Red Northern Rhône

The Northern Rhône is a relatively tiny viticultural area, but one which produces some very distinctive gems in white and red. 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, 2016 and 2017, were extremely successful. The 2016s 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) 'The 2016s shine for their purity, elegance, and balance, while still showing good depth of fruit, awesome purity, and sweet tannin.’ The 2017s are riper, still with gorgeous purity and slightly more velvety-feeling fruit in a relaxed style.

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.

'Both 2016 and 2017 are incredibly strong vintages with distinctive personalities'... (The 2016s) do not have the sunny exuberance of the 2017s, but they have beautiful aromatics, medium to full-bodied mouthfeels, ripe tannins, healthy acidities, and classic, transparent characters... In contrast, 2017 was a scorching hot, early vintage and the wines are ripe, sexy, and flamboyant, with open-knit, approachable profiles.' Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com


Reviews

‘The best examples (of 2017 Northern Rhone Syrahs) capture all the fragrance of the variety alongside immaculate black fruit and structure that should age handsomely.’
Richard Hemming MW, JancisRobinson.com

'Lovers of Northern Rhône wines should be smiling too. Buyers should be stockpiling their favourites, as with four consecutive great vintages either released or in the pipeline (including 2018), there’s no need to compromise.'
Joe Czerwinski, www.robertparker.com




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Domaine Pierre Gaillard

Pierre Gaillard's passion for wine-making developed at an early age when he was discovered ploughing in the vineyard with a plough horse when only twelve years old. After studying oenology at Montpelier he went on to work for a large estate in Côte Rôtie where he steeped himself in the 'terroirs' and traditions of this famous vineyard. In 1981 he bought his own vines in St Joseph and revived the 'Clos de Cuminaille', an ancient vineyard dating back to Roman times. Since then he has bought vines in both Côte Rôtie and Condrieu, and his family have continued to develop the business.
2018 VIOGNIER Les Gendrines Côtes du Rhône Domaine Pierre Gaillard

2018 VIOGNIER Les Gendrines Côtes du Rhône Domaine Pierre Gaillard

(tasted from tank, prior to bottling late April.) Pure and bright on the nose, fresh notes of guava and citrus fruits – the mouthfeel is lush but with good acidity too, slight ginger aromatics and(tasted from tank, prior to bottling late April.) Pure and bright on the nose, fresh notes of guava and citrus fruits – the mouthfeel is lush but with good acidity too, slight ginger aromatics and that lovely apricot stone fruit, really impressive.L&S(Jan 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 6

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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 and granite. Production is limited to a total of around 2000 cases a year for the whole domaine.

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. 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.

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Chana Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Chana Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

Lifted fruits on the nose, redcurrant, blackcurrant, touch of violet too, very supple tannin in the mouth, cherry and plum also present really super impressive and elegant, a lovely refined styleLifted fruits on the nose, redcurrant, blackcurrant, touch of violet too, very supple tannin in the mouth, cherry and plum also present really super impressive and elegant, a lovely refined style here, long elegant finish, very good. Drinking range: 2020 - 2028L&S(Jan 2019)

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Germine Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE La Germine Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

Bright and lifted fruits, silky plum, redcurrant, blackcurrant with a mineral edge , spice with a touch of smoke too, a bigger style but again real elegance and precision, these are really quiteBright and lifted fruits, silky plum, redcurrant, blackcurrant with a mineral edge , spice with a touch of smoke too, a bigger style but again real elegance and precision, these are really quite brilliant wines and still very under the radar Drinking range: 2020 - 2030L&S(Jan 2019)

Jeroboam, case of 1

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Magnums, case of 3

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75cl bottles, case of 6

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2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Maison Rouge Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

2016 CÔTE RÔTIE Maison Rouge Domaine Benjamin et David Duclaux

Single vineyard selection, more weight to the fruits, dark cherry, blackcurrant and violets but again it is that lovely smokiness and fine tannin, elegant and pure.Single vineyard selection, more weight to the fruits, dark cherry, blackcurrant and violets but again it is that lovely smokiness and fine tannin, elegant and pure. Drinking range: 2022 - 2032L&S(Jan 2019)

Jeroboam, case of 1

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Magnums, case of 3

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75cl bottles, case of 6

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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.

