No lesser authority on the Rhône than John Livingstone-Learmonth has been upbeat of recent vintages in Côte-Rôtie and reckons 2019 to be even more promising than 2018 due to the refreshing effects of rainfall in August furnishing 'fluid and racy' wines of great balance and longevity. Romain Champet - whose family vine-holdings lie in a single 4 hectare parcel at `La Viallière' - also supports this theory praising his 2019 as having 'freshness, supple tannins and vitality'. Deploying a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier, he and his brother Maxime age their Côte-Rôtie in barriques and demimuids over winter and summer before bottling unfiltered and unfined the following year. The finished wine has a wealth of dark berry fruit, silky tannins and fresh acidity and drinks well from release although will readily support 10 years bottle age.
Based 2 kilometres down river in the centre of Ampuis, Patrick Jasmin owns 12 parcels of vines in 8 different lieux-dits, giving him an enviably broad palate of fruit with which to work. His principal Côte-Rôtie 'La Giroflarie' is made from 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier raised in barrels of varying size and age for at least 18 months before bottling. The finished wine is frequently approachable on its youthful fruit but typically takes 3-5 years to reveal its full potential. Since 2015, Patrick has also produced a small volume of a flagship Côte-Rôtie named 'Oléa' (after the jasmine flower). It too is a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier but it is aged for 2 years in oak barrels before being bottled without filtration. The finished wine is dense, dark and age-worthy so definitely merits decanting if being approached in its first decade.
Anyone lacking patience for that to evolve could do far worse than sample Patrick's excellent IGP Collines Rhodaniennes 'La Chevalière' - a wonderful violet-scented Syrah steeped in red fruit flavours. We are also pleased to have secured a small allocation of Patrick's excellent and sought after IGP Viognier made from parcels of vines at Vérin and Maclas. It is a terrific expression of a capricious grape with inviting pear and apricot scents and a supple stone fruit palate with an elegant dry finish. It drinks well from release and makes a fine accompaniment to seafood and poultry.
A more recent but welcome addition to this list is Christine Vernay's terrific 'Blonde de Seigneur' Côte-Rôtie made from 4 different plots on the Côte Blonde. Fashioned from 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier that has been deftly oaked, it exudes finesse and equilibrium in equal measure with a palate of sleek, dark fruit, supple tannins and (at least) 5-10 years ageing potential.