Red northern Rhônes IV: Bourg, Gilles, Graillot, Gripa, Jamet, Levet, Lionnet, Nodin, Perreol/Monier-Perreol/Monier, Paris, Perret. Rousset, Saint-Clair/Basset, Texier

This is the latest batch of my reviews from top producers in Northern Rhône appellations. 

Fans of the region will be happy: there’s been a string of good vintages, and other than Hermitage and to a lesser extent, Côte-Rôtie, prices have not exploded in recent vintages.

Earlier reviews of Northern Rhônes are found hereherehere, and here

Mickäel BOURG

2012 Cornas   les p’tits bouts
Bourg has worked with Matthieu Barret at Cornas, and in 2006 began his tiny estate. Sixty percent of the vines here date to the 1950s, the rest to 2004-2005; he uses whole cluster fermentation. I understand that he farms organically, but there is no certification on the label. This is impressive Cornas with good weight and density to go with concentrated, smoky, mineral dark fruit and no heaviness or awkwardness. There are tannins here, but they are not astringent and the texture is smooth. You can enjoy this wine already for its fruit, but I’d suggest holding it 5-6 years in the cellar before beginning to drink it. 13% stated alcohol. Lot L12C. 92/A

Guillaume GILLES

2011 Côtes-du-Rhône    les peyrouses
When Robert Michel retired, his nephew, Vincent Paris, became heir to most of the estate. But Guillaume Gilles had been a protégé of Michel (and of Jean-Louis Chave – his period with them was 2000-2004) and perhaps makes wine more in the style of Michel than does Paris (not that I have any issues with Paris’s wines, just that their style is a step closer to modern than that of Gilles). For example, there is no destemming for most of the wines here and large, old casks are used for aging. This wine comes from old vines (50% 100 years old, 50% from the mid- and late-part of the twentieth century) on the flatlands of Cornas. It can be considered a good Cornas if one is looking for relatively early drinking. The wine has a smoky nose that is recognizably Cornas. The mouth is full-bodied, intense, and dense with dark fruits and still tannins showing, so the wine should continue to improve over the years. 14% stated alcohol. Lot LP 111. 89/A


2014 Crozes-Hermitage
I am a longtime fan of Alain Graillot’s wines, all the way back to 1986, which I believe was his first vintage. I can’t recall having tasted a better wine from him than this one. The wine is dense and concentrated with dark and red fruits plus slight truffliness and spiciness for complexity. The wine is medium-weight and elegant. 13% stated alcohol. Lot L3. 92/A

Bernard GRIPA

2013 Saint-Joseph
This is a dense wine with primary blueberry fruit and a rich, smooth texture in a medium-weight body. You can drink it now, but it will be substantially better with another 5-7 years in the cellar, and it has the balance and structure to last for quite some time after that. Lot L113. 13.5% stated alcohol. 91/A

2013 Saint-Joseph    le berceau
Berceau means cradle and the vineyard this wine comes from is called Le Berceau because the grapes are mostly from the “Saint-Joseph” climat, that is the cradle of the whole appellation of Saint-Joseph. Those vines date to the 1920s;  there are also some vines from the 1950s planted in the Peyros climat, another excellent terroir. The wine is medium-full and dense with dark fruit, umami, and salinity, moderate acidity, and round tannins. It can be enjoyed now, but I’d give it 8-10 years in the cellar and it should be able to go at least 20. Lot L413. 13.5% stated alcohol. 91+/A

Corinne, Jean-Paul & Loïc JAMET

2014 Collines Rhodaniennes   syrah
This is Jamet’s most successful version of this wine in several years. The dark berry fruit is crysatlline, the body is medium-weight, and there is a real presence to the wine, even if it is (as one would expect) not complex. 12% stated alcohol. Lot LP14. 87/A-

2014 Côtes-du-Rhône
The difference between this wine and the preceding wine is less marked than it was in the preceding vintage. Here we have good, dark Côte-Rôtie-like fruit with a smooth texture and a medium-light body. There’s a bit more depth and complexity here than in the previous wine, and this wine is better than what many people are doing these days from Côte-Rôtie. Unlike the 2013 version, I wold not bother to cellar this wine, but rather drink it now for its enjoyability. 12.5% stated alcohol. Lot LR14. 88/A-

