Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their May 2017 edition tasting/review (by John Livingstone-Learmonth) of the excellent 2015 Southern Rhône vintage (see blue link below).
Clos du Joncuas is run by Ferdinand Chastan and his son Dany. There are 29 hectares in total of mainly old vines and the estate is run strictly along organic lines having achieved organic status in 1989.
This wine is made traditionally in cement tanks, with vinification temperatures of between 30°Cand 33°C. Fermentation takes place naturally with only the indigenous yeast of each grape berry, which expresses the genuine and deep flavors of this land. This helps to protect the wine's unique flavours. There is a long maceration of 25 to 30 days, and the wine is made using pumping over. When the wine is completed, two extractions are done to clarify the wine, without fining or filtration. It then spends 12 months in oak barrels, and bottled without fining or filtering.
This full-bodied red is 80% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 8% Cinsault.
It has a deep and sustained purple colour, deploys intense flavours of red and black fruits in his youth, evolving towards more spicy and woody notes, when it reaches full maturity. It is a full and balanced warm wine. Long and velvety on the palate. This wine has the capacity to age for between 8 and 12 years.
ABV = 15.0%.
Julien Barrot, of Domaine la Barroche, is one of the young, emerging talents of the southern Rhône. After Julien completed his winemaking course in Montpellier he backpacked around the vineyards of France and Australia, thirsty for knowledge and eager to expand his experiences. He came back and joined his father in 2002, more convinced than ever of the importance of terroir. Julien's enthusiasm and passion rubbed off on his father and together they agreed to release the first Domaine-bottled wines in the 2003 vintage. For thirty years previously Julien's father Christian had been working the vineyards and making wine but selling it off in bulk to local merchants. Though Christian is still around to lend advice, he entrusted the entire Domaine to Julien as of the 2006 vintage. The estate is small, encompassing 12 ha, and is planted to the traditional varieties including Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Terret Noir and Clairette. The average age of the vines is 60 years old and one third of the vineyard is more than 100 years old (Grenache.) Grapes are hand picked, wines are fermented in concrete vat and aged in a mixture of large old wooden foudres and smaller oak barrels. The wine is handled gently, everything is done by gravity, and extractions are gentle. This has rapidly become a stellar Domaine.
In the vineyard the vines undergo rigorous bud pruning. Furthermore, green harvesting and leaf thinning are done. The picking is carried out entirely by hand, with sorting in the vineyard and again in the cellar.
Wine-making takes place in underground concrete vats. There is destemming of underripe stalks. The wine stays on the skins for over 4 weeks. Gentle extraction happens during this time. Ageing is done in old oak casks and 600 litre barrels which have been previously used for 1 to 3 earlier vintages. The wine is not filtered before bottling.
A blend of 14 parcels, mainly old vines Grenache (~62%), with 20% Mourvedre and the balance made up of Syrah (~12%) and Cinsault (6%).
This is an unique, elegant, silky and opulent wine that invariably expresses its distinctive qualities. It also shows great class thank to its deep colour, floral bouquet, freshness, cocoa flavours and delicate aftertaste. This offers wonderfully velvety ripe forest berry fruits, hints of strawberry, bullace sloe and damson. Glorious, crisp clear fruit flavours, enchanting and beguiling whilst boasting a more savoury, complex undertone of herb, sandalwood, salt and pepper.
"Potpourri and dried Provençale herbs on the nose. In the mouth it is rounded, immediately juicy and intense, but piercingly fresh. A pâté de fruit, red and black fruit character on the palate is accompanied by very fine but ample tannins. It's intense but lifted, structured, complete and harmonious. Very long and well balanced" (said Decanter, in late 2017, of the 2016).
ABV = 15.0%.
Domaine la Garrigue was founded in 1850 by the same family that runs the property today, Famille Bernard. Siblings Maxime, Pierre and Martine Bernard, of the 5th generation are at the helm of the estate with Maxime acting as chef with Martine taking care of operations while Pierre focuses on the family’s restaurant nestled in the hills below the Dentelles, Les Florets. Their spouses, children, nieces and nephews all have roles at the domaine and there is plenty of work for all, as this is the largest domaine in the appellation covering 83 hectares. They farm vines of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache Blanc and Clairette on the three primary terroirs of Vacqueyras. The average age of their vines is about 50 years old with some vines well over a century. The reticent but very talented Virginie Combe, a member of the 6th generation, is in charge of the winemaking with guidance from Philippe Cambie.
