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As our friend John Livingstone-Learmonth says in Drink Rhone about the somewhat difficult conditions in this vintage: "The top domaines have still turned out wines of abiding interest, structure and longevity, so 2017 will, in places, be a noble, impressive vintage." This small offering includes some our favorite estates which turned out excellent wines in 2017. In Cornas, for example, nothing may compare with the Allemand "Reynard" but following close behind you'll find the Voge Vieilles Vignes (which contains the juice normally in the Vieilles Fontaines), the superb Guillaume Gilles and the traditional, organic "Terre Brulée" of Corinne Lionnet and her husband Ludovic Izérable.
From Côte-Rôtie, the "Chavaroche" of Agnès and Bernard Levet has become one of the most sought after wines for those seeking a classic, traditional wine of terroir, coming from old vines in "Chavaroche" and "Mollard." And our friend Eric Texier makes perhaps the most elegant of all Côte-Rôtie, starting with old vines, fermented whole-cluster with little extraction and aged in old wood, wth minimal added SO2! (We'll taste his 2000 and 2001 at Racines on April 1st!)
Perhaps the vines are adapting to new conditions, but 2018 and 2019, both warm and dry vintages, produced ripe, supple very attractive wines in the Northern Rhone (and elsewhere in France). The 2019 barrel samples seemed to show a bit more structure and brightness, we shall see. At any rate, the 2018s are extremely supple and delicious, but perhaps less ageworthy than the best 2017s, and we're happy to offer a trio of Cornas from Vincent Paris, nephew of Robert Michel and owner of beautiful old vine parcels in "Genale," "Patou" and "Mazards."
For the best writing, reviews and detailed information, all lovers of Rhone Valley wines should take a look, and subscribe, at drinkrhone.com!
Wines arrive Monday, March 9th. (Lionnet may be slightly later) As case quantities may not be available, we are offering our case discount per bottle, net priced.
Dinner with Eric Texier, Wednesday, April 1st at Racines NY: Wines will include 2016 Gonon Chasselas VV and Eric's 2015 Brezeme Vieille Roussette, 2016 CDP Blanc, 2018 CDR Brézème, 2012 Brézème Pergaud Vieille Serine, 2010 St Julien en St Alban Pergaud Vieille Serine, 2001 Côte-Rôtie, 2000 Côte Rotie and 1999 Hermitage. Hosted by Pascaline Lepeltier, MS. Menu by Racines Executive Chef Diego Moya. $200 plus tax and tip. Please call Chambers Street at 212-227-1434 to reserve.
A leading producer of traditional Cornas, Domaine Lionnet has modernized only slightly over the last 20 years with the wines losing their former "rustic" character, while retaining complexity and terroir expression, very much in the style of the Gonons in Saint-Joseph. Organic since 2007, whole-bunch fermentation with wild yeasts, aging in both 600 liter and 228 liter two to eight year-old oak casks. From 70 year-old vines on Combe, Chaillot and Pied la Vigne. The robe is an inky purple, dark ruby at the meniscus. The nose is a bit backwards on opening—blue fruit, leather, a hint of tobacco, and a touch of black pepper. With air, black fruit and cassis notes emerge with notes of game, violets and black olive. The densely-packed palate offers swirling flavors of blackberry, black tea, cracked pepper, cherry pit, and a touch of anise on the the driving, muscular finish. There’s plenty of structure here with firm—not coarse—tannins and good acidity to buoy the ripe fruit and concentration. Just this side of rustic, but compellingly old school. More country than proudly redneck, think Waylon vs. David Allen Coe, but the ample dry extract makes this a sweet song indeed. A fine pairing with roast duck legs and olives with farro, and should shine with heartier dishes, though I suspect this will shut down in a bit and truly shine with a decade or more in the cellar. This is terrific Cornas that has its roots in tradition and terroir. John McIlwain
This classic Cornas is from vines averaging 60 years old on granite "gores" in the vineyards of "Combe," "Patou," "La Cote," "les Mazards" and "Chaillots" and in 2017 this bottling includes the fruit from Les Vieilles Fontaines. The grapes are partially de-stemmed, fermentation is with wild yeasts, aging is 20 months in barrique 15% new. The robe is a dark ruby, verging on purple. The nose is effusive with aromas of blackberry, violets, tree bark, black tea and plum skin. The concentrated palate boasts an array of ripe black fruit flavors and notes a grilled meat and earth girded by firm tannins and focusing acidity. The finish is long and involved with lingering layers of earth, bramble, and black berry liqueur. There's fine nascent complexity here and this should gain in sophistication as the abundant fruit integrates with the underlying structure. John McIlwain
"1976 Syrah on Les Grands Murs, 1978 Syrah on Les Terrasses, both on Chaillot, plus 1950s Syrah from Mazards, Saveaux, crop crushed, whole bunch fermentation, 3-4 week vinification, 1 or 2 pumping overs at the start and finish, manual cap punching, malo in cask, aged 70% 4-14 year 600-litre, 30% 400-litre oak casks 18 months. Dark red; Has a classic, lovely Cornas bouquet, lurking acetate, a combination of raspberry and cherry, iron filings, a good, mixed bag. The palate serves a sensuous run of red cherry fruit with an increase in depth that is nice and gradual, steady. There is a real pocket of late intensity, iodine, dark tannins that are thorough. It has good structure, is proper, interesting Cornas with hints of violet as per Chaillot." Hold five years then drink until 2045.