2013 Côte-Rôtie
There remains a core of very fine producers amidst the sea of mediocrity for the Côte-Rôtie appellation, but for me, this estate is the unquestioned finest of the appellation, and it has been since the late Marius Gentaz stopped producing after the 1993 vintage. The 2013 features strong notes of blueberries, violets, clove, and bacon in a medium-weight mouth with a silky texture. The wine ideally needs time to fully integrate, but there is so much fruit here that it is a thrill to drink this wine even now. I believe that 2013 is the first vintage that Jean-Luc and Jean-Paul Jamet divided the estate and went their own separate ways. 13% stated alcohol.  95(+)/A


Many of the greatest Rhône producers who still were around in the 1980s and in a few cases up to the early 2000s – Gentaz-Dervieux, Noël Verset, Raymond Trollat, Guy de Barjac, Jean-Louis Grippat, to cite some of the more obvious examples – are gone with their estates sold off to others (who are often, but not always, admirable in their own way).  Fortunately, there remains a core of producers in the various appellations who continue to work in traditional methods and make traditional great wines from these splendid sources. This is one of them.

In the mid-twentieth century, Marius Chambeyron (not the Chambeyron who bottles under the Chambeyron name today) was widely-recognized as one of, if not the, greatest producers of Côte-Rôtie. He died in 1983, but his daughter Nicole and her husband Bernard Levet continued the estate, working in the most traditional of methods, and for some time they have been joined by their daughter Agnès, too. The vines here are all Petit Sérine, the original and the great Syrah type for Côte-Rôtie.

Be forewarned, though, these are wines that need substantial aging.

2010 Côte-Rôtie   les journaries/cuvée maestra
Les Journaries, the name used on the label in the United States, is an old name for La Landonne, the lieu-dit from which this wine comes; Cuvée Maestra is the name used for other markets. The wine is quite closed – I recommended a vigorous decanting well before serving if you drink this wine now. It bears ripe, classic dark fruits with salt pork aromas. The mouth is medium-full and quite tannic and dense with mineral dark fruits. Ideally, give this wine another 8-10 years in the cellar, but then I expect it will be a jewel. Lot LVLJ. 13% stated alcohol. 92/A

2010 Côte-Rôtie     la chavroche/la péroline
From the Côte Brune lieu-dit Chavaroche and vines that average 40 years-old on a steeply-terraced southwest-facing slope, this is classic, structured Côte-Rôtie with a perfumed nose and classic Côte-Rôtie spice to the red fruit flavors. (La Péroline is the name of this cuvée used in some markets.) The texture is stony and tannins are evident. I can think of only one or two other locations where you can get classic Côte-Rôtie of this quality any more. Plan on 6-8 years in the cellar until the wine hits prime drinking. Lot LVCR. 13% stated alcohol.  93(+)/A


2012 Cornas     terre brulée
Ludovic Izerable married Corrine Lionnet, and in 2003, she took over this small (2.2 ha) estate from her father. The holdings are in the following lieux-dits: Mazards, Chaillot, Brugères, and Combes. Izerable is responsible for the wines. Each lieu-dit is vinified separately, all the stems are used, and there is a single wine issued, an assemblage of the four lieux-dits. The wine is quite dense, low (but not deficient) in acidity, and features violets and blue fruits in both the nose and mouth along with some minerality. There’s still notable tannin here, and I would expect this wine to take 6-8 years to achieve full maturity, perhaps even longer. It is old-style in the best sense of the term, and fans of Cornas who come across the wine will want to try it. 13.5% stated alcohol. Lot L 01.  91/A-


2014 Cornas   les eygats
Nodin is a producer based in Saint-Péray. He began making wine in 2008, previously having sent grapes to the cooperative. I understand this is his first Cornas, made from 0.2 hectares of rather young vines. The surface area in Cornas is scheduled to rise to 0.8 ha in coming years (it’s difficult to leave the cooperative, I’m told). All things considered, this is very good Cornas, showing the terroir very well. The wine features dark berry and plum fruit with a touch of mineral smokiness, medium weight, and round tannins. Acidity is correct. It’s a wine that’s approachable now and is so enjoyable that I see no reason to age it for any substantial period. 12.5% stated alcohol.  92/A


