2018 RHÔNE REPORT & EN PRIMEUR OFFER
"Both 2016 and 2017 are incredibly strong vintages with distinctive personalities. In addition, 2018 looks to be another blockbuster vintage, and it's difficult to find another similar string of great vintages in the past. It's a great time to be a Rhone lover!"
2015-2018 is as good a vintage run in the Rhône valley as 1988-1991 and we would place 2018 in the 'good' to 'very good' category, the North being marginally superior to the South. Stylistically (and in general terms), we can't improve on Josh Raynolds' assessment of 2018 as follows:
"It's no surprise that so many producers with whom I visited call 2018 a marriage of the richness of 2017 to the energy of 2016, an assessment with which I concur. My early bet is that the '18s will outlast their 2017 siblings thanks to their balance and relative freshness, although I also think they'll drink well on the young side, based on those same attributes."
As in 2017, the Summer months of 2018 were hot. The major climatic difference between the two years was that the drought of 2017 was replaced by a wet first half of 2018. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape there was approximately four times as much rainfall during 2018 than in the previous year. While this provided a welcome restoration of the water table, the significant rainfall in May & June (allied to the unusual absence of the Mistral) caused problems with mildew in the South. Low-lying Chateauneuf' producers or those who could not treat their vines regularly with spray (either because the vineyards were too wet to access or they practiced organic viticulture) lost 35-50% of their crop.
"...the Northern and Southern Rhône's recent hot streak of vintages that started with 2015 will continue, though yields in the south are significantly down."
James Molesworth - Wine Spectator.
So, do I need to buy en primeur?
As we tirelessly repeat, it only makes sense to buy en primeur in order to secure an allocation of a rare wine or to purchase from a domaine whose wine you enjoy at the best possible price (i.e. one that is significantly better than an equivalent vintage that is physically available). With decent volumes of recent excellent vintages (2015 - 2017) in bottle, it makes sense for us to focus our campaign on a few key estates where the above criteria hold true. It is worth noting, for example, that domaines Clape & Trévallon have joined Chave on the 'allocation' list due to growing demand over the past few years (see relevant entries).
Despite some volatile intra-day movements over the past 12 months, Sterling has remained in a fairly narrow trading range against the Euro overall, somewhere between £1 = €1.08 - 1.18. Further, the 2018 Rhône harvest was larger than in 2017, so the net effect of these two factors has been to keep cellar door price rises to a minimum. Another entirely different observation is that the power of wine critics is in flux. High Priest, Robert Parker, formally retired in May 2019 and had been winding down since 2012 when he sold a majority stake in the Wine Advocate to Singapore-based investors. Several of Parker's key lieutenants, Antonio Galloni, Neal Martin and Jeb Dunnuck have established rival online review sites themselves in the past few years - vinous.com and jebdunnuck.com. For better or worse, critics' influence has fragmented and, although reviews are helpful as independent points of reference, they no longer play the same driving factor in price fluctuation. Consequently, this report is annotated with a cross-section of testimonial (and listed as such) or with Jason Yapp's recent, personal (and entirely unbiased!) tasting notes and scores.
Jason & Tom
4th generation winemaker, Patrick Jasmin, has the advantage of owning 12 different parcels of vines running across 8 lieu-dits on the Côte Brune and Blonde escarpments, which gives him an enviably broad palette of fruit to work with.
His vines are planted in a field blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier that are hand-harvested and undergo a very traditional fermentation and 3 week cuvaison in cement vats (since 1996 the grapes have been de-stemmed which has improved colour). The parcels are vinified separately prior to blending at the end of December and then aged for up to 2 years in 228 litre and 590 litre oak barrels (with up to 25% being new, originating from France, Russia & the USA). There is no fining and only a light filtration. Approximately 2,000 cases are produced in a typical vintage.
The name 'La Giroflarie' appeared on the label in 2016, to distinguish this principal cuvée from a special cuvée called 'Olea' that Patrick first made in 2015. La Giroflarie is an historic name for the Côte Baudin lieu-dit.