100% Syrah, 60% from Chavaroche (1940s), 40% from Mollard, Côte brune, Côte Blonde (1978-80), whole bunch fermentation, 3 week vinification in 50 hl concrete vats, cap is immersed, twice daily pumping overs, held at 29°C aged 30% new, 70% used oak casks, barrels 24 months.From Importer Neal Rosenthal: "The crown jewel of the Levet family’s holdings is a 1.2-hectare parcel of old vines at the very summit of the great La Chavaroche vineyard, and the wine they summon from this dizzying slope is among the most iconic in our entire portfolio. Always arrestingly wild, “La Chavaroche” possesses an unmistakable musk: a warm-animal profile that feels somehow ancient and unknowable, a sort of profound riddle of terroir." Drink over the next 20 to 30 years.
Whole-cluster fermentation; aged 20 months in 7-10 year-old barriques. Very low SO2 added. From the Corps de Loup lieu-dit, the soil is a mixture of schist and gneiss; the vines are 80 years old on average.
Syrah (early 1990s-2010), includes 25% Saint-Pierre, destemmed, cool maceration, 20 day vinification, wild yeasts, twice daily pumping overs, 1-2 cap punchings, aged 2-10 year oak casks 12 months (no racking). Sombre, dark robe; the nose has a little oxtail, with blue fruit, a relative coolness. The palate gives jolly black berry fruit right away, runs freely, and is enjoyable already. It is well juiced, the tannins are mild, and the length is sound. It’s good and drinkable, is a wow! Cornas. There’s a touch of fine powder tannin on the finish, which over another year will start to infuse." Drink over the next ten - fifteen years.
Syrah from Patou (1948), Les Mazards (1910-20s), Sauman (1991), 30-70% destemmed, 1 week cool maceration, then 2-3 week vinification, wild yeasts, pumping overs, some cap punching, aged 2-10 year 225-litre oak casks 12-14 months. Dark red, black centre to the robe. The bouquet is well together, presents black cherry with iron, blood notes, a hint of violets. It carries good potential. The palate is expressive, rolls well on fluid richness with dark berry flavours, flexible tannins, ends roundly, a saline drift there bringing freshness. I like the sense of mineral threaded through it, a Cornasien spine." Drink until 2040
"Syrah 85% from the top of La Genale, plus part of the lower end, includes plenty of 1910 Syrah, 10-15% Tézier (1992), 80-85% whole bunch fermentation, 1 week cool maceration, 4 week vinification, wild yeasts, pumping overs, cap punching, aged 2-10 year oak casks 12-14 months, casks assembled 4 weeks before bottling, fined, unfiltered, The bouquet carries a floral-violet hover over some generous, sweet-noted, notably ripe black berry fruits. The palate is also well scented, combines that with a note of iron, and stewed black fruits, prunes on the table. This carries the warm rays of the year in its supple constitution, is a ripe Cornas with inner notes of complexity. It has good, lip smacking length, will drink young, given its ripeness. From spring 2021, but there’s more variety to come if you wait beyond that, obviously, drink until 2042." Drink Rhone (Note: This is from the first bottling, December 2019)