2013 Saint-Joseph
This estate apparently uses all three labels above, but officially it is Domaine Perréol-Monier.
This wine shows the intense dark fruit and stoniness of Saint-Joseph, but it falls short of the individuality that the best wines of the appellation can have – a result, I suspect, of the terroir limitations, as this is the estate’s entry-level wine and it is not located in the historic Saint-Joseph country. Certified organic and biodynamic. 12.5% stated alcohol. Lot 13/09. 88/B

Vincent PARIS

2013 Cornas   granit 30
This is from younger vines that Paris owns, in the Mazards lieu-dit at about a 30º slope and lower down on the slope. That sounds like a real talk-down, but this wine is excellent Cornas at an excellent price. Paris began as a traditionalist with some modernist highlights, but over the years he has moved to a more traditionalist approach, and so here we have classic Cornas with smoky blackberry aromas and flavors with minerality, a medium-full body with a smooth texture, but enough structure for 15-20 years of aging. But you can also drink it now with great pleasure. 13% stated alcohol. Lot L. 1.  92/A

2013 Cornas    granit 60
Sometimes less is more. This wine is from older vines on a steeper slope than those of the Granit 30 reviewed above. It is clearly denser and riper than the Granit 30, but at least for the moment, it does not have as much precision – perhaps that will come with time, we’ll just have to wait to see. But it is clearly a dark-fruited wine with depth and breadth and a good representative of Cornas. Try again in 7-10 years. 13% stated alcohol. Lot L. 1. 91(+)/A-

2013 Cornas   la geynale
The source of this wine is 100-year old vines in the Reynard lieu-dit. This wine is still denser and less open than the Granit 60 and gives plenty of promise with its smooth texture, medium-full body, and dark fruits, but the tannins argue for 10-12 years’ cellaring before it begins to drink in top form. 14% stated alcohol. Lot L.02.  92(+)/A


2013 Saint-Joseph     les grisières
Perret has two cuvées of red Saint-Joseph. I previously reviewed the first cuvée of 2013. That wine is from vines about 20 years-old and it sees about 20% new oak. This wine is from vines about 40 years-old and it sees about 30% new oak. To me, it is a little modern in style in its smoothness. It has dark fruit with some stoniness but the fruit is still quite undeveloped. Will it improve with aging? 13% stated alcohol. Lot LSJG13.  89(+?)/B+

Robert et Stéphane ROUSSET

2012 Crozes-Hermitage    les picaudières
Along with Jaboulet’s Domaine de Thalabert, the vines of Raymond Roure were long recognized as having the best site in the Crozes-Hermitage appellation. Roure retired many years ago and Jaboulet bought part of the vines, but others passed to Rousset, a relative of Roure. Roussets’ wines have been excellent whenever I am lucky enough to come across thim. Picaudières is on a hillside (very rare in Crozes-Hermitage) with granitic soils and facing south, just like Hermitage. This is a more strucrtured Crozes than most that will still need a few years to unwind. The wine is medium-light and elegant with violet and dark plum aromas and flavors, a hint of smokiness, some creaminess to the texture, and still some tannins to be resolved. 13% stated alcohol. Lot L 01.  88(+)/B+


2014 Crozes-Hermitage    étincelle
Frankly, the best I can do in reviewing this wine is to repeat word-for-word what I wrote about the 2012 (the 2013 seems to have been sold before I could obtain a bottle) and note that I upped the score of the 2014 by a point and from B+ to A-: “Basset began bottling his own wine in 2007. He makes four wines: a white Crozes-Hermitage, a red Saint-Joseph, a red Crozes-Hermitage intended for aging more than eight years, and this bottling, intended for aging 4-8 years. Viticultural practices are lutte raisonnée (essentially, organic, but reserving the right to intervene if organic solutions don’t work). This is very good everyday Crozes-Hermitage. It does not move into the extraordinary territory that a handful of wines occupy, but it is not intended to do so. The wine is smooth and full-bodied with dark berry and plum fruit with some minerality to it. It is a very pleasing wine and good value at its price point.” 13% stated alcohol. 89/A-


2013 Côtes-du-Rhône    Brézème

This wine is dense, concentrated, and medium-weight with blueberry fruit and some salinity. It’s enjoyable to drink now for its primary fruit, but I think those who cellar it 8-10 years will find it fascinating and not just enjoyable. Certified organic. 12% stated alcohol. 89+/A