Côte-Rôtie 'Giroflarie' 2018 @ £312 per case (of 12 bottles) IB
Côte-Rôtie 'Giroflarie' 2018 @ £330 per case (of 6 magnums) IB
"Patrick Jasmin was delighted with the quality and volume of the fruit he harvested in 2018 and a recent barrel tasting certainly endorses that optimism. With an incredibly dark purple 'robe', intense violet, black cherry, blackberry and cracked pepper scents and a concentrated, layered palate of pitchy dark fruit offset by fresh acidity and ripe tannins it is a hedonistic offering that should show well in youth but has 20 years aging potential. Chapeau! 18.5/20."
Domaine Alain Graillot
Established in 1985, the Graillots' Crozes-Hermitage vineyards now comprise 17 hectares of Syrah vines and 3 of Marsanne and Roussanne, which surround their cellars at Les Chênes Verts (a former pig farm) on the Chassis plateau between Tain l'Hermitage and Pont l'Isère. The estate is now ably run by Alain's sons, Max and Antoine, and their red Crozes is regarded as the archetype of the AOC. Grapes are vinified with their stems (20-30% whole grapes) for three weeks in stainless steel vats, preceded by a cold maceration without sulphur. The wine is then racked off its lees with up to 50% being aged in small young Burgundy casks before being blended and bottled a year or so later.
Crozes-Hermitage rouge 2018 @ £198 per case (of 12 bottles) IB
Crozes-Hermitage rouge 2018 @ £216 per case (of 6 magnums) IB
"Fruit and freshness are the signature characteristics of the Graillot family's principal wine and both were clearly on show in an extensive pre-assemblage barrel tasting of the 2018 vintage in October. With a deep purple colour, a bouquet of violets and red and black berries and a bright core of ripe Morello cherry and damson fruit offset by a fresh acidity and supple tannins, this should be a classic, fruit-accentuated Crozes' to be enjoyed from release and up to a decade thereafter. 16.5/20."
Domaine Auguste Clape
"Sitting at the top of the Cornas hierarchy, Domaine Clape is run with incredible passion and talent by Pierre-Marie Clape who is getting more and more assistance from his son, Olivier."
Jeb Dunnock - robertparker.com
It is hard to believe that Clape Cornas was a tough sell less than two decades ago. Our 2002 wine list offered four vintages, 1997-2000, all priced between £28-34 per bottle inc. VAT. According to winesearcher.com, the cheapest of these four vintages available today in the UK is the 1999 at £175! These days, mature Cornas from Clape, Verset and other top producers is on the bucket list of every sommelier in town.
Despite this newly found fame, you could not meet a more humble family than the Clapes, who farm 5.38 hectares of vines at Cornas, with further parcels classed as Côtes du Rhône and Saint-Péray. Although there have been Clapes at Cornas for at least 250 years, Auguste (1925-2018) was a first generation vigneron, having acquired his vines through marriage to his wife Henriette. His first vintage was in 1949 and he was the first independent vigneron in Cornas to begin domaine bottling his own wines in the early 1950s. Auguste was joined by his (then 40 year-old) son Pierre in 1989 and grandson Olivier in 2002. The entire Clape operation is infused with a sense of cautious modesty and genial simplicity - they have secured a profound international reputation by consistently producing top quality wine.
After a hiatus for the Renaissance cuvée in the very small 2017 harvest (when all the fruit of the 'younger', 30-50 year old vines was required for the principal Cornas), we are delighted to see it return in 2018.
The Clape wines are predominantly sold on allocation, but if you are new to them, please contact us and we will endeavour to find you some.
Vin des Amis 2018 @ £108 per case (of 6 bottles) IB
"The Clape family's relatively forward drinking 'house' wine, bottled as a 'Vin de France', represents great value for money although they lost 30% of the potential 2018 to wild boar, necessitating the installation of anti-boar fencing. Made from pure Syrah and bottled in September this latest release has a bright purple robe, inviting black cherry aromas and sleek stewed Autumnal fruit palate with peppery undertones. 16/20. Drink 2020-2030."
