Northern Rhône

The Northern Rhône is a relatively tiny viticultural area, but one which it would be foolish to ignore. We have a particular fondness for Côte Rôtie, a wine which at its best has none of the occasional rusticity of Cornas (or even Hermitage), but is elegant, with fine tannins and coolly expressive fruit which can be a joy young, but which, with age, can make some of the most complex and interesting wines on the planet. In addition, Côte Rôtie has generally avoided the extreme price rises of the fine wine market in the last decade, and now represents startling value for money, with world class wines starting at well under £30 a bottle in bond.

In addition the two most recent vintages available, 2015 and 2016, were extremely successful, the former making denser wines which will age well and rival the 1999s. (A 1999 Côte Rôtie from Clusel-Roch, tasted blind, thrilled at a recent L&S dinner and was declared wine of the night against stiff opposition from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Italy). The 2016s, which seem to be a slightly earlier maturing vintage, lack nothing in the way of concentration but have an extraordinary elegance and finesse, attributes which are part of the unique calling card of this appellation. As Jeb Dunnuck puts it in his report (JebDunnuck.com) 'Where the 2015s are deep, rich, and powerful, the 2016s shine for their purity, elegance, and balance, while still showing good depth of fruit, awesome purity, and sweet tannin.’

It is perhaps worth pointing out that while the southern Rhône, with its dominant Grenache, can make wines which push the boundaries of acceptable alcohol levels for some people (even if this alcohol is well-integrated and really does not show in the 2016s), the Syrahs of Côte Rôtie rarely attain 13.5%, and are often nearer 12.5%, so those who prefer to buy wines with lower alcohol should have no fear of these. It is the concentration of flavours at these moderate alcohol levels which can add to the sensation of understated power, elegance and insinuating charm.

The more peripheral appellations of Saint Joseph and Crozes Hermitage should also not be ignored, as again, these can offer great value – often better value than some of the more ambitiously-priced wines of the Languedoc made from similar blends of grapes.


Reviews

‘If you have any enthusiasm at all for red Rhône, 2015 is a vintage not to be missed.’
Jancis Robinson, JancisRobinson.com

'Fabulous 2015s and Sexy 2016s'
Joe Czerwinski, www.robertparker.com

'2015 is a truly sensational vintage that should not be missed by any Rhône lover out there'
Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com


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Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

Founded by Frédéric Caillet, the great-grandfather of brothers Benjamin and David in 1928, 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. As they say, they are aiming to make the elegant style of wine which this rocky vineyard produces - and they certainly succeed. The Chana is a cuvée that is simply a 'gourmandise', supple, aromatic, fresh, pure. The Germine and the Maison Rouge are more structured, and while they can be drunk young, they will give their best with some age. The Domaine has also produced a small volume of Condrieu since 2014. 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.
2015 CÔTE RÔTIE La Chana Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

2015 CÔTE RÔTIE La Chana Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

75cl bottles, case of 12

93% Syrah with 7% Viognier. The idea is to put the floral and aromatic Viognier forward in the blend and make a wine which can be enjoyed without the need for long ageing. Silky, elegant, with floral93% Syrah with 7% Viognier. The idea is to put the floral and aromatic Viognier forward in the blend and make a wine which can be enjoyed without the need for long ageing. Silky, elegant, with floral notes and velvet tannins. Fresh and delicate with lifted smoky dark fruit and juicy acidity to make it gloriously easy on the palate. Drinking range: 2018 - 2025L&S(Jan 2018)

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2015 CÔTE RÔTIE La Germine Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

2015 CÔTE RÔTIE La Germine Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

75cl bottles, case of 12

This is the Duclaux bothers main cuvée of Côte Rôtie, 97% Syrah with just 3% Viognier, made from several parcels of vines all over the property. While sharing the harmonious and delicate tread on theThis is the Duclaux bothers main cuvée of Côte Rôtie, 97% Syrah with just 3% Viognier, made from several parcels of vines all over the property. While sharing the harmonious and delicate tread on the palate of the 'Chana', there's a bit more depth and seriousness here, more intensity and a little more tannic grip, but still the delicately-expressed black berry fruit and the fine refreshing acidity drawing out the length. Drinking range: 2018 - 2033L&S(Jan 2018)

