Northern Rhônes Recently Tasted: Part X -- Combier, Curtat, Dard & Ribo, Darnaud, Faurie

As I stated in the previous post, there are some marvelous wines in 2015 in the Northern Rhône, but also some disappointments. Don't buy blindly and across the board.

All wines below are red unless otherwise specified.

Earlier reviews of Northern Rhônes are here, herehere, here, herehereherehere, here, and here.



Laurent COMBIER

2015 Crozes-Hermitage
This is a negociant wine from a producer who is on many smart wine list, but who seems to me to destroy the intrinsic qualities of Syrah from this area. The fruit here is stewed, muddied, and impure. The wine does bear the intensity and concentration typical of the vintage, and at least this is not as big a mess as my prior experience is with Combier's estate wines, especially his Clos des Grives, which is made with substantial new oak. So if you have to choose a Combier wine, I guess this is the one. Certified organic. 13% stated alcohol. Lot CH08.  80/F




Domaine Christophe CURTAT

Curtat is not from a vineyard-owning family. Located in Tournon, he began his estate in 2004 and now has 2 ha in white and 5 in red and has gained a reputation as one of the youngish (he’s now in his forties) producers of quality. Although not certified, he practices organic cultivation.

Watch for these wines; I think we may have a future star in the making.

Starting with the whites:

2015 Ardèche   Roussanne
This Roussanne is dense in texture but with good, enlivening acidity to go with the spicy apricot fruit. A classic Roussanne. 13.5% stated alcohol. Lot L 01. 90/A

2015 Saint-Joseph   Sous l’Amandier
Curtat’s white Saint-Joseph is a mixture of Roussanne and Marsanne. The wine has density and minerality with some austerity at presnet. It should continue to develop in the bottle for at least a few years. Lot L 01. 13.5% stated alcohol. 87(+)/B-

Moving to the reds:

2015 Ardèche    Syrah
This wine has all the density and concentration of the 2015 vintage, but with balance and finesse. Medium-weight, the wine has a creamy texture and dark Syrah fruits. There are sufficient tannins here to allow for several years of aging, but they are not so aggressive as to prohibit current drinking. 13.5% stated alcohol. 87/A 

2015 Crozes-Hermitage   Fées des Champs
Dense, powerful, dark Syrah fruit in a medium-weight body. Plenty of depth here. This wine is still quite immature and should show well with more time in bottle. I’d give it five years in the cellar, and perhaps even a decade. Lot L 01. 13.5% stated alcohol. 90/A

2014 Saint-Joseph   Nomade
 This is Curtat’s red Saint-Joseph, and a very impressive one it is. The wine is dense and concentrated, but balanced, with dark fruits, iodide, and saltiness. It’s impressive now, but the real splendor lies 5-10 years off. This is impressive, but not-easy-to-find, wine — should you come across it, I urge you strongly to try it. 13% stated alcohol. 92/A




R. J. DARD & F. RIBO

2016 Crozes-Hermitage    C’Est le Printemps
This pair have been a team for more than thirty years, now, and their conception of their wines is quite atypical of the region. They are looking for finesse and immediate drinkability. They are also among the earliest of the natural wine movement. This early-bottled cuvée fits that conception quite well. It light, smooth, and silky with somewhat fuzzy dark fruits, but enjoyable to drink. Synthetic cork, so drink over the next year or two. If you’re looking for terroir, this is not the place to go, but that’s true of much of Crozes-Hermitage. 12% stated alcohol. Lot L. 2016.  87/B




Emmanuel DARNAUD

2015 Crozes-Hermitage   Mise en Bouche
I’ve long been a fan of Darnaud’s wines, but this wine, meant for early drinking, doesn’t excite me. It’s rich and dense with seemingly-low acidity, but the blue Syrah fruits are muddy. 13% stated alcohol. Lot 1.  85(+?)/C




Bernard FAURIE

2015 Hermitage (white)

Faurie’s Hermitage is all Marsanne. The wine has richness with the firmness of Marsanne, mineral aromas, and spiced apple fruit with precision and balance. It’s just a baby now, but already very impressive. Lot L16119. 13.5% stated alcohol. 94/A