Côtes-du-Rhône 2018 @ £126 per case (of 6 bottles) IB
"This dense, dark pure Syrah Côtes-du-Rhône has a wealth of black fruit scents and flavours offset by a fresh acidity and underpinned by enough tannic grip to support (at least) a decade's bottle age. Another relative bargain from this increasingly in-demand estate. 17/20."
Cornas Renaissance 2018 (price and allocation TBC)
"Dark purple. Mineral-accented aromas of ripe blackberry, cherry liqueur, licorice and smoked meat, along with a spicy nuance and a hint of black tea. At once weighty and energetic, offering densely packed black and blue fruit flavors and hints of candied violet, smoky minerals and espresso. Smoothly blends power and energy and finishes broad and extremely long, with repeating spiciness, a hint of salty olive and youthfully grippy tannins. 93-95/100."
Josh Raynolds - vinous.com
"There was no 'Renaissance' in the drought-depleted 2017 vintage but happily the Clapes will produce a second wine from the 2018 harvest. With much the same exuberant sleek black fruit appeal as the senior wine but theoretically more forward drinking this assiduous blend from mature (if not ancient) rootstock, planted from 1985-92, is a hedonistic Syrah that can be enjoyed after 5-10+ years as its firm tannic structure softens with bottle age. 17/20."
Cornas 2018 (price and allocation TBC)
"Youthful purple color. Smoke- and spice-accented red and dark berry liqueur scents show excellent clarity and a building floral topnote. Offers concentrated but energetic blackberry, bitter cherry and spicecake flavors that become sweeter and pick up candied violet and olive notes on the back half. Finishes chewy, juicy and very long, with building tannins adding shape and solid grip. 95-97/100."
Josh Raynolds - vinous.com
"An extensive barrel tasting of the 2018 Cornas with Pierre Clape revealed that all the components for a full-bodied, long-lived Cornas were present and happily volumes were much better than in the drought-depleted 2017 vintage. Classic violet and blackberry aromas abound, there is good concentration on the palate with kirsch and red fruit intermingled with a darker core of peppery black fruit and cooler granitic notes. The tannic structure is solid and there is acidic freshness that will support long-term bottle age. A ripe vintage and a fine vintage to enjoy over the next two decades. 18.5/20."
HERMITAGE & SAINT-JOSEPH
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave
The Chave wines' long élévage means that they are released later than the majority of their peers. We will release the 2017 Hermitage and Saint-Joseph from Domaine Jean-Louis Chave in March 2020 on an allocation basis. Again, if you are interested in the wines, please contact us.
Hermitage Blanc 2017
The 2017 Hermitage Blanc looks to be fabulous, with a fat, opulent, unctuous style that's unfortunately far too rare from Hermitage these days. Awesome notes of white flowers, quince, ripe pineapple, and citrus notes as well as a liquid minerality all emerge from this incredible white that could come from nowhere other than this magical hillside in Hermitage. It shows the upfront, sexy nature of the vintage yet has plenty of tension and depth as well as obvious structure. Drink it on release and over the following couple of years or hold off for a decade or more. 97-100/100."
Jeb Dunnuck - jebdunnuck.com
Hermitage Rouge 2017
I was to go through all the different lieux-dits of the estate of the 2017 Hermitage and this is another undeniably great vintage for the domaine. The samples showed classic profiles, with the Péléat being the more supple and sexy, the Beaumes offering more spice as well as structure, the Hermite its classic purity, tightness, and class, the Méal the biggest and most opulent, and the Bessards having unquestionably the most tannic backbone and structure. It's certainly a ripe, sunny vintage, yet the wine has plenty of black fruits as well as density and is a classic, classic Hermitage from Chave. 95-98/100."
Jeb Dunnuck - jebdunnuck.com
Saint Joseph Rouge 2017
"The Saint Joseph from Jean-Louis Chave continues to improve in just about every vintage, and the 2017 Saint Joseph might just be the best yet. This cuvée comes from multiple estate vineyards, and while each has their own character, they all showed beautiful purity of fruit, notable complexity, and ripe, sweet tannins. This will unquestionably be an outstanding Saint Joseph that will have the upfront, sexy charm of the vintage front and center. 92-94/100."