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2015 CÔTE RÔTIE Maison Rouge Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

2015 CÔTE RÔTIE Maison Rouge Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

75cl bottles, case of 6

A deeper and darker set of fruits in a more brambly and spicy mode than the La Germine. This has smooth, open and plush tannins and an energetic blackberry and plum fruit finish. Drink now.A deeper and darker set of fruits in a more brambly and spicy mode than the La Germine. This has smooth, open and plush tannins and an energetic blackberry and plum fruit finish. Drink now. Rating: 94-94 L&S(Sep 2017)

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Domaine Clusel-Roch

From the 1950s to 1980 René and Josephine Clusel grew fruit and vegetables as well as Côte Rôtie. Their son, Gilbert, with his wife Brigitte Roch, stopped farming fruit and vegetables alongside, and expanded the domaine a little. Brigitte and Gilbert's son Guillaume, who joined the domaine in 2009, has added significantly to the vineyard area, mostly with with the addition of Gamay in the Coteaux du Lyonnais. Guillaume has now taken over the running of the estate, and also buys in grapes from a few other other organic vine growers, notably for the Saint Joseph.

Today the property is around 13 hectares, but 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, with two wooden stakes tied above each vine to help protect against the region's occasionally howling winds.

Having officially converted to organic farming practices in 2002 (and now fully certified organic), most work in the vineyards is done manually, without the use of any chemical fertilisers.

In order to even better express the tradition of the vineyard, the domaine only uses vines from their own selection of Syrah plantings, which are grafted in their own small nursery. According to Gilbert, these traditional Ampuis vines (vieilles serines) are less productive and give more complex aromas than available modern selections. The grapes are all hand-picked, backbreaking work on these perilous hills and left to naturally ferment with wild yeasts. This approach furthers the site purity in each of their wines.

Annual production 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.

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

Half-bottles, case of 12

I tasted from several barrels that will be blended to make the 2016 Cote Rotie Classique. It they all come together as expected, the medium-bodied wine should offer hints of violets, cherries andI tasted from several barrels that will be blended to make the 2016 Cote Rotie Classique. It they all come together as expected, the medium-bodied wine should offer hints of violets, cherries and spice. Tannin quality varied depending on the parcel, some supple and elegant, others sturdy and muscular, so blending will be key in creating a balanced, layered mouthfeel and finish. Drinking range: 2020 - 2035 Rating: 90-92 Joe Czerwinski, www.robertparker.com(Dec 2017)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

75cl bottles, case of 12

I tasted from several barrels that will be blended to make the 2016 Cote Rotie Classique. It they all come together as expected, the medium-bodied wine should offer hints of violets, cherries andI tasted from several barrels that will be blended to make the 2016 Cote Rotie Classique. It they all come together as expected, the medium-bodied wine should offer hints of violets, cherries and spice. Tannin quality varied depending on the parcel, some supple and elegant, others sturdy and muscular, so blending will be key in creating a balanced, layered mouthfeel and finish. Drinking range: 2020 - 2035 Rating: 90-92 Joe Czerwinski, www.robertparker.com(Dec 2017)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Viallière Domaine Clusel-Roch

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Viallière Domaine Clusel-Roch

75cl bottles, case of 6

Super-complex, perfumed and spicy with a wealth of wild cherries and strawberries. Very bright, energetic cola nut, too. The palate has a fine, silky feel with a wealth of bright, crunchy tanninsSuper-complex, perfumed and spicy with a wealth of wild cherries and strawberries. Very bright, energetic cola nut, too. The palate has a fine, silky feel with a wealth of bright, crunchy tannins that are nicely cut, fresh and even approachable. 30 per cent whole-cluster fermentation. Pure syrah with no viognier. Try in 2022. Rating: 92-93 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com(Aug 2018)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Grandes Places Domaine Clusel-Roch

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Grandes Places Domaine Clusel-Roch

75cl bottles, case of 6

This has darker fruit with more modern spices and riper, darker, cherry and boysenberry character. The palate is very powerful, very defined and beautifully cast in terms of tannins. Dark-chocolateThis has darker fruit with more modern spices and riper, darker, cherry and boysenberry character. The palate is very powerful, very defined and beautifully cast in terms of tannins. Dark-chocolate and black-cherry-liqueur flavors at the finish. A terraced plot, high up on the slope. 30 per cent whole cluster fermentation. Pure syrah with no viognier. Try in 2024. Rating: 94-95 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com(Aug 2018)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

