In a recent article entitled 'Adios Roller Skates', Rhône expert John Livingstone-Learmonth described how the run of vintages "...when ripeness comes along smoothly, crop quality is high, and yields are pretty decent" ended for the Northern Rhône in 2021. A combination of spikes in temperature, spring frosts, hail and prolific rain imbued challenging growing conditions and dramatically reduced yields - 2021 was France's smallest aggregate grape harvest since 1977.
It is not all despondency as when there is less fruit, more care is (inevitably) taken with it and many of the grapes that were picked were harvested at optimum maturity and in fine conditions. So,although 2021 will be a massively 'short' vintage, it should yield some good quality wine with good ageing potential.
Based in the center of Ampuis, Patrick Jasmin has the advantage of cultivating 12 different plots that are spread across 8 different lieu-dits which gives him an enviably broad palette of fruit and an excellent hedge against the vagaries of each vintage. Deploying a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier, fruit is typically de-stemmed before pressing and raised in barrels of varying size and age for at least 18 months before the final blending and bottling. Perceived by many observers to be one of the most Burgundian wines of the appellation, it drinks well on its youthful fruit but can age for at least 20 years in good vintages. Since 2015, Patrick has renamed his principal wine 'Giroflarie' and produced a small volume of a patron's cuvée called 'Oléa' (after the Jasmine flower) that is darker, more age worthy and merits decanting.
Those seeking an accessible and affordable Syrah to enjoy whilst waiting for his Côte-Rôtie to mature should look no further than Patrick's excellent IGP Collines Rhodaniennes bottling called 'La Chevalière' that has gorgeous violet aromas and a supple black fruit palate supported by fine-grained tannins. A sibling Viognier also merits investigation with a wealth of supple, aromatic stone-fruit supported by lively mineral undertones.
Based in the single Côte-Brune climat of 'La Viallière', the Champet brothers tend 4 hectares of vines from which they make a forward-drinking, fruit-accentuated wine that enjoys a strong local following. Made from a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier that is raised in barriques and demi-muids over winter and summer before being bottled un-fined and unfiltered the following year. It has a wealth of dark berry scents and flavours, silky tannins and fresh acidity and can age well for a decade or more.
A welcome addition to this list 2 years ago was Christine Vernay's commendable 'Blonde de Seigneur' bottling. Hailing from 4 different plots of Syrah (95%) and Viognier (5%) on the Côte-Blonde, it is deftly oaked and expertly blended. With dense dark fruit aromas and a fine concentration of autumnal plum and damson flavours offset by peppery undertones, it comes into its own at 3 to 5 years of age and can cellar well for at least a decade.