Jeb Dunnuck - jebdunnuck.com
Southern Rhône and Provence
"With four consecutive good (or better) vintages from 2015 - 2018, buyers can be choosey when selecting special bottles for the cellar and yet be reasonably certain of getting a good drink at a reasonable price for everyday drinking."
Joe Czerwinski on Châteauneuf-du-Pape - The Wine Advocate
Le Vieux Donjon
In an era when special cuvées of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are being released at £300 per bottle, it is reassuring to know you can still find great wines for the same price per case (of 12!). Those of you who have followed this domaine for a few years will be pleased to hear that the 2016 vintage was awarded No.1 Wine of 2018 by Rhône specialist Jeb Dunnuck and the No.8 spot in Wine Spectator magazine's 'Top 100 wines of 2018'. Both 2017 and 2018 are very close to the 2016 in quality.
"Domaine Vieux Donjon is another reference point estate for classic, traditionally made Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These rich, powerful wines are simply loaded with Provençal aromas and flavors of meaty black fruits, spice, and garrigue. Traditional Châteauneuf-du-Pape rarely gets better."
Jeb Dunnuck - jebdunnuck.com
The estate, now very capably managed by brother and sister François and Clare, comprises 18 hectares of vines (one-third of which are over 100 years old) across six different lieux-dits. They make just one white wine and one red. The red is picked from 17 hectares of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre & Cinsault that are vinified together in concrete and partly aged in concrete (20%) and partly in old oak foudres (80%).
Cháteauneuf-du-Pape rouge 2018 @ £300 per case (of 12 bottles) IB
Châteauneuf-du-Pape rouge 2018 @ £318 per case (of 6 magnums) IB
"A beautiful wine in the vintage, the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape reveals a deep ruby-purple color as well as stunning notes of blackcurrants, crushed violets, ground pepper, and cured meats. Rich, medium to full-bodied, and beautifully textured, it has ripe, present tannins and a great finish. It doesn't have the sheer richness found in a top vintage, yet it's complex, classic, layered, and long. In short, it's a beautiful wine that makes the most of this vintage. 93-95/100."
Jeb Dunnuck - jebdunnuck.com
"Made from a blend of 75% Grenache Noir, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah and 5% Cinsault the 2018 Vieux Donjon has now been blended but won't be bottled until the Spring. Despite volumes being depleted by drought the 2018 vintage is beautifully balanced with a bright bouquet of ripe, red garrigue berries, herbes de Provence and tapenade. The sensuous, succulent palate has a core of plum and damson fruit with peppery undertones, fondant tannins and a fresh acidity. In short, a classic of the appellation from an estate on great form. It should be approachable from release, if decanted, but merits 5-10+ years bottle age. 18/20."
IGP LES ALPILLES
Domaine de Trévallon
In recent years Trévallon has been sold on allocation, but please contact us if you are interested in the wine.
Bottled as a simple 'Indication Géographique Protégée' Eloi Dürrbach's iconic Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend technically lies in Provence, but has strong ties to the Rhône in terms of geography, wine-making and esprit. Low yields (25-30 hl/ha) and no chemical intervention give thick-skinned grapes that need 2-3 weeks cuvaison. The parcels of grapes are allowed a warm fermentation (using only indigenous yeasts) in small oak foudres where they rest for 18 months before an unfiltered, unfined assemblage and eventual bottling 25 months after the harvest.
Domaine de Trévallon rouge 2018 @ £216 per case (of 6 bottles) IB
"Tasting the component elements of the 2018 Domaine de Trévallon from foudre it is clearly going to be another fine vintage at this celebrated Provençal estate. The Syrah has generous black fruit scents and flavours underscored by a fine acidity and the Cabernet Sauvignon has a bright core of ripe cassis and plenty of tannic grip. Although a wet Spring and hot Summer depleted volumes by around 20% the auspices are for a well-balanced and long-lived wine continuing an excellent vintage run. 18/20."