Magnums, case of 6

I tasted from several barrels that will be blended to make the 2016 Cote Rotie Classique. It they all come together as expected, the medium-bodied wine should offer hints of violets, cherries andI tasted from several barrels that will be blended to make the 2016 Cote Rotie Classique. It they all come together as expected, the medium-bodied wine should offer hints of violets, cherries and spice. Tannin quality varied depending on the parcel, some supple and elegant, others sturdy and muscular, so blending will be key in creating a balanced, layered mouthfeel and finish. Drinking range: 2020 - 2035 Rating: 90-92 Joe Czerwinski, www.robertparker.com(Dec 2017)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Viallière Domaine Clusel-Roch

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Viallière Domaine Clusel-Roch

Magnums, case of 3

Super-complex, perfumed and spicy with a wealth of wild cherries and strawberries. Very bright, energetic cola nut, too. The palate has a fine, silky feel with a wealth of bright, crunchy tanninsSuper-complex, perfumed and spicy with a wealth of wild cherries and strawberries. Very bright, energetic cola nut, too. The palate has a fine, silky feel with a wealth of bright, crunchy tannins that are nicely cut, fresh and even approachable. 30 per cent whole-cluster fermentation. Pure syrah with no viognier. Try in 2022. Rating: 92-93 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com(Aug 2018)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Grandes Places Domaine Clusel-Roch

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Grandes Places Domaine Clusel-Roch

Magnums, case of 3

This has darker fruit with more modern spices and riper, darker, cherry and boysenberry character. The palate is very powerful, very defined and beautifully cast in terms of tannins. Dark-chocolateThis has darker fruit with more modern spices and riper, darker, cherry and boysenberry character. The palate is very powerful, very defined and beautifully cast in terms of tannins. Dark-chocolate and black-cherry-liqueur flavors at the finish. A terraced plot, high up on the slope. 30 per cent whole cluster fermentation. Pure syrah with no viognier. Try in 2024. Rating: 94-95 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com(Aug 2018)

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Domaine Gilles Robin

Gilles Robin took over the running of this vineyard in 1996, with the freedom to produce his own wines. With a history of winegrowing spanning four generations, Gilles' aim was to realise the potential of the 35 year old vines. He immediately used only natural fertilizers and reduced yields to just 40 hectolitres per hectare (8/10 bunches per vine) to give a richer concentration of fruit and quality. A new winery was built into the ground to allow the wines to be moved delicately by gravity, rather than being pumped. Gilles' vineyard now extends to Saint Joseph (where he makes a tiny volume) and Hermitage, the core vineyard averages forty years old, and the wines gain in subtlety and balance with every vintage.

Gilles says of his wines, 'there is not a unique Syrah but rather a full spectrum of characteristics and potential expressed by Syrah varieties', to which might be added 'the spectrum of flavours of Syrah on different terroirs' as well, because his vineyards encompass the range of styles the appellation can produce. The 'Rochas' vineyard has deep soils which make for big wines with rustic tannins which take time to soften. It always produces tiny grapes which need fairly strong extraction to get the best of their deep, wild black fruit and spice notes. The 'Monico' vineyard is made up of broken-up rock and little pebbles and a deep clay. The clay retains water well and this is perfect for hot summers. A higher-toned red and black fruit character, ripe blackcurrant and blackberry, with elegant rather than massive tannins. Finally the 'Terres Rouges' vineyard is made of gravels and red clay, typical of the 'Terrasse des Châssis'. The Syrah here displays finesse, elegance and aromatic complexity. The strong iron monoxide content of this plot enables a maximum phenolic maturity. Intense colour, with purple highlights, aromas of violets, black fruits, sweet spices (pepper, nutmeg) and slightly smokiness. On the palate, this Syrah has silky tannins and fine minerality.

All of these styles together make for beautifully balanced wines, the different cuvées emphasising the differing characteristics of primal fruit and sophisticated and complex depth.

The vineyard has been organic since 2009.

