Miscellaneous Northern Rhône Reds Recently Sampled

The good news is that there is a string of very good vintages coming down the line from this region. 2011 distinguishes itself by power, perhaps at the expense of precision. 2012 and 2013 look to have that extra precision and to be more elegant; I’m told by some producers that they expect 2014 to turn out that way, too, although we’ll have to wait and see.

Here are some wines from some of my favorite producers that have been recently sampled and assessed and two other producers (Gilles and Marsanne) that are new to me (or in the case of Marsanne, I have not had wines from the estate in many years and from the current generation producing).

Bernard FAURIE

2011 Hermitage   (gold capsule, no m)
The gold capsule without an on it indicates that this cuvée is from the Bessards and Méallieux-dits; the cream capsule, which I previously reviewed, is from Greffieux and Bessards. As is to be expected by substituting wine from the Méal for Greffieux, this is a thicker, richer, more primary wine with plenty of tannins to go with the pure dark fruit. Expect 15-20 years of aging until this wine really shows its all. Lot L13094. 13% stated alcohol. 92+/A-

Lionel FAURY/Philippe FAURY

2012 collines rhodaniennes   l’art zélé    syrah
The Colline Rhodaniennes l’art zélé comes from 17 year-old Syrah vines on schist soils about 50 yards from the edge of the Côte-Rôtie appellation, but (like part of the Côte-Rôtie appellation) it is on the plateau and not on slopes. The wine is medium-light with penetrating spiced dark plum fruit. It is a good approximation of Côte-Rôtie – better than much of what is being made there today, although not at the level of the few very top producers – with but a fraction of the price. 12.5% stated alcohol. 89/A

2012 Saint-Joseph
I’m not sure that the lower price for the Saint-Joseph than the Collines Rhodaniennes is the situation that you would find at the cellar door; I think it probably reflects the change in exchange rates between the time that the two wines were shipped. The wine seems fully ready to drink, although it has the balance to hold. It is medium-weight, round, and smooth with dark cherry and dark plum aromas and flavors. A Côte-Rôtie, Cornas, or Hermitage from a top producer is going to top this wine with time, but if you’re looking for a wine to drink now from a recent vintage, it’s hard to do better than this one. 13% stated alcohol. 91/A

2012 Saint-Joseph   vieilles vignes
The Saint-Joseph vieilles vignes also seems ready to drink now, although it may also have some development potential. The wine is smooth in texture, light in weight with ripe, but not overripe, dark fruits and fine tannins on the finish. 13% stated alcohol. 91(+)/A

2013 collines rhodaniennes    syrah
The 2013 Collines Rhondaniennes is high-toned with spicy dark fruits and a medium-light body. No tannin apparent, this is a wine for drinking young and preferably slightly chilled.86/B

Guillaume GILLES
2011 Cornas
Guillaume’s Cornas is monstrously tannic – on the day I opened it, the wine was absolutely impenetrable – old style to the fullest extent. On day two it shows violets and other dark fruits in a dense, full body. Expect to hold this wine for at least 15 years, but I think you will be rewarded if you do. 13.5% stated alcohol. Lot LC 111. 92/A


2012 Crozes-Hermitage    la guiraude
Graillot’s La Guiraude is composed each vintage from a selection of his best barrels. In truth, I usually don’t feel it justifies the extra price over the regular Crozes-Hermitage, and indeed, I don’t always think it is even a better wine than the regular Crozes-Hermitage. But this vintage looks like an exception. The wine has dark fruits with hints of animality and a smooth texture in a full body. The wine displays the amplitude of maturity, yet this is not an obviously hot year. Lot L1. 13% stated alcohol. You can enjoy it now, but there should be no problem aging this wine 10-15 years. 92/A

JAMET/Corinne et Jean-Paul JAMET

2012 collines rhodaniennes   syrah
Corinne and Jean-Paul Jamet’s IGP Syrah is still quite young and may improve with further bottle aging. It is earthy with a bit of reduction. The mouth is medium-full with spicy dark fruit that lacks some precision for the moment, at least. 12.5% stated alcohol. Lot LP12. 85(+)/B

2012 Côtes-du-Rhône
The Côtes-du-Rhône can easily be taken for a Côte-Rôtie for its spicy red and dark fruits and silky texture in a medium-weight body. At the moment, the wine is a little obvious in its fruit and spiciness, but I suspect that a couple of years in bottle will add more complexity. 12.5% stated alcohol. Lot LR12. 13.5% stated alcohol. Lot L01. 87(+)/A-

Jean-Claude MARSANNE

2012 Saint-Joseph
Marsanne is in the town of Mauves, one of the three traditional best locations for Saint-Joseph. The wine is open with plenty of red berry fruit, medium-weight, and nice clarity.89/B+


2011 Saint-Joseph    les grisières
The Grisières is Perret’s older vine version of Saint-Joseph. The vines here are about 40 years old, vs. about 20 for the regular St-Jo, and this receives about 30% new oak vs. 20% for the regular (400 liter barrels and barriques in each case). Perhaps yields are slightly lower due to the older vines here. The result is a somewhat more polished wine with good Syrah dark fruits, although I’m not sure it’s really better than the somewhat more rustic regular wine. Both feature the spicy nose typical of northern portions of Saint-Joseph and Côte-Rôtie. 13% stated alcohol. Lot LSJG1. 91/A

2013 Saint-Joseph
It’s been a while since I’ve had a wine as pretty and that says “you want to drink all of me right now” like the 2013 Saint-Joseph. Like the Grisières, this wine is clearly from the northern part of the appellation with a Côte-Rôtie-type spiciness to the raspberry fruit. Some might pick up a little oak here, but based on long experience (including Syrah’s that have never seen any oak, old or new), I think this is more likely the way Syrah can taste. The wine is lovely now and I expect it will be even more so if you have any bottles left in 10-15 years. 12.5% stated alcohol. Lot LSJR13. 92/A