A whistle-stop tasting trip through the Rhône in the autumn of 2022 found Max Champet in fine form despite having to contend with rain and mildew in the 2021 growing season and excess heat in 2022. Fortunately, some welcome rain in August 2022 refreshed his (and his brother Romain's) vine holdings in the La Viallière climat on the Côte Brune and they were able to harvest a reasonable volume of good quality fruit starting on the 26th August. The Champet Frères estate is an excellent source of well-crafted, reasonably-priced Côte-Rôtie with classic black fruit and violet scents and a mid-weight palate of plummy dark fruit offset by fresh acidity and supple tannins. Making its debut in these pages is the brothers' 'Les Fils à Jo' bottling of Côte-Rôtie that hails from a schist-rich parcel of old vines on the 'La Viallière' lieu-dit on the Côte Brune. In tribute to their father, the 'Fils' ('sons') age this Syrah for 18+ months in 1-year old demi-muids. It has a deep garnet colour, well-integrated oak influence and a more concentrated core of rich, spicy fruit with briary notes, peppery undertones and a fresh acidity. Surprisingly approachable in youth if decanted, it will age well for (at least) a decade.
Their near neighbour Patrick Jasmin - who has made a good recovery from a persistent leg injury - also faired better in terms of volumes harvested in 2022. Despite low yields, he made a terrific 2021 bottling of his IGP Collines Rhodaniennes Viognier that has bags of varietal character with lovely honeysuckle and white peach nuances offset by fresh acidity. Its sibling Syrah 'La Chévalière' is equally appealing with blueberry and blackcurrant aromas and sensuous black fruit palate with a long, elegant finish. When we met, he had already bottled his principal Côte-Rôtie 'La Giroflarie' from the 2020 vintage that was showing exceptionally well on its youthful fruit. With a deep garnet colour, hedgerow berry scents and core of deep autumnal fruit underpinned by tannins that will support well over 10 years bottle age, it is an excellent example of aromatic Northern Rhône Syrah (along with 5% Viognier) that will gain additional complexity with maturity.
In favourable vintages, Patrick also makes a barrel-selection bottling of Côte-Rôtie 'Oléa'. It has much the same balance and finesse as the 'Giroflarie' but is deeper, darker and even more ageworthy.
It was a pleasure to see celebrated vigneronne Christine Vernay working alongside her daughter Emma Amsellem at Domaine Georges Vernay in Condrieu. Their red wines have been drawing lots of positive press plaudits as exemplified by their terrific 'Blonde de Seigneur' Côte-Rôtie. Hailing from 4 parcels of Syrah (along with 5% Viognier) on the Côte-Blonde, it is deftly oaked and expertly blended. Redolent of ripe, dark stone-fruit with supple tannins and a smooth finish, it is already drinking well and has a good decade ahead of itself.