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 £35 a bottle in bond.
In addition the two most recent vintages available, 2017 and 2018, were extremely successful. The 2017s are ripe, with gorgeous purity and a velvety-feeling fruit in a relaxed style. The 2018s are again ripe, generous wines from a hot vintage, which are still pure and elegant.
While the southern Rhône in recent years has seen soaring alcohol levels, the Syrahs of Côte Rôtie, even in really hot years like 2017 and 2018, rarely attain 14%, and are often nearer 13.5%. It is the concentration of flavours at these moderate (in modern terms) 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.
'2017 was a scorching hot, early vintage and the wines are ripe, sexy, and flamboyant, with open-knit, approachable profiles.' Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com
'The best-performing category in the Rhône's 2018 vintage is northern reds. For any fan of Syrah, there is a huge range of excellent wine' Richard Hemming MW, JancisRobinson.com
‘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