2018 SAINT JOSEPH Domaine Clusel-Roch

2018 SAINT JOSEPH Domaine Clusel-Roch

Very enticing nose of northern Syrah, plum and cassis with a hint of violet, bright, pure and finishes with elegance and freshness, all held together with juicy vibrant acidity - very impressiveVery enticing nose of northern Syrah, plum and cassis with a hint of violet, bright, pure and finishes with elegance and freshness, all held together with juicy vibrant acidity - very impressiveL&S(Jan 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 6

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2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Schistes Domaine Clusel-Roch

Expressive and pure on the nose with that really attractive blue fruits so enticing with young Northern Rhône Syrah, of schist, minerality coming through but the core of blueberry, blackcurrant andExpressive and pure on the nose with that really attractive blue fruits so enticing with young Northern Rhône Syrah, of schist, minerality coming through but the core of blueberry, blackcurrant and violets is very attractive, nice balance too between acidity and fruit. Drinking range: 2020 - 2030L&S(Feb 2019)

Magnums, case of 3

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75cl bottles, case of 6

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2017 CÔTE RÔTIE La Viallière Domaine Clusel-Roch

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE La Viallière Domaine Clusel-Roch

Really fresh on the nose, blueberry, red fruits, mineral, touch of pepper and spice, again really supple tannin balanced with persistent acidity, this can be drunk relatively young, or will age wellReally fresh on the nose, blueberry, red fruits, mineral, touch of pepper and spice, again really supple tannin balanced with persistent acidity, this can be drunk relatively young, or will age well to a different expression Very impressive, essence of great Côte Rôtie. Drinking range: 2019 - 2032L&S(Feb 2019)

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2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Grandes Places Domaine Clusel-Roch

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Grandes Places Domaine Clusel-Roch

Very rich dense colour, slightly muted on the nose for now. Lots of dense black fruits, blackcurrant, violets and rich minerality, but the sheer density makes it hard to taste. Judging purely on theVery rich dense colour, slightly muted on the nose for now. Lots of dense black fruits, blackcurrant, violets and rich minerality, but the sheer density makes it hard to taste. Judging purely on the other 17’s it should shape up very nicely but will need time. Drinking range: 2020 - 2033L&S(Jan 2019)

Magnums, case of 3

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75cl bottles, case of 6

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Domaine Gaylord Machon

Domaine Gaylord Machon is in Beaumont-Monteux, in the heart of the Crozes-Hermitage appellation, on 'les châssis' a name which derives from the numerous large stones found in this area, which make for a particularly free-draining soil. 5% of the domaine is Marsanne and Roussanne, from which a tiny amount of white is made, the rest being all Syrah for the two cuvées of red.

All the work in the vines is manual, including the harvest. Gaylord took over 5 hectares of family vines in 2002, the produce of which he took to the co-op, like his forbears, until 2008, when he began to sell the grapes of what was then an enlarged 8.5 hectares to Paul Jaboulet Ainé. In 2011 he made his first wine. He is a qualified winemaker, and had trained with Luc Tardy and Laurent Combier, among others.

Gaylord built his own vinification cellar in 2014, and today vinifies about half his red production and all the white.

2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Ghany Domaine Gaylord Machon

2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Ghany Domaine Gaylord Machon

Great aromatics from the start on the Cuvee Ghany, cracked black pepper, dark cherry and plum fruit. The palate is richly textured with fleshy plum fruit, some lovely cooked meat notes, undergrowthGreat aromatics from the start on the Cuvee Ghany, cracked black pepper, dark cherry and plum fruit. The palate is richly textured with fleshy plum fruit, some lovely cooked meat notes, undergrowth and black pepper spice on the finish. Ready to drink from the off, but with plenty to keep it going for a good few years. Drinking range: 2019 - 2026L&S(Mar 2019)

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2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Lhony Domaine Gaylord Machon

2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Lhony Domaine Gaylord Machon

The 2016 Crozes Hermitage Lhony spent 18 months in new and once-used demi-muids. It offers a ripe, rounded, ready-to-go style as well as plenty of spiced red and black fruits, earth, and pepperyThe 2016 Crozes Hermitage Lhony spent 18 months in new and once-used demi-muids. It offers a ripe, rounded, ready-to-go style as well as plenty of spiced red and black fruits, earth, and peppery aromas and flavors. With medium to full body, a layered texture, and building tannins that might just outlive the fruit, drink it over the coming 4-6 years. Drinking range: 2019 - 2025 Rating: 88-88 Jeb Dunnuck, www.jebdunnuck.com(Dec 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.

