Maison Rouge 2036-38 12/18 good fruit spark, nerve, scope
***(*) Domaine Stéphane Pichat Champon’s 2028-30 11/17 elegant, tight, slow gainer 
***(*) Domaine de Rosiers Drevon   2032-34 11/17 liberal fruit, fluid richness 
***(*) Vidal-Fleury Brune et Blonde   2030-33 11/17 subdued gras, potential 
*** Romain Duvernay   2026-27 11/17 sweet, fleshy, bit exerted  
*** André François Gerine 2028-29 03/18 suave content, stem vegetal
*** Pierre Gaillard Rose Pourpre   2029-30 11/17 sweet fruit, musky, ponderous
*** Domaine Jasmin Oléa 2041-43 12/19 blue fruit, oak, international
*** Jeantet-Laurent Les Filles de Maugiron 2033-35 12/18 steady fruit stream; live tannins
*** Laudun Chusclan Vignerons Les Rolets 2025-26 11/17 red fruits, stretched   
*** Domaine Mouton 2034-36 12/18 traditional, bit one-paced
*** Jean-Baptiste Souillard Tartaras  2026-27 11/17 fine fruit, calm, bit dull 
*** GAEC Vernay 2032-34 12/18 schist wrapped; dark fruit, fair