How en primeur works
Rhône 2018 wines en primeur
En primeur wines are offered for purchase now, with delivery in 2020 and 2021. These Rhône 2018 en primeur wines are offered per case (of either 6 or 12) and 'in bond' ('IB'), exclusive of duty and VAT. To buy these wines you need to telephone Yapp Brothers. Payment should be made by debit or credit card at the time of order. We will confirm your order with an invoice and discuss your delivery and storage options. The en primeur offer closes on Tuesday 31st December 2019, but we would advise you to contact us now to secure your preferences.
Terms & Conditions for en primeur purchases
1. A contract will come into existence between Yapp Brothers Ltd ('Yapp') and the Buyer when an invoice is raised and payment is taken by Yapp. Payment will be due immediately when an invoice is raised.
2. Yapp's 'no quibble' consumer guarantee applies to en primeur sales in the sense that the Buyer has the right to change their mind within fourteen days of the creation of this contract.
3. Title to all wines shall remain with Yapp until all sums due from the Buyer are cleared in full (including any applicable VAT, duty, storage and delivery charges).
4. Yapp reserves the right to withhold any wines that the Buyer has ordered for non-payment of any invoice.
5. Where any invoice is outstanding for more than 30 days, Yapp reserves the right to cancel the contract.
6. Risk of loss or damage to Goods shall pass to the Buyer when the Goods are physically delivered to or collected by the Buyer (or their agent).
7. If the Buyer is making their own arrangements for the storage, delivery or collection of the wine (as opposed to keeping it with Yapp), the Buyer agrees to notify Yapp of any defects in the wines within 30 days of the wine being released and after this period the Buyer will be deemed to have accepted the wines.
Storage & Delivery options when the wine arrives
When the physical wine arrives IB in the UK we will contact you to advise you of any additional payments that are due in respect of duty and VAT (if you are withdrawing the wine from bond), storage or delivery charges, including IB transfer charges.
Your options are as follows:
Wine remaining Under Bond
1. If you have your own bonded arrangements at London City Bond ('LCB') you can advise us of the account details for an IB transfer. No further charge.
2. You can store your wine IB with Yapp Brothers. It will be held in the Yapp Brothers' Client Account at LCB. No further charge. You will, however, be charged storage, currently £12.50 per case, per annum, inc VAT.
3. We can arrange for LCB to deliver your wine IB to another bonded warehouse. Such IB transfers are charged at £15 per case up to 2 cases, £5 per case thereafter and must be paid before the transfer request is actioned. You will also need to advise us of account and warehouse details for the transfer.
Delivering & Storing Wine Duty Paid
4. If you would like us to organise delivery of your wine Duty Paid, we will do so under our normal delivery terms. In most cases this will mean no delivery charge.
5. You can store your wine at Yapp Brothers' premises Duty Paid, currently £12.50 per case per annum, inc VAT.
6. When wine that has been held IB is withdrawn from a bonded warehouse, you will be charged duty and VAT at the prevailing rates on the original cost of the wine. The current duty rate is £26.76 per case and the VAT rate is 20%. Therefore, the current duty and VAT on a £200 case of wine withdrawn from bond would be £72.11. (n.b. you pay VAT on the cost of the wine including duty)
Rhône 2018 in stock now
A few 2018 Rhône wines have been bottled and shipped already. If you are interested in tasting this 'fruit-forward' vintage now, here is a list of wines that are physically available for delivery (prices quoted per bottle including duty and VAT).
IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 'Pied de Samson': Domaine Vernay 2018 @ £27.95
Condrieu 'Terrasses de l'Empire: Domaine Vernay 2018 @ £55.00 (£29.95 per half-bottle; £115 per magnum)
Lirac 'La Fermade': Domaine Maby 2018 @ £13.95
Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Le Vieux Donjon 2018 @ £36.00
Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Domaine Pere Caboche 2018 @ £24.50
Tavel 'La Forcadière': Domaine Maby 2018 @ £14.25