2017 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Papillon Domaine Gilles Robin

2017 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Papillon Domaine Gilles Robin

100% Syrah, unwooded and designed for relatively early drinking...not that it's any sort of light-weight. Bold and solid, perfumed with deep blackberry and black cherry fruit and classic Rhone sweet100% Syrah, unwooded and designed for relatively early drinking...not that it's any sort of light-weight. Bold and solid, perfumed with deep blackberry and black cherry fruit and classic Rhone sweet pepper spice, the palate is round and plump but with a nice clean finish. Great with red meat, solid cheeses or hearty suppers.L&S(Feb 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 12

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2017 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Albéric Bouvet Domaine Gilles Robin

2017 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée Albéric Bouvet Domaine Gilles Robin

Tasted blind. Powerfully tannic in structure with a roasted coffee note to the palate, perhaps from toasted oak. Lots of winemaking in evidence, as well as ripe, fleshy black fruit.Tasted blind. Powerfully tannic in structure with a roasted coffee note to the palate, perhaps from toasted oak. Lots of winemaking in evidence, as well as ripe, fleshy black fruit. Drinking range: 2021 - 2027 Rating: 16.5 Richard Hemming MW - www.JancisRobinson.com(Nov 2018)

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2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée 1920 Domaine Gilles Robin

2016 CROZES HERMITAGE Cuvée 1920 Domaine Gilles Robin

Tasted blind. Liquorice, black cherry and leather with plenty of fresh oak spice too. Bold and flavoursome. Likewise, there is a lot of tannic astringency on the palate, requiring time in bottle toTasted blind. Liquorice, black cherry and leather with plenty of fresh oak spice too. Bold and flavoursome. Likewise, there is a lot of tannic astringency on the palate, requiring time in bottle to resolve. Drinking range: 2022 - 2032 Rating: 16.5+ Richard Hemming MW - www.JancisRobinson.com(Nov 2018)

75cl bottles, case of 12

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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.

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Colline de Couzou Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Colline de Couzou Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

A three week fermentation in stainless steel, with 20% whole bunches, before élevage for eighteen months in 400 litre barrels (10% new wood). Rich and vibrant black fruits on the nose, olive andA three week fermentation in stainless steel, with 20% whole bunches, before élevage for eighteen months in 400 litre barrels (10% new wood). Rich and vibrant black fruits on the nose, olive and mineral, fine and supple in the mouth with a touch of pepper and lots of black cherry and violets, very long and full, lots to like. Drinking range: 2019 - 2028L&S(Jan 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 6

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2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Rochains Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Les Rochains Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

From a small plot next to La Landonne, on schist and iron-oxide-rich soil. The vinification is the same as for the 'Rozier', aged for 20 months with 30% new wood. Very ripe and dense but with realFrom a small plot next to La Landonne, on schist and iron-oxide-rich soil. The vinification is the same as for the 'Rozier', aged for 20 months with 30% new wood. Very ripe and dense but with real poise, saturated black fruits, mineral, smoke. Very pure and elegant as well as quite powerfully rich - still a lovely style. Drinking range: 2022 - 2032L&S(Jan 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 6

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2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Côte Rozier Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Côte Rozier Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond

More expressive than the Couzou with the mineral core being a little more juicy, blackcurrant, violets, rose petal and elegant tight tannins all give the impression of a serious wine, although it isMore expressive than the Couzou with the mineral core being a little more juicy, blackcurrant, violets, rose petal and elegant tight tannins all give the impression of a serious wine, although it is muscular it is still very elegant and pure with that classic Northern Rhône trademark violet-laced fruit Drinking range: 2022 - 2029L&S(Feb 2019)

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Domaine Rémi Niero

The smart and charming Rémi started to work alongside his father in 2004 and today is in charge of 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.

This is one of the original domaines of the Condrieu 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.

2017 SAINT JOSEPH Bois Prieur Domaine Rémi Niero

2017 SAINT JOSEPH Bois Prieur Domaine Rémi Niero

Bright fruits on the nose, violet, raspberry and a slight touch on mint, elegant and pure with balanced acidity running through the core, a touch of soft grip on the finish, really enjoyable and pure.Bright fruits on the nose, violet, raspberry and a slight touch on mint, elegant and pure with balanced acidity running through the core, a touch of soft grip on the finish, really enjoyable and pure. Drinking range: 2019 - 2025L&S(Feb 2019)

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2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Éminence Domaine Rémi Niero

2017 CÔTE RÔTIE Éminence Domaine Rémi Niero

95% Syrah 5% Viognier from 1.8 hectares spread across 2 sites, schist soil from Viallière and granite from Bassenon, average age of vines 20 years old, 3 weeks going through fermentation in concrete95% Syrah 5% Viognier from 1.8 hectares spread across 2 sites, schist soil from Viallière and granite from Bassenon, average age of vines 20 years old, 3 weeks going through fermentation in concrete vats before 15 months in oak of which 20% is new. Super expressive of the nose, cassis, violets, rose petal and blackberry, slight touch of pepper too, feels saturated by fresh fruit but has elegance and great balance, the tannins are on show but really well-integrated for such a young wine, really like the pureness of fruit here, great expression of how good Northern Rhône Syrah can be, very smart indeed. Drinking range: 2019 - 2030L&S(Jan 2019)

75cl bottles, case of 6

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