With a surface area under vine of 323 hectares, most of which clings precariously from ridiculously steep terraced slopes, to say this is a small appellation is an understatement from every angle. But nowhere is Syrah more revered, nowhere is it as perfumed and elegant and, astonishingly, nowhere is it so under the radar than in Côte Rôtie.
The slightly drab town of Ampuis is the commercial centre, but it is the majestic slopes that rise from behind the town that catch the eye, full of famous names using the terraced walls as advertising hoardings. The two slopes of Blonde and Brune are certainly impressive - from here it stretches south following the mighty Rhone river until it hits the southern slopes which brings you up to Condrieu.
Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux
Over the past decade, the quietly unassuming Benjamin & David Duclaux have steadfastly raised the profile of the region with the quality of their wines. This is undoubtedly one of the top domaines in Côte-Rôtie and if you like elegant, bright Burgundian style Syrah then there is no better estate to seek out.
Founded in 1928 by Frédéric Caillet, the great-grandfather of brothers Benjamin and David and then developed by their father Edmond, the domaine consists of 5.8 hectares of vines above Tupin et Semons, in the southern end of the Côte-Rôtie appellation, where the bedrock is gneiss and granite.
Here the brothers are aiming to make the elegant style of wine which this rocky vineyard produces - and they certainly succeed. The Chana (Syrah with 7% Viognier) is a cuvée that is simply a 'gourmandise' , supple, aromatic, fresh, pure. The Germine (Syrah with 3% Viognier) and the Maison Rouge (100% Syrah) are more structured and, while they can be drunk young, they will give their best with some age. In 2018 a new cuvée was added, Côteaux de Tupin, 100% and whole bunch with barrel ferment, these are immense wines and need patience. The Domaine has also produced a small volume of Condrieu since 2014 from a rented vineyard that they tend to.
The wine-making is gentle, there is 20% whole-bunch in the Germine , but otherwise the grapes are de-stemmed. The Chana is aged in demi-muids, the others in smaller barrels - the Maison Rouge getting 40% new wood. All the cuvées, with the exception of Côteaux de Tupin , are ready to drink after 2-3 years but will age very nicely too. Production is limited to a total of around 2000 cases a year for the whole domaine.
Benjamin Duclaux on the 2022 vintage:
'We harvested at the beginning of September. The weather in 2022 made for a relatively relaxed end to the season – there was no grass to cut and no disease pressure due to the drought. 2022 was a hot and dry year, but in Côte-Rôtie we had some relief from rains at the right moment (especially in June and August).
The resulting wines are complex with black fruits and a juicy texture. Overall, it's pretty similar to 2020: hot but with freshness. For me, It's definitely a good year.'
2021 CÔTE RÔTIE La Chana Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux
2021 La Chana 7% Viognier (60% estate & 40% purchased fruit) all desteemed. Very floral on the nose, bright & fruity with redcurrant, fine pure with a touch of violets, very light bodied, ready2021 La Chana 7% Viognier (60% estate & 40% purchased fruit) all desteemed. Very floral on the nose, bright & fruity with redcurrant, fine pure with a touch of violets, very light bodied, ready from the off, this is bright and fine, a very easy going and immediate style of Côte Rôtie, elegant and preciseL&S (Oct 2023)
2021 CÔTE RÔTIE La Germine Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux
2021 3% Viognier La Germine. A Blend of all the plots. Dark red fruit, blackcurrant, very pure on the nose, slightly closed though, soft and fruity, bright red cherry and a touch pepper, floral,2021 3% Viognier La Germine. A Blend of all the plots. Dark red fruit, blackcurrant, very pure on the nose, slightly closed though, soft and fruity, bright red cherry and a touch pepper, floral, red flowers, red currant, Pinot-esque a light floral acidity, this will drink almost from the off.L&S (Oct 2023)
2021 CÔTE RÔTIE Maison Rouge Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux
2021 Maison Rouge 100% Syrah 5000 bts Planted in 1943. Fine and elegant, very pure & precise, strawberry and redcurrant with dried cranberry, violet, mineral notes too, a touch of smoke, wild2021 Maison Rouge 100% Syrah 5000 bts Planted in 1943. Fine and elegant, very pure & precise, strawberry and redcurrant with dried cranberry, violet, mineral notes too, a touch of smoke, wild roses too, very pretty. L&S (Oct 2023)
From the 1950s to 1980 René and Josephine Clusel grew fruit and vegetables as well as grapes in Côte-Rôtie. Their son, Gilbert, with his wife Brigitte Roch, started to focus solely on the vineyards, and expanded the domaine a little.
Guillaume, Brigitte and Gilbert's son, joined the domaine in 2009 and is now in charge. He added significantly to the vineyard area, but mostly with the addition of Gamay in the Coteaux du Lyonnais. While the property is around 13 hectares, they still have only five hectares in Côte-Rôtie and just half a hectare in Condrieu. The vines are planted on terraces along the Côte-Rôtie, in the classic local style with two wooden stakes tied above each vine to help protect against the region's occasionally howling winds.