The traditional structure of the family business carries through to the wines as well. Farming is sustainable – as much for its inherent benefits as a seeming distrust of modernity. In fact a visit to the cellars is like stepping back in time. There’s nary a barrel in sight and the walls are lined with concrete tanks and stainless steel fermenters. Fermentations are conducted on the stems and macerations are long and gentle, followed by reductive aging in concrete. As a result the natural ferocity of the terroirs of Vacqueyras are captured and preserved in each bottle. These are not shy or polished Rhônes but engaging and forceful examples hearkening to the past.
Aged for 18 months in concrete tanks.
Grenache 80%, Syrah 10%, Mourvedre 5%, Cinsault 5%.
This Vacqueyras possesses a notable meaty quality with firmer tannins and a seriously dense core of black fruit and iron. The nose is of black fruit with a touch of liquirice and very elegant spicy notes. The mouthfeel is full and fleshy with long-lasting fruit flavours. Should you find yourself with a fairly large piece of beef or lamb on your hands you’d be hard–pressed for a more suitable assistant at the table.
ABV = 14.5%.
Since 1994, Stéphane Otheguy has leased 1.5 hectares of vineyards from Vincent Gasse that are divided between the three northern Rhône appellations of Côte Rôtie , Condrieu and Saint Joseph. Stéphane left a career in education to study eonology at Macon after which he began working for Vincent Gasse. He spent seven years with Vincent farming in the organic and bio-dynamic methods that he espoused and in 1994 when Vincent decided to retire, Stéphane Otheguy took over and began making wine from these same vineyards.
Stéphane is a member of Nature et Progres, an organization that oversees and certifies organic farming. The vineyards that Stéphane cultivates are among the most difficult in France to farm organically. They are extremely steep and rocky, making the use of machinery impossible and requiring a great deal of intensive manual labor. His winemaking techniques are traditional or natural. The domaine has been worked organically since it has been taken over in 1984.
The Côte-Rôtie comes from parcels at Ritolas, Leya, Côte Rozier and Rozier. The vines are a minimum of twenty-five years old and are situated on micaschists oriented south and south east. The vinification takes place in cement betons. There is a preferment maceration for three to four days then an opentopped fermentation on the indigenous yeasts. Pigeage takes place once a day with regular pumping over. Long elevage in barrels, but no new oak. The wine is neither filtered nor fined and only has the smallest addition of sulphur.
The nose develops with notes of burnt wood, violets and blackberries and exhibits a kind of cool smokiness. The mouth embracing theses flavours, is vital and tonic, and displays a dynamic minerality. A very pretty Côte-Rôtie, fresh and stylish, naturally expressing the terroir. Serve with a piece of grilled beef or roasted aubergines with thyme and spices and confit shoulder of lamb.
ABV = 12.5%.
Laurent and Julien Bréchet have long admired the potential of Lirac, in the Southern Rhône; when the owner of the Moulin des Chênes vineyard retired, they jumped at the chance to take over the vinegrowing there. Lirac lies to the west, across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It is a Rhône Cru, with a heritage of vinegrowing that is just as long as its easterly neighbour, although with mixed fortunes in comparison. Quality was varied in the past, but with the arrival of a younger generation of growers and more modern technology, the potential of Lirac has been realised. The Bréchet brothers have 16 hectares of vines in total there.
Conditions for Lirac are similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape: both are Mediterranean in climate with over 2500 hours of sunlight per year and a dry growing season that ensures consistently ripe, flavoursome wines. Both have predominantly stony soils (Lirac also has the large pebbles or galets roulés of its neighbour) supported by red clay underneath. The Mistral wind keeps the crop healthy and concentrates flavours in the berries.
2016 was an excellent vintage. Low rainfall throughout the growing season produced smaller berries with less juice, but this led to great intensity of flavour in the wines. Both spring and summer were warm and dry, with budburst and flowering occurring in nearly ideal conditions. The hot and dry conditions persisted during the ripening period, but cool nights helped mitigate the effects of the heat and the grapes were harvested when they had reached optimum levels of ripeness.
The berries were destemmed and crushed and then fermented in stainless steel vats at 25°C. The wine was kept on skins for 15 days with daily pumping over and rack and returns to ensure good colour and flavour extraction from the grapes. Part of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel and part in tank. After that, the wine was aged in underground concrete vats for 10 months before bottling.
37% Cinsault, 36% Syrah/Shiraz, 16% Grenache/Garnacha, 11% Mourvèdre.
Deep crimson in colour, with notes of strawberries and blackberries. On the palate, the wine has a velvety mouthfeel and fresh acidity. Redcurrant flavours continue through the mouthwatering finish.
ABV = 14.0%.