2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Albéric Bouvet Domaine Gilles Robin

2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Albéric Bouvet Domaine Gilles Robin

75cl bottles, case of 12

Gilles makes his upper cuvée of Crozes with careful choice of fruit from his best areas and oldest vines, and the wine is given a judicious élevage in barrels, to make a substantial wine whichGilles makes his upper cuvée of Crozes with careful choice of fruit from his best areas and oldest vines, and the wine is given a judicious élevage in barrels, to make a substantial wine which marries the best of the scented finesse of the Syrah and the depth and body of the fruit of these older vines. Drinking range: 2019 - 2028L&S(Feb 2018)

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2015 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée 1920 Domaine Gilles Robin

2015 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée 1920 Domaine Gilles Robin

75cl bottles, wood case of 12

Produced only in exceptional years, this cream of the crop Crozes is the best that Gilles can make, and it is quite a wine, even if the production is extremely limited it is worth trying to get yourProduced only in exceptional years, this cream of the crop Crozes is the best that Gilles can make, and it is quite a wine, even if the production is extremely limited it is worth trying to get your hands on a few bottles. Very deeply-coloured, with a terrific fruit density and nuance, a powerful Syrah which still has elegance and purity, and a dark, long finish which promises good cellar potential. Drinking range: 2020 - 2035L&S(Feb 2018)

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2015 HERMITAGE Domaine Gilles Robin

2015 HERMITAGE Domaine Gilles Robin

75cl bottles, case of 6

From the Bessards vineyard that is close to the famous chapel. The vines are at the foot of the slope, clay on top of granite sand, it does not suffer too much from heat, and always makes aFrom the Bessards vineyard that is close to the famous chapel. The vines are at the foot of the slope, clay on top of granite sand, it does not suffer too much from heat, and always makes a harmonious wine. Super weight, suave and velvety, all rich in flavour and balanced by fresh acidity. Black fruit, spice and truffle all producing a fabulously fine, elegant and long wine. Drinking range: 2025 - 2040L&S(Feb 2018)

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Domaine Rémi Niero

One of the original domaines of the appellation, and centred on the oldest vineyard, above Condrieu itself and with a decent holding in the Coteau du Chéry, which, with the Coteau du Vernon, is considered one of the best sites. The domaine existed 45 years ago when the whole appellation was just 8 hectares of vines (it's now 160 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 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. The Condrieus 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.
2016 SAINT JOSEPH Bois Prieur Domaine Rémi Niero

2016 SAINT JOSEPH Bois Prieur Domaine Rémi Niero

75cl bottles, case of 6

An excellent Saint Joseph with a fine density of sappy, velvety richness and good, taut dark-fruited length which suggests that it will drink well over ten years.An excellent Saint Joseph with a fine density of sappy, velvety richness and good, taut dark-fruited length which suggests that it will drink well over ten years. Drinking range: 2018 - 2028L&S(Feb 2018)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Éminence Domaine Rémi Niero

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Éminence Domaine Rémi Niero

75cl bottles, case of 6

95% Syrah with 5% Viognier, from Viallière and Bassenon (Semons on the map). Dark and ripe, with fine tannins carrying concentrated flavours of damsons, blackberries and a savoury, smoky notes, a95% Syrah with 5% Viognier, from Viallière and Bassenon (Semons on the map). Dark and ripe, with fine tannins carrying concentrated flavours of damsons, blackberries and a savoury, smoky notes, a tautening background of oak. Quite intense but very sleek. This should really get into its stride in a year or two. Drinking range: 2019 - 2035L&S(Feb 2018)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Éminence Domaine Rémi Niero

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Éminence Domaine Rémi Niero

Magnums, case of 3

95% Syrah with 5% Viognier, from Viallière and Bassenon (Semons on the map). Dark and ripe, with fine tannins carrying concentrated flavours of damsons, blackberries and a savoury, smoky notes, a95% Syrah with 5% Viognier, from Viallière and Bassenon (Semons on the map). Dark and ripe, with fine tannins carrying concentrated flavours of damsons, blackberries and a savoury, smoky notes, a tautening background of oak. Quite intense but very sleek. This should really get into its stride in a year or two. Drinking range: 2019 - 2035L&S(Feb 2018)

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