They were the first domaine to fully embrace organic practices and have been certified since 2002. They are a shining example of what can be achieved by hard work in the vineyards and truly artisan winemaking; their wines express the very best of this unique terroir up in the northern sector of Côte-Rôtie.
Les Schistes is the very approachable young cuvée from a selection of all plots, whilst the remaining cuvées are all single lieu dits. Annual production of Côte-Rôtie here still hovers at about 1250 cases per year. These are beautifully made wines with a very pure expression of place from this great region.
Domaine Graeme & Julie Bott
A love story and a bit of good fortune; a love of the Syrah grape that led Graeme to the Rhone and the love of his life Julie, who came together whilst working at the prestigious cellars of Stephane Ogier. Theirs is a back story of adventure and spirit and one of serendipity too.
Our relationship with the pair stretches back some 8 years or so, when we often stopped and shared a beer after the Marché aux vins in Ampuis every January, it was no surprise when they told us they were setting out on their own journey.
The surprise came when they discovered that the house they had purchased in Verin, complete with 0.35 hectare of garden, was within the appellation of Condrieu, between the in-demand Coteau de Chéry and the illustrious Chateau Grillet. Graeme & Julie like to pick early to capture the freshness, the wines tend be expressive, bright and pure.
Julie Bott on the 2022 vintage:
'After a historically dry summer and very hot weather, we thought we were heading for a challenging vintage. The vines were stressed from the lack of water and so were we!
Fortunately, the long-awaited rains arrived after the 15th of August, enabling the ripening to be revived and the berries to plump up a little. We were all relieved, both vines and winegrowers! The maturity which paused with the stress of the heat and lack of water allowed the alcohols levels to not rocket away. Thus the 2022 whites are balanced, the nose is marked by a beautiful aromatic expression, the mouth surprisingly offers freshness with a mineral finish.’
2022 CÔTE RÔTIE Domaine Graeme & Julie Bott
I tasted 4 different parcels from barrel that will eventually make the final blend - all very impressive. 2022 Côte Rôtie: More closed than the young vines, more grippy too, touch of spice andI tasted 4 different parcels from barrel that will eventually make the final blend - all very impressive. 2022 Côte Rôtie: More closed than the young vines, more grippy too, touch of spice and light floral notes too, sweet and tight will be interesting to see the blend. 2022 Fongeant: 100% whole cluster Dark fruit, black cherry, cola cube, dark fruit pastille, meaty, dense, black olive a touch of herbs, Côte Brune, very dark and brooding. 2022 Côte Rôtie Lancemont - Côte Brune white limestone: Floral, bright perfumed, violets, raspberry & strawberry tone fruit , very elegant lots of finesse, superb. 2022 Côte Rôtie young vines in Fongeant 100% destemmed: Medium ruby red, bright & sweetly perfumed, light floral and sweet violets, raspberry errs too, there is definitely tannins again, but not intrusive and will grow into the wine, vibrant and juicy with real depth, there is energy here too, nicely done.L&S (Oct 2023)
Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond
Christophe and Patrick took over this family domaine in 1990. It extends to ten hectares, with small amounts of IGP 'Collines Rhodaniennes' Viognier (0.5 hectare) and Syrah (1 hectare) as well as the Condrieu and the three cuvées of Côte-Rôtie.
The Condrieu (1 hectare) comes from the granite soils of the Côte Chatillon. It is fermented in 440l barrels (with 30% new wood) at 18C and aged on the lees for ten months.
The 'Colline de Couzou' Côte-Rôtie comes from several plots in the north and south of the appellation, on schist and granite, about six hectares in total. All the reds are fermented in stainless steel with around 20% whole bunches. The Couzou is then aged in 400l barrels for eighteen months, with 20% new wood. Production hovers just above 2000 cases a year.
The Côte Rozier (0.5 hectare) is in the north of the appellation, on schist and mica-schist. The vinification is the same, but the percentage of new wood for this and the Rochains goes up to 30% and the élevage in barrel is extended to 20 months. Only about 160 cases a year. The Rochains (1 hectare), a slightly bigger cuvée at 300 cases a year, is also in the north of the appellation, the other side of La Landonne, on a soil of schist with lots of iron oxide. These are the oldest vines of the domaine.
Christophe & Patrick Bonnefond have been at the forefront of everything good in Côte-Rotie for the past 20 years, with great sites in the north of the appellation as well as a small site in Tupin-et-Semons to the south. It has been fascinating watching the domaine develop into one of the go-to names for quality. The brothers have toned down their use of new oak in recent years and Christophe’s daughter Léa has joined the family business, adding a more gentle touch.
2022 CÔTE RÔTIE Colline de Couzou Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond
Tasted from barrel 3 different components: 2022 Côte Rôtie Colline de Couzou: Bright red fruits with spice and dark cherry, violets and rose petal, nice touch of tannin, maybe a touch too much,Tasted from barrel 3 different components: 2022 Côte Rôtie Colline de Couzou: Bright red fruits with spice and dark cherry, violets and rose petal, nice touch of tannin, maybe a touch too much, tight & grippy. 2022 Côte Rôtie Colline de Couzou More floral and less tannin, a little reductive too, tannins a little better integrated. 2022 Côte Rôtie Colline de Couzou Violets and black cherry, dark fruits and a touch of coffee & pastille too, grippy tannin. In summary the components to 2022 Colline de Couzou look very good, again the oak influence seems to be toned down. L&S (Oct 2023)
2022 CÔTE RÔTIE Côte Rozier Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond
2022 Côte Rozier Always my favourite cuvée from Bonnefond, More pumped up nose, sweet violets, black cherry and dark fruit notes but great sweetness, the mouthfeel is really generous, with again2022 Côte Rozier Always my favourite cuvée from Bonnefond, More pumped up nose, sweet violets, black cherry and dark fruit notes but great sweetness, the mouthfeel is really generous, with again ripe tannins, ripe fruits and nice acidity, 50% stems - barrel 5 years old, all looking like a great Côte Rozier in the making.L&S (Oct 2023)
2022 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Rochains Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond
2022 Les Rochains: Softer notes on this one, less obvious but still with attractive perfume of violets and blackcurrant, really good weight of dark fruits, textured - again the big slightly unripe2022 Les Rochains: Softer notes on this one, less obvious but still with attractive perfume of violets and blackcurrant, really good weight of dark fruits, textured - again the big slightly unripe tannins but should integrate nicely given time.L&S (Oct 2023)
2022 CÔTE RÔTIE Dans Le Vignes De Mon Père Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond
2022 Dans le Vignes de Mon Père (Cuvée Lea) 100% stems. Dark on the nose, purple fruits, a touch of chocolate too, mineral tones, smoke, bright red on the palate, perfumed parma violets, cassis,2022 Dans le Vignes de Mon Père (Cuvée Lea) 100% stems. Dark on the nose, purple fruits, a touch of chocolate too, mineral tones, smoke, bright red on the palate, perfumed parma violets, cassis, but with grippy tannins too, sweet and long, very nice and will grow into itself nicely over the next 3-5 yearsL&S (Oct 2023)
Domaine Rémi Niero
This is one of the original domaines of the Condrieu appellation, and perhaps without the dedication to Viognier from Niero (and the likes of Vernay), Condrieu would not have the world-class reputation it has today.
The domaine existed 45 years ago when the whole appellation was just 8 hectares of vines (it's now 200 hectares), under the name Pinchon. Rémi's father Robert married the Pinchon daughter, so now, having been Domaine Niero-Pinchon for a bit, it has been shortened to simply Niero when Rémi took over.
The smart and charming Rémi started to work alongside his father in 2004 and today oversees the domaine along with his wife Krystel. They are the 3rd generation of winemakers and continue the tradition of the estate's refined and pure wines from Viognier and Syrah working from their cellars in Condrieu. The domaine has recently fully converted to organic farming. The wines, much like the estate, are pristine and pure.
The Condrieus come from just over 4 hectares of vines, all in the commune of Condrieu itself, in the parcels Coteau de Chéry, La Roncharde, Côte Chatillon, La Caille, Vergelas and Corbéry. All of these are considered some of the of the best sites in the world for Viognier. The wines are aged in tank (60%) and barrel (40%) for a year.
The Côte-Rôties come from two sites, La Viallière and Le Coteau de Bassenon, from the southern end of the appellation, a total of nearly 2 hectares. They are aged for 16 months in barrel, with 20% new wood. Along with the exceptional Saint Joseph there is also a new Crozes Hermitage in the range.
Adrien Encontre on the 2022 vintage:
‘We’ve seen the influence of the sunshine reflected in all the wines of the 22 vintage. It’s given us profile of very aromatic whites, and juicy reds. A delicate vintage.’
2022 CÔTE RÔTIE Éminence Domaine Rémi Niero
2022 Côte Rôtie Eminence: Dark on the nose, the oak is showing but not obtrusive, violets and dark cherry note, sweet notes of blueberry & strawberry with cola cubes too, soft and floral with a2022 Côte Rôtie Eminence: Dark on the nose, the oak is showing but not obtrusive, violets and dark cherry note, sweet notes of blueberry & strawberry with cola cubes too, soft and floral with a touch of smoke and a mineral tone too, soft grainy tannins - superb as always, this could prove to be a bit too tempting for those that appreciate young Côte Rôtie as I certainly do, give it a year or two to grow into itself and brush off the tannin & oak and you will be well rewarded.L&S (Oct 2023)
2021 CÔTE RÔTIE Vires de Serine Domaine Rémi Niero
2021 Vires de Serine: More oak dominant, vanilla and dark red cherry, bright red cherry - slightly sour cherry note too, long but will need time.2021 Vires de Serine: More oak dominant, vanilla and dark red cherry, bright red cherry - slightly sour cherry note too, long but will need time.L&S (Oct 2023)